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Archive for the ‘People of Britain’ Category

The house is oddly quiet this week and next, since my husband Dave is off doing the famous (or should that be infamous?) Coast to Coast walk.

One coast... (St Bees Head)

One coast… (St Bees Head)

This is a marathon trek of around 190 miles from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.  On route it takes in some spectacular scenery in not one but three separate national parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.  It also passes through some areas of surprising wilderness – surprising not least because they survive in this hectic twenty-first century.  Most people do the walk from west to east, not least because the most challenging terrain is in the Lake District and it’s better to tackle it while you’re fresh, rather than at the end of a fortnight’s plodding when your legs are reduced to stumps and your feet are on fire!

The other coast... (Robin Hood's Bay)

The other coast… (Robin Hood’s Bay)

The walk was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright (more on him later) who devised it for one of his series of well-known guide books in 1973.  At that time, the idea of walking between two such little-known places was unheard-of, but in the intervening forty years a thriving business has sprung up catering for the thousands of walkers who tackle the route every year.  Busiest time, not surprisingly, is in late summer/early autumn, when the summer heat has died down a little but the nights are still long enough to make getting lost less of a problem.  Believe me, stumbling around in the pitch-dark on Nine Standards Moor is enough to reduce strong men to tears.

The late, great Alfred Wainwright

The late, great Alfred Wainwright

So, who was this Alfred Wainwright?  Well, originally just an ordinary bloke from an ordinary town in Lancashire, who took a day trip to Windermere in the Lake District and promptly fell in love.  Not with a person, but with some of the most stunning scenery – mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciated valleys – in the country.  Not long after, he sold up, took a poorly paid job in Kendal and moved to the area, and spent the next thirteen years climbing every hill and mountain by every available route (and a few that weren’t) and writing a series of guide books about the process.  The books are special, because not only did he write them in his own unique, drily humorous style, but he also illustrated them with beautiful blackand white sketches and annotated maps.  You can spend hours at a time flicking through the pages, poring over the routes up Helvellyn or Blencathra, and laughing at his occasional talking sheep.

Where it all started...

Where it all started…

We’re lucky enough to live within spitting distance of the railway station where Wainwright fist arrived in the Lake District, and within a 2-hour car journey of the start of the Coast to Coast walk.  It’s been Dave’s ambition to tackle the walk ever since we moved to the area.  He’s currently about a third of the way through, running out of useable feet, but enjoying every minute and every spectacular mile.  And very grateful to Alfred Wainwright for coming up with the idea in the first place.

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Nestled within Snowdonia National Park Wales is a small little village that thousands are drawn to every year. In a deep valley surrounded by hills and mountains sits Beddgelert.

The literal translation of the name is Gelert’s Grave. Although this may in fact be a mistranslation and the origin of the name is somewhat murky, possibly relating to a seventh century saint known as Gelert or Celert. The most popular belief comes from a 19th century tale, the story of Prince Llewelyn and his faithful hound Gelert.

The tale, which can be read on a large piece of slate, speaks of the day Prince Llewelyn left on a hunting trip leaving behind his beloved son and his favourite hound Gelert, whom for some reason he couldn’t find. When he returned from the hunt he found the door of his house opened and to his horror he discovered the babies crib covered in blood with the swaddling ripped.

From a corner happily bounded Gelert whom was also covered in blood, believing that his favoured hound had killed his son he drew his blade and slew Gelert. As the dog howled his final breath his howls were responded to by cries from the baby.

Investigating the Prince discovered the baby safe and unharmed, a body of a wolf laying near by.

Realising he had jumped to the wrong conclusion he became overwhelmed with grief and buried Gelert in his favourite place.

It may be only a story, but it is one that draws people to the village over and over. However from one village many stories can develop and Beddgelert is also famous for being the home of the creator of the endearing bear Rupert. Many of the paintings used in the cartoons were based on the mountains all around the village and trails can be taken to visit those areas.

More about the area can be found here: http://www.beddgelerttourism.com/gelert/

If you ever get the chance to go to Snowdonia, make sure to stop by!

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Tomorrow is Valentines day a time for all lovers to get romantic and exchange gifts, cards you name it.

However in Wales there is a similar celebration but a month early. St Dwynwen’s Day (Dybb Santes Dwynwen) is on the 25th of January.

She is the welsh the patron saint of lovers and her tale as most saints are, is filled with heartache.

She lived it is said around the 5th Century and was one of twenty-four children. After being betrothed with someone more or less from birth she was devastated to fall in love with another whom she could not marry.

She prayed to God to let her forget all about her beloved and be able to carry out her father’s wishes. In response he was turned into a block of ice and she was given three wishes.

Using the wishes wisely she asked for him to be thawed out, and for lovers everywhere to have their hopes and dreams met.

After which she devoted her life to the service of god and formed a small convent off the west coat of Anglesey the remains of which can still be found today.

So next year why not celebrate the day of the lovers a few weeks early?

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Shown on Channel Four this week, I sat down to watch “The Devil’s Whore” with a great deal of interest. My next novel is about the English Civil War and having invested so much research into it, I was curious to see how Channel Four dealt with it. Was it going to be something along the lines of “The Tudors” with bed-hopping and implausible history, or was it actually going to try to portray the English Civil War, a period that is rarely wheeled out on television.

Well, the jury is still out, really – part one was rather breathtakingly speedy. We started in “Whitehall 1638” where our “heroine” Angelica Fanshawe is about to be bedded by her new husband, cousin and childhood best friend) Harry Fanshawe.  Then, with a brief glimpse of the King’s brutality to those who oppose him, we are whisked away to Edgehill, the first battle of the war (which actually took place four years later…) and there’s a great deal of building of sexual tension between the mercenary Edward Sexby (no, not made up!) and Angelica Fanshawe, and leading us along to show us why Angelica goes bad.

Without spoiling it more than I have, all I can say is that it was very enjoyable, although I hope the pace slows down a little – and the camera-work in particular needs a standing ovation. Like many Channel Four series and films, it’s a masterpiece of light and posing – almost every shot is an oil painting. (as you can see by the header alone) The clothes are spectacular, and if you are a period clothes whore like me, you’ll enjoy them particularly.

The battle scenes tried their best, bless ’em – but they couldn’t possibly give the feel of the slaughter without a film-style budget. The canon smoke was the wrong colour for a start, and they could have done a little better if they’d showed what went wrong at Edgehill and why – it would have explained a lot more to people who didn’t know the history. The aftermath of the battle was nicely done though, dead bodies everywhere, which is how it would have been.

Anyway – if you didn’t see it, make an effort to catch it, or look out for the DVD when it comes out, as it looks like it’s shaping up to be something rather special.

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You may (or indeed may not) remember my first post here on the Britwriters blog. It was all about my Allotment and how I was looking forward to the bounty it would bring.

Well, it’s harvest time down at Nobbs’ (mini-)Farm and the wonderfully wet August has meant that while some of my veg has under-performed, I’ve got a bumper crop of that staple of the British diet – Spuds.

Lots and lots of lovely Spuds. I spent most of the weekend digging them up, and I’ve now got four big boxes full of the things stored away in my shed, covered up with newspaper and hopefully set to see me right for the winter.

Which, of course is good, given that the price of everything at Tesco’s has gone through the roof.

Other crops that have done well include my Courgette crop and my French Beans. My tomatoes haven’t done too well though – You need sun for good tomatoes and we haven’t had much of that this year.

Still, we’ve learnt tons this year, and Mrs. Nobbs and I will carry it through to next season – when hopefully, we’ll have an even better haul. Roll on Spring!

ps – I have to show you this photo. I think only the British could do this. On a plot a few down from ours is the best scarecrow in Britain. What do you think of him? Nice Jacket, huh?

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I’ve had this sent to me the other week by e-mail – I’ll let you read it before I comment.

We are hitting £108.9 a litre in some areas now, soon we will be faced with paying £1.10 a ltr. Philip Hollsworth offered this good idea:

This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the ‘don’t buy petrol on a certain day campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn’t
continue to hurt ourselves by refusing to buy petrol. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT,whoever
thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work.

Please read it and join in!

Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a litre is CHEAP, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the market place not sellers. With the price of petrol going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of petrol come down is if we hit someone in the pocket by not purchasing their Petrol! And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. Here’s the idea:

For the rest of this year DON’T purchase ANY petrol from the two biggest oil companies (which now are one), ESSO and BP.

If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact we need to reach literally millions of Esso and BP petrol buyers. It’s really simple to do!!

Now, don’t wimp out at this point…. keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I am sending this note to a lot of people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)… and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) … and so on, by the time the
message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached
over THREE MILLION consumers! If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it… ..

THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all You have to do is send this to 10 people. That’s all.(and not buy at ESSO/BP) How long would all that take? If each of us sends this email out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8days!!! Acting together we can make a difference . If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on.

PLEASE HOLD OUT UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE 69p a LITRE RANGE

It’s easy to make this happen. Just forward this email, and buy your petrol at Shell, Asda,Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons Jet etc. i.e. boycott BP and Esso

Okay, read it? Formed an opinion? Good. Here’s my take on this – WTF??? Okay, I can see why someone might think like this, and in some countries, say America, it might work. I mean, America is damn big and consumes a damn sight more oil than we do here in the UK. Do you really think that losing the British forecourt market would affect BP?

Let’s get a few things straight.

Number one, BP and the other large oil companies do not make huge profits at the petrol pumps. In fact, they make hardly any money there at all. BP and the others make their money from taking the oil out of the ground and processing it. The money they make from that dwarfs the money they take at the pumps. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that for someone like BP, small petrol stations are almost a loss-leader, a way to keep their name in the public consciousness.

Number two, all this organised protesting isn’t very British is it? Shouldn’t we all be forming an orderly queue, rolling our eyes and tutting? Okay, so a group of truckers went a bit mad in 2000 and blocked the depots but that’s not the point. We in Britain don’t protest – we make do and get on with it. Leave the protesting to our Gallic and Latin cousins – they’re so much better at it than us. I mean, have you ever seen a French strike? None of that standing around by a steel bin with a fire in it. So sir, they march on the town hall and dump a truck load of cow poo outside it.

Where was i? Oh, yes…

Number three, let’s say we do stop buying petrol at garages with the BP logo above them and instead go to the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s et al. Where do you think the supermarkets get their petrol from? They certainly don’t take it out of the ground themselves. The petrol is brought from the large oil companies – the likes of, yes, you guessed it, BP.

Number four, petrol and diesel are so expensive in the UK for one reason, and one reason only – TAX. We pay twice as much tax on our fuel as they do in Holland. Over half of the £1.20 we’re now paying (yes, it has gone up that fast) per litre is made up of tax. The Americans are hurting because they are paying $5 per gallon. We’re paying the equivalent of over $10 per gallon. Where does all that extra money go? Yep, the Treasury. It’s all tax. Fuel duty and VAT.

The government would like us to believe that petrol is so expensive because the cost of oil is high and would like us to forget that the more oil costs, the more they take in tax. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out that this ‘campaign’ e-mail originated in Downing Street.

This government could help out the “hard working families” they claim to represent quite easily – by cutting the tax on fuel. But they won’t. They will claim it will be too expensive, both in financial terms and for the planet. And yet they could afford to give us all an extra £120 in our pay packets by raising the personal allowance and borrowing billions to do so because their own MPs were angry. So, my final word on this – Gordon, Alistair, sort it out and stop trying to blame everyone else.

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The Summer Solstice is a turning point for many people for many different reasons. Each year it waited upon and celebrated. It marks the one day of the year where there are more daylight hours than darkness, from this day onward things only get shorter (until the Winter Solstice when the days begin to increase once more).

The Summer Solstice in Britain is celebrated by pagans in many different ways but the most spectacular and indeed the best known celebration occurs at Stonehenge.

Solstice 2005 - www.stonehenge.co.uk

 

Stonehenge is a site of great importance although it’s true meaning and reason for being has yet been fully agreed upon. Stonehenge is found upon Salisbury Plain and is estimated to have been erected sometime around 3,000 – 1,600 BC. The circular ring of bluestones where brought down from the Preseli Hills via methods fully unknown although this was a process that took many many years to complete. Each stone serves a purpose and it is only in recent years that archaeologists are really beginning to get to grips with the possible meanings behind each one. Early this year some exploratory ‘holes’ where dug allowing people to excavate Stonehenge for the first time in many years, the findings of which are still being processed.

When Stonehenge was created people lived more by the sun and the moon which is why the solstices where important to them. In the time we live in now these moments can very often pass by unnoticed unless a conscious effort is taken to follow them. The Summer Solstice as Stonehenge is a very important day of the year as it is the one time that a large number of people can go and celebrate actually amongst the stones themselves (within permissible times and access). Normally visitors to Stonehenge can only walk in a circle around the stones a small barrier marking the permissible boundaries.

More information can be found here: http://www.stonehenge.co.uk/ 

 

Sunrise

 

This years celebration had a police presence however the mood always tends to be rather jovial and it is very rare to have a large amount of trouble. Bands play all be it without speakers (rules are rather strict to help preserve the stones and the site), whilst people in many colours and from all over the world stand/dance/sit together to watch the sun rise (and in case you’re wondering it was at approximately 4.45 GMT this morning).

I wont go into the reasons behind why the solstice is an important day for me, or others since I’m sure if people would like to know more they will be able to look it up and I don’t want to drag religion into this journal.

Although I will say today is a joyful day and if it would only stop raining it would be perfect 🙂

www.stonehenge.co.uk

The photographs were all taken from the Stonehenge site showing people’s experience of the Solstice in 2005 (as well as the henge itself)

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