A dozen places you can go to be alone. WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Silly Saturday – Blockdown
So how are you getting on with the blocks? There is a lot you can do with blocks, apparently, I have not actually done much myself yet, so DO NOT use this as an instructional post. This is what most of us have achieved so far. Yes, giving a paragraph a background colour and this seems to be the most popular colour; reminds me of hospital curtains.
But yellow is a bit bright…
…and purple too dark.
and grey too boring.
Perhaps this is more fun and let’s change the colour of the words.
How are your eyes?
Let’s have some pictures. So far I have only made them round and small.
But I could click on to Patterns and see what happens.
I have just learned how to put three pictures in a row, except I have ended up with six in different sizes. Never mind, Salisbury is a lovely place to visit. If you think you may have seen these pictures before that is because my media library is full and I repurpose most of my photos.
You can click on to patterns for words
and you might end up with this.
If this post gets any smaller it might disappear altogether.
Do not try this at home.
Winter Weekend West – Part Three – Tin Coast
After finally finding and checking into Primrose House we were offered birthday cake. Then came that B&B tradition of the first night; setting out for an evening walk and finding somewhere to have dinner. We took the coastal route round the harbour, looking for the Tate Gallery first to see how far it was and check opening times. St. Ives was buzzing, it was half term Saturday and everyone was off to parties or heading for dinner. In the dark we took a circuitous route round the narrow roads and when we found the gallery there was no information board outside. After finding some places full we settled on a fish restaurant hiding above a fish and chip shop, it was pleasant but pretentious. What I had was basically a piece of plaice on top of some mashed potato. When we got back to our B&B the chocolate birthday cake was still out on the table, so we took another piece up to our room. We looked up opening times for the Tate on the internet, closed on Monday, so tomorrow it must be. We wouldn’t have to move the car yet.
On Sunday the sun was out and the beach and harbour made a good walk after our cooked breakfast. The low tide harbour looked like a beach and the people walking on it seemed in no hurry to leave as the tide came in and fishermen clambered into their boats ready to sail off.
We have been to St. Ives several times and I am always amazed at the bright turquoise of the sea. From inside the Tate Gallery you can see the beach framed like a picture. The building is bright and white inside and out, airy and pleasant and of course there is a cafe and shop. You can have a look round the gallery here.
Our evening meal we had already booked at a hotel back near our B&B, a Sunday roast. If we had just stuck with the main course we would have thought it a good meal. Having wondered if we could manage a pudding, would it be greedy etc. we needn’t have worried. Cyberspouse’s jam rolly-polly was merely a thin slice of Swiss roll with a jug of custard, while my lemon tart a thin sliver of pastry with a smear of lemon curd.
Monday was the day of the Tin Coast. Cyberspouse wanted to show me mines visited when he and his friends went on their photography trip. We would have to drive the car back up that narrow steep road. Our host assured us one hardly ever met anyone coming down, but if we did the protocol was those going up had to back down. We were nearly at the top, the main road in sight, when another car started coming down. I closed my eyes – I wasn’t driving . An expert bit of manoeuvring and we were squeezed onto the driveway of someone’s house.
The Levant mine was still closed for the winter, but apparently has a restored working beam engine and the mine itself went deep under the sea. The rugged scenery alone is worth the visit. Then we drove a little further on to Botallack, even more rugged and I realised the perilous path trodden to get to the good spot Cyberspouse wanted for his tripod. As I don’t like heights I went no further and could hardly bear to look. I have since discovered, when we saw our friends, that his wife also refused to cross nature’s bridge of terror when he took her.
Cape Cornwall was different again with rolling grass that made you feel like running down, even rolling down the grass like children do. Perhaps if adults acted with the carefree abandon of children and dogs it would be good for their mental health. We wondered who the monument on top of the headland was dedicated to. The answer was baked beans. Or rather Heinz, Guardians of the Countryside, had purchase the land for the nation in 1987 to mark their centenary year and presented it the National Trust. By now I was ready for a nice cup of coffee, sitting at the bench in the sun outside the little cafe at the end of the toilet block. But when we got back down it turned out they were only getting it ready for the weekend. So it was off to St. Just for a traditional Cornish pastie.
You can see more pictures of our trip at my website.
Winter Weekend West – Part Two
Most of us find places to stay for holidays or mini breaks on line and a good way to choose is to pick a bed and breakfast that looks interesting and will make good photos for Instagram, Facebook, your website and your WordPress blog – though my WordPress gallery of pictures is chockablock full now…
We picked Primrose House in St. Ives, Cornwall. February is hardly peak season, but the weatherman promised fine weather. It was half term and we were booking at the last minute, but we got a room.
The journey down was thick fog all the way, as you will know if you are one of my three followers on Instagram or Facebook. Our breakfast stop turned out to be a Macdonalds; in the fog we just saw a sign for Services, no HGVs and a white house shaped building. We decided its proximity to Poundbury, Prince Charles’ life size toy town near Dorchester, was the reason for the absence of the usual bright red and yellow sign. Inside it was bright and clean and packed with customers and more staff than I have ever seen; we later heard from one of the staff they were expecting an unexpected visit from the big boss. That explained the enthusiastic clearing and wiping of tables.
Although the fog cleared just before we got to St. Ives it was impossible to find Primrose House. Like lots of West Country towns St. Ives was built for fishermen and real people walking about their business, not for tourists. We knew there were steep narrow winding lanes, that’s why we wanted to stay in the town and walk everywhere, but we still had to get to our accommodation in the first place. Sat Nav’s directions made no sense. The place is right by the branch line from St. Erth, how handy it would have been to arrive by train; except that journey involves five trains ( four changes ) and takes over nine hours from our home.
We stopped in the car park of a big hotel we had stayed in once before and phoned the B&B. We had missed the tiny lane that was the road to Primrose Valley. It was so steep we could have turned the engine off and free wheeled down. At the bottom were a couple of sharp U turns under, then back under the branch railway line. ‘We’re not moving the car again until it’s time to go home’ I said when I opened my eyes again – I’m not the driver…
Luckily Primrose House lived up to my expectations. It was within yards of the beach if you walked under the branch line. Run by friendly young proprietors who have made the spacious 1908 guest house bright and attractive, it is all white walls, timber and minimalism. The only criticism being that it might be described as a touch too minimalist. Our big room had lots of floor space, but not a single chair to sit on or many surfaces to put anything down. The bathroom was good with a lovely big shower. Anyone who knows the saga of our bathroom will appreciate that a powerful shower is part of the holiday treat.
There was lots on the breakfast menu, freshly cooked and plenty of fruit, cereals etc to help yourself. On the first morning there were lots of guests, but Sunday and Monday nights the owners told us we were alone; literally as there were no staff staying overnight. Possible inspiration for a story! The other strange thing that happened was our room didn’t get serviced due to a mix up, but they gave us a bottle of champagne and deducted money off the bill to make up.
Did we ever manage to get the car back up the hill? Find out next week.
The Game of Life – 42
Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.
The Number Game
Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will know Douglas Adams said 42 was the answer to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Geeks everywhere are still trying to prove that. But it is the number of our wedding anniversary last week and also a multiple of three. Three can be viewed as a significant if you want to play the number game; for Christians there is the Holy Trinity, for artists there are three primary colours and for photographers a picture of three is viewed as superior to a picture of two. Three colourful boats in a harbour are more satisfying to look at than two boats.
My parents both came from families of three siblings, had three of us and we had three children, though our children have no intention of continuing this trend. My mother was 93 at the weekend, thus making four generations with ages in multiples of three. Mother, sister, three children, four grandchildren ( if you count 0 ), great niece and myself are all in multiples of three – for a few months at least. I’m twice the age of my youngest child, eleven times the age of my granddaughter – WHAT! My mother can’t believe she is 93 and 31 times as old as two of her great grandchildren… where is all this leading? Absolutely nowhere, I’m just leading you up the garden path… though you could try working out my age…
There are numbers and patterns throughout nature; scientists like deciphering patterns and mathematicians love making sequences while the rest of us just get on with life.
The Bridge Between Life and Death
The second dose of the second type of chemotherapy has not interfered much with Cyberspouse’s life, so with the weather forecast springing optimistic we ventured west to St. Ives, Cornwall – 198 miles, another multiple of three – our first away of the year, for three nights. It was thick fog all the way down, but our two full days there were fine weather. Day two was devoted to old mine and coast landscapes already visited by Cyberspouse with his photography friends. Beautiful scenery with black jagged rocks, turquoise seas and snow white surf, but he didn’t tell me about the walk of death. To him it was a wide footpath he and his mates had crossed before, to me it was a perilous bridge too far with a lethal drop either side likely to result in a major operation by the coastguard, air sea rescue ( yes the one Prince William used to fly with ) lifeboat, mountain rescue and Devon and Cornwall Police to record the major incident.
The photograph doesn’t really do justice to the danger. I don’t like heights so I stayed back to dial 999 and anticipate how I would explain to police, press and family – no he didn’t want to end it all dramatically, he just wanted to take a photograph. There was much precarious playing around with the tripod, but no incident. I have to confess that when we walked round the cliff on a safer path the grassy ledge he had been standing on looked bigger than from the bridge view.
You can read more about Cornwall in my Wednesday blogs.
Winter Weekend West – Part One
February may not be thought of as a holiday month in England, except for going abroad for sunshine, but there is plenty to do on a long winter weekend. We headed west through three counties and thick fog to reach Saint Ives on the north coast of Cornwall, nearly at the most westerly tip of England. A three night stay gave us two days of fine weather to enjoy photo opportunities, a blogworthy bed and breakfast establishment and too much inspiration for just one blog.
Cornwall has its own language, flag and nationalist movement. In the past it must have been very remote from the rest of England and in 2014 Cornish people were granted minority status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. But if you are in a holiday town you are more likely to be continually bumping into Londoners and others seeking the good life. Perhaps the locals are busy going out in their fishing boats rather than sampling fish restaurants.
Incomers are not new, Saint Ives famously has attracted artists since the nineteenth century with the quality of light and beautiful blue seas. Now the town is also well known for its Tate Gallery, squashed between housing association flats on the promenade. Inside, the light and airy building comes into its own, with a beautifully framed view of the beach, which my photograph doesn’t do justice to!
The town has layer upon layer of higgledy piggledy old buildings and narrow lanes clinging to its steep hills; a tourists’ delight. When we see modern tiny houses being built we think them ridiculous, but minute old dwellings most of us find irresistibly cute. Wandering around the maze of lanes we saw a door only two foot wide at the top of steep steps and one building where a few steps took you below ground to two tiny front doors crammed at right angles; they were holiday lets.
Out on the moors there is plenty of space; the attractions for visitors include the old mine workings and the rocky coast where unbelievably blue seas with snow white surf pound black rocks. Fans of the Poldark books and television series will be familiar with the Cornish scenery and it is as fantastic as it looks on television. Winston Graham the author was not a local by birth, but did live in Cornwall for thirty five years from the age of seventeen.
Silly Saturday – Staycation
There’s a hold up on the motorway,
After junction 59.
Rain is heavy, sky is grey,
Traffic stopped in line.
Must mean we are on holiday.
Day two and still it rains,
But we have an agenda,
Uncle Ted to steam train,
Then visit Aunty Glenda.
She’s in the Royal Infirmary.
Day three on sunshine beach,
Lots of places to go.
No holiday is complete,
Without a secluded cove,
Scenery and strangers to meet.
Bridges over rivers and bays,
Lighthouses, harbours and piers,
Rolling fields and bales of hay,
High crumbling cliffs to fear.
Where shall we go next day?
Houses of National Trust,
Cathedrals with towers to climb,
Great statues of rust,
Museums and art sublime.
Then home at last we must.
Caught on Camera
One holiday not long ago we were on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall; a dog walker, a few sheep and a man tending a crackling bonfire in the garden of the solitary house. A strange noise made us look up into the evening sky. We zoomed in with our cameras, not a UFO, but the first drone we had ever seen. Not the sort that drops bombs luckily, but what was it doing? Watching us? Is there anywhere you can go without being seen?
The next day we returned and drove up a road to investigate the tall mast on Caradon Hill we had seen from afar. Warning signs said Private road, access only. We walked the rest of the way up the grassy hill, veering away from the unmade road, past the gigantic guy ropes, steel cables holding up the metal tower. There was a complex of buildings, entry by security pass only, CCTV in operation. Obviously a secret facility, we were being filmed and I expected armed troops to emerge at any moment to take us in for interrogation. The signs were headed by the word Arqiva – a sinister secret organisation for sure.
The truth was more prosaic when I looked the place up on Wickepedia.
The Caradon Hill transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications facility. Built in 1961, the station includes a 237.7 metres (780 ft) guyed steel lattice mast. The mean height for the television antennas is 603 metres (1,978 ft) above sea level. It is owned and operated by Arqiva, a British telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcast transmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
But perhaps that information was a cover up; we only escaped arrest because they had identified us as civilian ramblers.
We are all being watched, all the time. CCTV cameras we know about, on buses, station platforms, in shops. We don’t know if we are being filmed or watched live. Above us are police, military and coastguard helicopters.
It is not only people who are being watched, so is your vehicle. Drive down many main roads and your journey has been recorded by ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition; if the car is stolen or of interest for any reason it will be spotted. Police cars can now carry similar equipment. Writers of thrillers or crime novels have a harder time than ever helping their characters hide or escape, though in fiction and real life criminals are often one step ahead of new technology.
But writers can find new inspiration for plot ideas.
Pity the chap whose neighbour offers to give him a lift to Heathrow Airport in his mate’s car. By the time they are driving through the tunnel they have already been spotted on the spur road. Unbeknown to the occupants of the car, the neighbour’s friend is a criminal or terrorist. When the car is stopped they will have a hard time explaining who they are, by which time the flight will have been missed.
We have all seen pleas on television for missing persons or witnesses to the movements of a murder suspect. There on the screen is a CCTV picture taken inside a bus with the exact time and date. A wife spots her husband, who never uses buses and should have been at work on the other side of the city. A good starting point for a mystery.
In Brief Encounters of the Third Kind the main characters fear they are not only being observed, but controlled. There is no rational explanation for inexplicable events and when they finally reach a glimpse of the truth it is not what they expected.
Tides and Tourists
We have been to Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, how different could Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France be? Just a bit bigger? In Cornwall you know you walk across the causeway at low tide and go by boat at high tide. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel experiences some of the largest tides in Europe, but the island is not surrounded by the sea every day; it’s far more complicated than that, depending on the movement of heavenly bodies and other factors. All the tourist needs to know is that you can go on guided walks across the vast low tide bay, but you certainly should not go alone. For the photographer the scene is ever changing according to the weather and the tide; the island itself is fascinating with so many buildings, narrow alleys and winding flights of steps clustered below the abbey.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a World Heritage Site and experiences huge tides of tourists. Recently, changes have been completed to preserve the ecology of the area and cater for tourists. Le Barage across the river controls the flow of water into the bay while a big car park and tourist centre, a safe two and a half kilometres from the island, controls the flow of people. Free shuttle buses go endlessly back and forth till midnight or you can take Les Maginotes, carriages pulled by pairs of draught horses. It is also easy to walk along the causeway and the boardwalk bridge, a pleasant stroll past grazing sheep, salt marsh lamb acclaimed for their meat.
Back at tourist base the roads all have barriers, ‘rue impasse’. The effect is to feel you are on a campus; hotels, restaurants and campsite all quiet and traffic free except for coaches bringing tourists. In contrast to the melee of mixed visitors were the neatly controlled groups of Japanese tourists and lively groups of school children. The few days we were there we saw an endless procession of school children being marshalled for the walk across the bay, followed by picnic lunches on the island; evenings in restaurants we sat with Americans, Canadians and Australians while the Japanese were still in their regimented groups. Perhaps none of this was ‘real life’, but the whole tourist experience was well organised, pleasant and stress free.
Even in October the island was packed, people walking, eating, drinking and filing into the abbey. We gathered on a wall with many others to watch the tide creeping in and laugh at teenage boys vying to be the last standing on a rocky outcrop. The top terrace of the abbey had the best view out over the bay and back across the way we had come. Those who work on the island in catering must be constantly busy; for those who live here their homes are unique, but they must be constantly stared at by tourists such as myself, trying to peep in their front doors as they unlock them or peering down into their tiny gardens.
Writers can take inspiration; what a perfect place to be anonymous in the crowds, or elude capture if their character needs to escape. The abbey itself is a maze of stone arches and flights of stone steps, if you did not adhere to the signs and follow the correct route it’s unlikely you would get out of the building; even following the route I thought we would never get out… But we did emerge into the sunshine to enjoy coffee with a view at one of the many cafes.
For holiday pictures visit my Beachwriter’s Blog, this month ‘Ecrivaine de La Plage’.
and read more about the trip to Normandy in Chapter Four