Friday, September 28, 2012

Walking in Winchcombe

The delightful village of Winchcombe, England is on the famous Cotswold Way: 100 miles of paths from Bath to Chipping Camden. During the week we stayed there, we took a couple of walks, the best one being a snippet (5 miles) of the section from Winchcombe to Hailes Abbey.

 Leaving the tea room in town center

You walk down Witches Way...

through fields of grazing sheep, some with lambs.


Up and over "kissing gates and stiles"...Richard still has his eye closed after the kissing.

Navigation was interesting as you leave your GPS behind and follow instructions like these....
"Diagonally cross the field towards a clump of trees, aiming for the left of the trees and over a small knoll down to a stile. Climb the stile, past an ancient oak tree and head straight across the field to a stile. Climb the stile and continue straight on towards a house. Here you will see the Malvern Hills coming into view on your left. Climb the stile and bear right
uphill towards another stile, climb the stile and up to a gate leading onto a lane. Go through the gate and turn left along the lane past St Faith’s Church and Farmcote Herb Garden on your left. Leave the metalled road and follow the track descending slightly with lovely views ahead.

Fortunately you run across signs which help guide you along. I loved the names of the towns:
Spoonley, Guilting Wood, Hinchwick, Ozleworth Bottom, Chipping Norton, Bourton-on-the-Hill,
Milton-under-Wynchwood, Stretton-on-the-Fosse.

This part of the path was pretty unmistakable......

Just after a rain, we picked up quite a load of mud and gunk on the shoes, but it was mostly marvelously green.
We passed by some beautiful English gardens...with sweet peas blooming in late August and
zucchini laid out for passers by to take home.
We ended the walk at Hailes Abbey which was financed by pilgrims visiting its renowned relic, 'the Holy Blood of Hailes - allegedly a vial of Christ's blood. The Abbey was shut down and its coffers emptied by Cromwell.

I'd love to go back and try to do as much of the whole walk as we could.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dublin - where hearts are stolen

In Dublin we enjoyed glorious weather. Our raincoats and umbrellas rested in the hotel room while we walked around sweating in jeans and shirts. In the bright sunshine and 80 degrees, every citizen of Dublin appeared to be out on the streets. The darkish pubs were empty, with the patrons spilled out on the curbs, hands shading their eyes from the sun glinting off the amber gold of their pints. Gift of gab notwithstanding, I observed that the Irish begin the real talk mostly when the hand holds a pint and then the floodgates open. The pub-scene-girls looked beautiful to me...gorgeous dresses, super fancy heels, sophisticated makeup. As we passed through these merry throngs I heard plenty of energetic babble, espresso machines coughing and phlegming, the screeching of seagulls and every few minutes, a siren. I couldn't make out a word but caught the friendly ambiance nonetheless.

We ate at "The Hairy Lemon" -  typical pub fair: Irish Stew and a Dublin Coddle with a pint of ale each. The combination of too much food and the beer we're unaccustomed to (9% alcohol) nearly did us in so we put the brakes on the pub visits. The music starts too late and for every bit of Irish music you might hear you have to endure too much Johnny Cash for my liking. I'm happy to have done my pubbing in Dublin twenty years ago when my constitution was more inclined.

The Book of Kells at Trinity College is the national treasure of Ireland and worth standing in line to see for the second time. We heard evensong at St. Pat's and enjoyed reading about Jonathan Swift who was Dean for thirty years. He's buried there next to "Stella", a woman with whom he had what is called an "ambiguous relationship". He met her when she was eight years old and fatherless - smacks a bit of Woody Allen to me. I hope a whole generation hasn't been turned off Swift because of the terrible "Gulliver's Travels" film of last year. His satirical writing as in the below summarized "modest proposal" shouldn't be missed.
A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick, commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggests that impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general. In English writing, the phrase "a modest proposal" is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire.

The hop-on hop-off bus provided an overview of the city and considerable entertainment on it's own. Few people actually "hop" especially when they've just finished the Guinness tour. I clambered on, almost fell asleep and dragged my butt off. The sun, warm air, excess clothing and "bus bobble" did me in. Richard stayed alert and got us to the right stops. We loved visiting the Chester Beatty library
and Christ Church Cathedral, which is reeling from the shock of having their principal relic stolen earlier this year. A petrified heart that hung on the wall since the 1300's was pinched. There's a major appeal out world-wide to dealers in such rare antiquities to provide help and information.

Home of the heart

The heart thieves didn't have to fight the crowds in Christ Church. This was the scene just after a week day service ended. There was a woman and Richard. I was only a photographer and so don't really count.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Etched in Stone

In Ireland instead of spending our time in pubs drinking and catching the craic*, we haunted the churches looking at tombstones and inscriptions. The morning after we had no hangovers and no regrets.

Some tombstones drive you straight to Wikipedia, like this one.  Bishop Bishop was obviously made for his job. Seems he was quite accomplished during his lifetime and notable that his family/friends chose to "etch in stone" the circumstances of his demise.

The Irish can't tell a story the short way and consequently put a lot of information on their tombstones - after all, it is the last word. This one following must have cost George's Mom a pretty penny. She chose not only to recount the way he died but also to give a permanent dig to the Galwegians who didn't keep the docks adequately lit.

It reads:

Sacred to the memory of George Frederick De Carteret, ensign in her majesty's 30th regiment, son of the late Major De Carteret of the Honorable East India Company's service, and Elizabeth his wife, both natives of Jersey. His lamentable death was occasioned by want of lights on the docks into which he fell and was drowned, during a dark and tempestuous night, on the 21st of March 1843, at the early age of 22. Deploring her irreparable loss and bearing in remembrance his many virtues, his childless mother has caused this monument to be erected. She was "The was only son of his mother
and she was a widow".

Here was a very well-loved person who made an endowment that was supposed to last as long as the tombstone - for ever!! I wonder how long it actually lasted?

Near this place rests in full assurance of a Blessed Resurrection, Jane Eyre, Daughter of Sir  Maynord, Baronet and Relict of Edward Eyre late of Galway Twnq. She was a loving and obedient Wife, A careful and indulgent Mother, Affabel and courteous to her Acquaintance. Her Piety Prudence and well disposed bounty to the poor giving bread to the hungry and clothing the naked made her a worthy example to her sex. She took leave of this world on the 29th day of  December 1762 in the 88th year of her age, Resigned herself chearfully into the hands of her Redeemer with a faith, hope and charity, which never fails to obtain an Inherritance among the Saints in Light. Two daughters Elizabeth and Margaret survived her. The sum of 500! was given by the widow Jane Eyre to the Corporation of Galway for the yearly sum of 24! to be distributed in bread to 56 poor objects on every Sunday for ever.

The etcher who worked on this one couldn't get that "y" onto the end of "body" and had to hike it up one row. I'm not sure "died" was ever spelled like this - "dyed" and personally I don't think a good etcher would have split up Catherin's name like this. I hope they got a discount. 

"Craic" (/ˈkræk/KRAK), or "crack", is a term for news, gossip, fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.[1][2][3] It is often used with the definite articlethe craic.[1] The word has an unusual history; the English crack was borrowed into Irish as craic in the mid-20th century and the Irish spelling was then reborrowed into English.[1] Under either spelling, the term has great cultural currency and significance in Ireland.

    Thursday, September 06, 2012



    Flat in new town Edinburgh

    While attempting with difficulty to book hotels in Edinburgh we were told several times that the "festivals were on and space was scarce". Festivals, we yawned... the avocado festival, the county fair; deep-fried chocolate bars and macrame necklaces. It turned out to be the festival of all festivals; like all the festivals we've ever seen going on simultaneously. Book fairs, choral and music fairs, live theater of all kinds, comedy festivals, mime, dance of every variety. Reputedly the largest culture festival in the world, it's program is the size of a small telephone book. 24 hours a day every conceivable nook and cranny in the city is booked. We managed to see a couple of concerts, the best - a preview of the Purcell opera, Dido and Aeneas. Wandering the Royal Mile every day to watch the "previews" presented on the streets could keep you busy all day every day for a month.

    Performances everywhere

    Pipers were a-piping on every corner.


    Beautiful flowers in hanging baskets all over the city

    The military tattoo was a wonderful experience but the expensive whiskey tasting aforehand overblown and contrived for tourists. We had to buy a "package" in order to get the really good seats for the tattoo and thought it couldn't be all that bad. It was. Part of it was the cheesiest ride I've ever experienced in a whiskey barrel on rails which travels through a series of tableaux depicting how whiskey is made. There isn't enough whiskey in the world to turn that sow's ear into a silk purse. The only two things of value we learned were: 1. Whiskey is spelled with an "e" in Scotland and spelled "whisky" in Ireland and 2. No matter how you spell it, people will pay incredible prices for a prized bottle - up to $20,000.00. The tasting organizers also housed a collection of rare whiskeys, perhaps the best part of the experience.

    There was a shadow head in every one of my photos

    Whiskey collection