Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Biker Boy

Isaac's first ride on his new Blue Birthday Bike....

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Birthday Boy

Combine a sunny Saturday, a back yard, some cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents, good food, a jug of sangria, a barbecue and a Big Birthday Boy, and what do you get?
A Back Yard Party, that's what!    

YoungerSon and the Bride invited the family to celebrate Isaac's third birthday.

What kind of birthday cake would you like, Isaac? With no hesitation he said   A BLUE CAR!

So that's what Auntie J made for him, with a green one thrown in for good measure. Mmmm... Oreo cookie wheels. And candy tail lights. But the icing didn't like the heat.... we should have left it in the fridge....  and suffered a partial meltdown, but it tasted good anyway.

Isaac had no complaints.

He blew all three candles out with some timely help from his cousin Callum. There's something very enticing about blowing candles out, no matter whose birthday it is.  
Isaac pronounced the cake "very yummy".

Callum was in complete agreement.
After all, these boys are experienced cakeologists.... they know a good birthday cake when they taste one.
The cake soon disappeared, leaving a couple of cute faces smeared with blue icing.

Then they started on the chocolate chip cookies.

Good cake work, Auntie J!

The twins weren't allowed to eat any birthday cake this time, but only a couple of months to go and they will be celebrating their own birthdays. Now that they've had a taste of Back Yard Partying, I bet they can't wait for their turn to come.
And what do you think they would like for their birthdays? I'll give you three guesses. That's right.... Hair!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Bird's Eye View

If I get the opportunity, I always choose a window seat.

I know it's a real pain having to disturb two strangers each time I answer the call of nature, and it happens more than once during the seven hour flight from Britain to Canada, but it's worth it. Just look at the view! I don't watch the movie, I just look out of the window.

Enlarge the photos to see the details.
Fields of rapeseed shining in the sun somewhere just west of London.
A few more clouds, but still a lovely day down there on the ground.
The other side of the Atlantic, crossing the coast of northern Labrador.
Two mighty frozen rivers.... true wilderness. Minus 60F outside
Back to Canada.... vacation over. Until the next time.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

England Part IX - Springtime

Spring is a lovely season, especially the way it appears in the English countryside.
When I was little, I went every Easter with my parents and cousins to the the primrose woods at the end of the village to pick primroses. Each bunch of primroses was circled with primrose leaves before being secured with an elastic band and carefully placed in my mother's basket.

English Primrose - primula vulgaris
Some of the primroses would go to the local church for Easter decorations, and can you believe my mother would pack some of the primrose posies carefully into a sturdy box and send them by train to uncles and aunts in other parts of the country so they could experience the fragrance of our Devon primroses? And they would arrive at their destination the same day, just as fresh as when they left the woods. I don't think that could happen nowadays.
Baaaaa - where's the mint sauce?
The steep slopes of the Devon cliffs are covered with golden gorse flowers, or furze, as my dad called it. Gorse is in flower most of the year, giving rise to the old country saying "When gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion". Apparently, gorse flowers are edible, but I've never tasted them. If you want to try them, be careful....gorse has spiky thorns and can do you a lot of damage.
Common Gorse - ulex europaeus
The lovely blackthorn paints the hedgerows white in April. The flowers bloom before the leaves appear in the early spring. But this shrub has spines too, very sharp ones.
Blackthorn - prunus spinosa
The blackthorn is a relation of the plum tree and produces small bitter sloes in the fall. Edible, but you wouldn't want to! Better to brew up sloe gin instead.

For more about my trip to England, please scroll down to previous posts.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

England Part VIII - Geddington

I visited the village of Geddington in Northamptonshire with my cousin. We were on a mission.
In the 1890s when our grandmother was a teenager, long before she was our grandmother, she left home and went to live with her Uncle William Barham and Aunt Julia who lived at Geddington.
So we decided to have a look round the village to see if we could find any trace of the Barhams.

First we went to the ancient church and walked round the churchyard reading the gravestones.
The Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Geddington
But didn't find Uncle William.

Apparently Uncle William and Aunt Julia ran the Geddington village store and the Post Office from the 1890s to the 1920s, so we went there to enquire, but no.... the people who run the Post Office now are new and not familiar with the village. The Post Office building  is 17th Century and was once the Royal Oak public house.

Geddington Post Office
We wandered over the medieval stone bridge and found a cafe where we had tea and scones to fortify us, but no.... the people in the cafe were new too and they knew very little about the village history. We even asked in the pub, but no luck.

We went home disappointed but we had a great day exploring Geddington.

But since then I have been in touch via the internet with a couple of people who have been able to supply me with information about the Barhams and a photo of Uncle William's grave in the churchyard.... we probably walked right by it looking the wrong way!

For more posts about my trip to England, please scroll down.

Monday, 14 May 2012

England Part VII - A Really Big Boat

The Independence of the Seas was in port in Southampton.
She's HUGE!

4375 passengers.
1360 crew members.
3580 cabins and suites.

5 bars, 4 elevators, 3 swimming pools, 9 hole miniature golf course, ice skating rink, and a full size boxing ring..

You can even get married on board.

For more about my trip to England please scroll down to previous posts.

Friday, 11 May 2012

England Part VI - Downton Abbey

Did you watch Downton Abbey? This isn't really called Downton Abbey, that's simply this amazing building's identity in the successful TV drama.
The real name is Highclere Castle.

Highclere Castle is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.

The current (8th) Earl and Countess live partly in the Castle and partly nearby but remain closely involved in the Castle's day to day life.

It was 90 years ago in 1922 that the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun .

People have lived here for over 1300 years. The house was transformed into a grand mansion starting in 1838 and completed in 1878. There are 11 bedrooms on the first floor, and 40-50 on the next floors which are no longer used.

We toured the ground floor walking through many of the rooms that were used in the TV drama. No pictures allowed, sorry. Then we had a cuppa tea in the servants quarters in the cellar. How the other half lived, indeed!

For more about my trip to England, please scroll down to previous posts.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

England Part V - Dining Out

Ah yes.... British cuisine. Believe me, there's nothing quite like it.
Some people say that British food is bland and tasteless. They know nothing! Nothing, I say!
YoungerSon's best friend used to say the favourite British dinner was fried lard pie with lard sauce. Well.... OK, maybe.

Just take a look at these delicacies. A feast for the eyes, and for the tummy too.

A full English at the Bed and Breakfast.
A full English breakfast will set you up with energy to last the whole day. Or maybe two days. Just look at the variety of taste treats on that plate.... British bacon, fried eggs, sausage, tomato, potato slice, toast, and is that a mushroom I see hiding behind the baked beans? And plenty of marmalade on the toast, or do you prefer Marmite?

Pub food.... just the thing after an energetic hike

Coronation Chicken toasted sandwich. Add some crisps (translated to potato chips if you live in N America) and some salad and you have a lunch fit for a Queen.

Warm scones and jam and cream, and a cuppa

Need an afternoon snack? May I suggest stopping at the fancy tea rooms for an English Cream Tea, which includes home made strawberry jam and fresh cream, and don't forget lots of butter for the scones. And plenty of tea to wash it down.

My mouth is watering just looking in the bakery window

Feeling a bit peckish when you're out shopping? No problem. Sausage rolls, Chicken curry pasties, Chicken Ham and Leek pasties, Wiltshire pasties.... what a variety. I believe they can't be called Cornish pasties unless they are actually made in Cornwall.

99? Oh yes!

And when you've munched on your pasty, whatever kind it was, how about indulging in a 99? Soft ice cream in a cornet (that's a cone to N Americans) and a Cadbury's Flaky stuffed down the middle. Nothing could be better!

Lunch time at the market square

Suffolk ham, British eggs, chips and peas.... and the little container on the side is Brown Sauce. mmmmmm...

Just like my mum used to make.
And to finish it all off.... a slice of Victoria Sponge and another cup of tea.

I think I definitely have to go on a diet.

For more about my trip to England, scroll down to the previous posts.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

England Part IV - Pack O' Cards, Combe Martin

In 1690, George Ley, teacher and "overseer to the poor" in Combe Martin, had gambling success at the card table, and decided to commemorate his good luck by building a house representing a pack of cards. It must have been a big win to be able to build this place.
Want to join me for a pint at the Pack?
It was built on a plot of land measuring 52ft x 52ft (52 cards in a pack), has 4 floors (4 suits in a pack), 13 doors on every floor and 13 fireplaces (13 cards in a suit), and prior to window tax the panes of glass in all the windows added up to the total of the numbered cards in a pack.

It's now listed as a Grade II Ancient Monument.

For more about my trip to England, scroll down to the previous posts.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

England Part III - Lynmouth to Combe Martin - 12 miles, maybe more

I have to admit it. We cheated. But only a little bit.
We got a ride from the kind man at the B&B in Lynmouth to take us part way to Combe Martin. He dropped us off on the Coast Path a little past Hunter's Inn.

It was a misty morning as we struck out over the high ground on Holdstone Down. This is the best place to view the highest sea cliffs in England, but this time the mist obscured our view of the sea.
It is also the place where Jesus landed in a spaceship, which makes Holdstone Down a holy mountain charged with cosmic energy, according to The Aetherius Society. Want to know more? Go to their web site.
Into the mist but didn't feel any cosmic energy
The weather was dry and not too cold, just right for walking. My boots got a good workout.

T coming down the steps leading to Sherrycombe Water
After coming down a very steep slope to Sherrycombe Water, we were faced with an even steeper climb up the other side to Great Hangman. This little stream leads to a spectacular waterfall, which it is said was used by the crew of a German U-boat to replenish their fresh water supply during WWII.
Looking back on the path down to Sherrycombe from
halfway up the other side. Click to enlarge.... see the hikers?
Here we attained our highest elevation, and the highest sea cliff in England..... 1043 feet (318m) on Great Hangman as it is named on the maps, but we always called it Big Hangman when I lived here. Yes, this area is where I was born and brought up. This was a homecoming for me.
The stone cairn on Big Hangman.
Local tradition says that if you climb Big Hangman, you should carry a stone all the way up, and put it on the cairn, and make a wish. I knew it as "the fairies letterbox". Did I carry a stone all the way up? Of course I did. And will I tell you my wish? Definitely not! It's a secret between me and the fairies.
OK, it's not very big, but even little stones can work magic with the fairies.
As we walked towards Little Hangman, the mist began to clear, and the sun broke through the low clouds.
Looking towards Watermouth Harbour through the mist.
(Is it only me, or does this look like a giant green alligator?)
The first time I climbed Little Hangman with my dad I was three years old. A few years have passed since then.
Legend says that the hills of Little Hangman and Big Hangman get their names from a thief who stole a sheep and tied it around his neck while he rested. The sheep fell over the cliff, with predictable disastrous results for the thief. Be warned. Crime doesn't pay.
Little Hangman - the previous picture was taken at the very top.

Looking over Combe Martin harbour from Hangman Path
It was an easy downhill trek into the village of Combe Martin. This is where I was born and spent my younger years. The grey roof in the foreground is the house I grew up in, although so much changed to be unrecognisable now.
We peeked through the hedge to spy on the property where I lived and my cousins spent their summers. My dad's immaculate strawberry fields and tidy vegetable gardens are weedy and overgrown. The gateposts are crumbling.  The apple trees and the currant bushes are gone. I think I prefer to remember it as it was when I was little.

The Adventure continues.....

For more about my trip to England and the South West Coast Path, scroll down to see the next two posts.
If you have done this section of the Coast Walk, please leave me a comment and tell me about it!