Tuesday, 28 April 2009

ABC Wednesday - O

O is for Orientation

I give you the orientation table or in this case the table d'orientation which is on a hill in the Vosges called Drumond near Bussang. This is a craftsman table with a circular metal top complete with raised lettering pointing towards the various mountains nearby and those further away such as the Alps and if I remember right towns and cities of the surrounding countries with their distances. Not that we could see any of these things as we approached the top low cloud and mist swirled up the valley so we had to use our imagination.

Orientation tables come in all shapes and sizes, only limited by the human imagination, and are on anything from small hillocks to large mountains, anywhere there is a view. I am sure there is one near you. What is the fascination of the naming of the surroundings, I don't know but wherever they appear we like to look at them and beautiful views are always solace to the soul.

Here is one side of a small one on Heversham Head overlooking the Kent estuary and put up to celebrate the millennium. Each side has a different theme and the top tells you what you are looking at.

From the small to the ginormous, well OK its main purpose is a tracking station but
as it is on top of the Grand Ballon in the Vosges what better place to put an Orientation Table which goes all the way round the top, and the crowds come to look at it. Here is the diagram of the structure which also shows where the table is
And then there is the eccentric. This is the Hampsfell Hospice built in 1846, look at the list on the board and move the the arrow to the appropriate angle and it points towards the geographical feature.
Photo by Anne Bowker of www.madaboutmountains.com

And lastly, another orientation, but this contained within the guide books of Alfred Wainwright. Here is his naming of the mountains from the top of England's highest point. You will never get lost if you have one of his books with you in the Lake District.

To see lots more Os go Over to Mrs Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday

Monday, 27 April 2009

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey

Jack Maggs returns to London in secret from Australia where he has been deported but made his fortune. He is searching for the occupier of a house in Great Queen Street but while he knocks on number 27 he is spotted by Mercy Larkin who thinks he is at the wrong house and has come for the interview for a butlers appointment at her employers house. Jack falls in with this for his own reasons and is employed to be butler to Percy Buckle. One of Buckle's visitors is the famous author Tobias Oates who is skilled in mesmerism. He promises to cure Jack of a muscle spasm by hypnosis but unlocks secrets that would be dangerous to be known abut Jack and which will impact upon all the lives of those present at the mesmerism, including the servant who listens at the door.

London's murky underbelly is laid bare as Jack Magg's life story gradually unfolds from his orphan upbringing, the reason for his deportation to the colonies and his dangerous return.

Carey has taken the character of the title from Dicken's 'Great Expectations' but apart from that very little remains of the original novel. Perhaps the character of Tobias Oates is supposed to represent Dickens who, in this story, is obsessed with Maggs because he is in search of a idea for his next novel.

This is a dark story full of secrets and damaged people, all in fear of poverty or position, nearly all willing to exploit others.

Peter Carey cranks up the level of trepidation as he plunges you into the Victorian world and the quest of his anti-hero Jack Maggs to find Henry Phipps which entangles everyone around him and no one escapes from the consequences of their actions for good or ill.

I recommend this book but if you have not read any Peter Carey before then I would suggest starting with 'Oscar and Lucinda' which is set in the same century.

Friday, 24 April 2009


What a profusion of Lady's Smock (Cardamine Pratensis) there is this year. It like dampness so maybe the winter weather has encouraged it but for whatever reason it is in abundance. There were thousands of them on the Lesh Lane common which seemed to appear overnight. When I first saw them I was amazed and just went Wow how wonderful. I turned the corner yesterday expecting to see them in all their glory - nothing - the council had been round and cut the grass, how sad.

The picture on this page is taken on the waste land round the Furness General Hospital where I have been visiting my mother who always calls them Meadowsweet, if she was not laid up with a fractured hip she would have enjoyed them. Apparently they are sometimes called Cuckoo Flowers because they appear when the first Cuckoo call is usually heard. As is the tradition I always make a wish when hearing the first Cuckoo but think it is a bit early yet up here in the north. Gives me time to decide what to wish!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

ABC Wednesday - N

N is for Notebooks

Useful when the old grey cells are not up to much and have a multitude of uses whether it is to write down those must read books, holiday memories, nature notes, research notes, interesting things or even things to do although being a procrastinator this does not always work out. (Never do today what you can put off doing until tomorrow)

The Pooh Bear notebook in the middle is the one I used when trying to pick up a smattering of Italian. All the useful words were in this as I worked my way through 'teach yourself Italian'. Reading the 'At the Railway Station' chapter there was a conversation about strikes. No I won't bother with that word. When would you need that? I think it might have been useful when wondering why the return bus to Viareggio had not appeared at the appointed hour. Yes the bus drivers had gone on strike for the afternoon. Luckily the train station was only a mile away and they were not on strike!

Yes notebooks I can't resist them. I think it must be hereditary as my father always had one on the go although he mainly used them for prose and poetry, a talent unfortunately I did not inherit. As a young man he had a crush on a girl that worked at Woolworths and as he writes "would call in the shop ostensibly to buy a writing pad but mainly to chat with Miss Connie Graham. I accumulated quite a number of pads which served me in good stead as prices and quantity of leaves rose and dropped respectively during the war" Nothing came of this attraction as during the war he was a fireman and was sent out of the area where he met my mother.

Here is the artist Stefano Furavelli's illustrated diary of a trip to the Far East which does not need words.

The moleskin notebooks which is a cotton fabric woven and sheared to create a short soft pile on one side are made in Italy.

Unlike the hair on the mole which is waterproof, stands up and can be brushed in any direction. Do moles have brushes? Possibly only in the 'Wind in the Willows.' but who knows they are very secretive creatures.

For Numerous Ns go to Mrs Nesbitts ABC Wednesday

Friday, 17 April 2009

Home Truths - John Duffin Exhibition

Dalton Road snow
John Duffin's small exhibition at the Dock Museum consisting of paintings for sale of his home town of Barrow-in-Furness but you will not be able to buy any of these as they were all snapped up on the day it opened. A very popular local artist who interprets the local landscape. He says he comes home to recharge his batteries and "The availability of heavily built up areas, wide open spaces, vast skies and the beaches are a cocktail that continually moves me"

Duffin splits his time between London and his home town, his work is dominated by the urban landscape and influenced by cinema and comic books. It is said his work processes a noirish quality and he does like scenes dominated by shadows and lamplight with architecture overpowering the tiny figures. In some of his paintings there is an Atkinson Grimshaw, vibe although of course the style is very different. He spent some time as a draughtsman in the local shipyard before studying at Goldsmiths College and the draughies love of straight lines certainly evident in his drawings.

The exhibition has something for everyone and covers aspects and the atmosphere of local scenes. There is also a nice display of some of his black and white sketches of the paintings on show. Duffin also seems to have a liking for dogs as there is usually a small one present somewhere in his paintings however not in the one on this page so if you wish to see more pop along to the Dock Museum this month.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

ABC Wednesday - M

M is for Moss

A lover of dampness and low light - we have it in abundance. The clouds come over the Atlantic Ocean for a few thousand miles and here we are, the first landfall they meet and the rain falls. There are 763 species of moss currently known to occur in the British Isles however there are 12,000 species worldwide occurring on all the continents. Here are some bryophyta living in my local woods.

with daffodils (although you will have to click to enlarge to see them)

Taken this Easter week-end, these are also the first showing of this year's bluebells

Luxuriant moss with Wood Sorrel

Now you may have noticed that I have not named one species of moss and I must confess my ignorance but I think it is very beautiful. I remember a gardener once saying that she would like to be buried on a layer of moss which sounds soft and lovely but only if it was in a sylvan glade otherwise it might be a bit Macabre.....
A little moss on a table tomb in the ruins of St Peter's churchyard in Duffus, Scotland. At the corner of the graveyard there is a watch-house which was built in 1830 to shelter the guards against the body snatchers or as they were sometime know, the "resurrection men". The infamous Burke & Hare who operated in Edinburgh could sell corpses to medical students for as much as £12, a watch had to be kept day and night so the bodies were decomposed enough to be useless to the anatomist.

More marvelous Ms at ABC Wednesday

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

ABC Wednesday - L

L is for Lighthouse

To start with the youngest of our trio above is the Tynemouth lighthouse and pier built in 1903. The ferries pass here on their way to Scandinavia and continental Europe. Tynemouth is a historic town and resort at the mouth of the River Tyne. The pier is closed in stormy weather

Next comes the Chanory Point lighthouse (the white building in the distance built in 1846) on the Black Isle in Scotland. This is on a narrow spit on the Morray Firth where the tide sluices through the narrows. The point is a popular place for dolphin watchers and the colony of bottle-nose dolphins are the most northerly in Europe. It is also a good spot to watch porpoises and seals.

Now you may think that lighthouses mark dangerous places and hazards but here is one (just to the left of the cherry trees) that is well inland and has never flashed a light although it is lit up at night with spotlights.
This is the Sir John Barrow monument built in 1850 to commemorate Ulverston's famous son who was the 2nd secretary to the Admiralty. It is based on the John Smeaton designed Eddystone Lighthouse of 1759.
The hill is called Hoad (436 ft) so it is generally known as the Hoad Monument or the 'pepper pot'. The monument is 100 foot high and there are is a 112 step spiral staircase inside leading to magnificent views at the top to the sea and mountains.
Unfortunately it is no longer open as it is in need of repair (see the cracks below) however money is being raised to bring it back to its original state.
Hoad Hill is a popular walk but it will be busy this Easter week-end because this is where the children will be rolling their Pasch Eggs on Easter Monday. These are eggs hard boiled with onions skins and various other things to colour them although sometimes today they are painted. The aim is to roll yours the furthest without cracking it. The dialect word is Pace Eggs which is which is derived from Pasch meaning easter or passover and is supposed to symbolise the stone being rolled from Jesus's tomb although it may come from an earlier Celtic tradition.

There is an old Lancashire superstition that the empty pace eggs must be crushed because they can be used by witches as boats! Well it must be boring always being on broomsticks.

For Lots more Ls go to Mrs Nesbitts ABC Wednesday

Monday, 6 April 2009

Carnegie Challenge Cup

There was much excitement in the Rugby League side of town when we drew a Super League team in the 4th round of the Challenge Cup. The day came when Wigan came to Craven Park and the crowds turned out. 6,275 people crammed into the ground, I had not seen it this full for many years.
Popular Side Supporters

The whistle blew and the game set off at a cracking pace and the score ping ponged backwards and forwards, 0-6, 6-6 (Liam Finch try) 6-10, 12-10 (James Nixon try, Paul Noone conversion hey we could win this) 12-14, 14-14, 14-20. The crowd was buzzing as half time came.

Stopping Wigan scoring
So near to another Barrow try

Wigan came out in the second half having obviously having had a good telling off in the changing rooms and put Barrow under pressure but we stood up well. 14-24, 18-24 (Liam Campbell try), 20-24 (Noone Penalty) but now comes the twist of fate. A long pass to Finch had set Harrison in for a try, we were ecstatic, the referee was about to give it but the touch judge called a forward pass (not only we thought this was a good pass, none of the Wigan players had appealed for a forward pass). A few more pieces of bad luck and Wigan's Karl Pryce scored a try and we were 20-28.

The end result was Barrow Raiders 20 Wigan Warriors 32. There was going to be no giant killing on this day but it was an entertaining match and the crowd cheered to the rafters on the final whistle. The team had done us proud with their non-stop running and tackling. The man of the match was Liam Finch but all 13 players and the 4 substitutes were magnificent.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Yeasayer - Wait for the Summer

This week I have been mostly listening to Yeasayer. Think I prefer the longer album ("All Hour Cymbals") version of this song but like the video and it seems the right time of year for it.

Believe they have hit the studios to write and record their second album.