Tuesday, 28 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - Numerical X and also X Craft

The Roman numeral X represents 10.   On its side 1,000 (you will have to turn your head to one side to imagine it) and with a dash over the top 10,000.  In algebra and mathematics in general x represents an unknown quantity.  Not an unknown quantity in this photo however for the stones are from the old dock, measuring depth.  Today they placed within a little amphitheatre
with an a tiled compass point forming the 'stage'. I would have liked to have taken a better photo than this but nature intervened
with a covering of snow.  This little space is by the side of the Dock Museum, an old Victorian Graving Dock, which in times past had a shipyard by the side of it building sailing ships from 1872-1884 both of wood and iron, what a pity none of them had names starting with X.  Oh well what about another look at those numbers carved in stone
or perhaps look towards a covered dock that is still active.
Looking from the amphitheatre, past the maritime themed playground is Devonshire Dock Hall, referred to as the DDH by those that work within and the Big Shed by everyone else. Today huge submarines are built inside this structure, such as the 492 foot long trident Vanguard class, but from 1943-1944 this shipyard, then known as Vickers, built the X class midget submarines, which in contrast were 51 feet long.  Their full complement was a commanding officer, first lieutenant, engineer and a diver. They were used in WW2 or should I say WWII most famously for the attack on the Tirpiz in a Norwegian dock. Six set off towed 1000 miles and then naviagted their way through minefields, dodged nets avoided guns to place limpet mines on this famous ship, only 2 returned. A film was later made of this operation called Above Us the Waves with
a suitably claustrophobic poster.  Other X boats, not made by Vickers were used to survey the landing beaches for Operation Overlord, mostly of what is now Omaha beach in France. The range of these midget submarines was limited to 14 days or up to 1,500 miles at a 2 knots. They were usually towed to within a few miles of the target by conventional submarines or under surface ships or launched from the deck of submarines and surface ships. The diver came out of a wet and dry airlock.  I don't think I would have liked to be in one of these for 14 days
Control Room of an X Craft

X or Cross across to ABC Wednesdays's new home for all things beginning with, this week, X

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas View

Surprisingly I completed all my Christmas shopping early, so today was rather relaxing, and I could view the laden shoppers, as I made my way to the Channel-side walk, with a certain amount of smug relief. As can be seen today was a still blue winter day, Black Combe still covered with snow. Well everywhere is still covered with snow, and tomorrow is promised to be the coldest day in England since records began.  At first the forecast was for the North West, but what relief that we are not to get below -20c here and the forecast for low temperatures seems to have moved to the Midlands.

The fishing boats are moored up for Christmas
so the fish can sleep easy tonight.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Town Hall

The rear entrance of Barrow Town Hall faces the town and its shopping centre and is the one that everyone uses (lots of footsteps in the snow), rather than the the connecting front entrance.  Everyone always says the building is  the "wrong way round", although it was intended this way.  Built in 1887 with local sandstone, at this time of year, and waiting to light up when darkness approaches, the festive greeting above the door, which I echo,.....  "Merry Christmas".

Mary the Teach is the hostess of the midweek meme Window Views and Doors Too

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - Winchester

As can be seen looking at the narrow main street there is a reason why Winchester has a park and ride system. Calling in here on the way back from the summer holidays we judged that three hours would be enough time to have a look round, wrong.  This city was the capital Wessex which became the dominant kingdom under King Alfred and was later the capital of England until the 12th century. So even if you ignore the shopping, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants history has left a lot to see. Go up this street and through an
arch of what used to be part of  the Norman castle entrance, now just a passing place to arrive at
the Great Hall which houses one of the treasures of Winchester, hanging high on a wall is the
Round Table. That of the Arthurian legend of knights, magic and the quest for the holy grail. It measures 18 feet across and would originally have had 12 legs and seats for 25 people (24 knights and 1 king).  It is not THE table and has been dated by dendrochronology as being made  some time between 1250-1280. The Round Table festivals of the Middle Ages were a celebration of the Arthurian legend and consisted of jousting, feasting and dancing, a good time was had by all. This table was probably produced for such an event.  They were lavish spectaculars, René of Anjou even erected an Arthurian Castle for his Round Table celebrations in 1446.  

In 1522 Henry VIII had the Winchester Table painted for the visit of Charles V with the names of the Arthurian knights and his own portrait with the Tudor Rose (his house) in the middle. Henry was rather paranoid about the plots against him (with some reason, they were not all in his imagination), and also the legitimacy of the  house of Tudor so this would be his statement of power.

As you may observe the table could resemble a dart board and was used as that as target practice by Cromwellian Troops in the English Civil War in 1645. The holes were filled and the table was repainted again in 1789.

Moving across the town to the other centre of power in the middle ages, the cathedral which was built from 1079 onwards, it is rather an understated perpendicular style on      
the outside.  But once inside
the detail is stunning.  It also is the burial place of many famous people, such as the writers Jane Austin and Isaac Walton (who has his own chapel), and

St Swithan, probably most famous for the 'fact' that the weather on his feast day of 15 July will continue for 40 days.
St Swithun's day if thou dost rain,
Forty days it will remain.
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair

He was bishop of Winchester from 852-862 and wished to be buried outside but when his body was dug up and taken to an indoor shrine it started to rain, it was very wet, and a legend was born. The remains originally were enshrined behind the high altar, later removed to a marble shrine on this site, destroyed in 1538.
To head deep under the cathedral to the crypt

which often floods, stands a statue by Antony Gormley called Sound II installed 1986, also down here is a bust to the diver William Walker who worked underwater from 1906-11 underpinning the the nave and shoring up the walls of the building. Winchester Cathedral is a treasure of objects and architecture, a long time
could be spent here, but the time for our park and ride was nearly expired so a run for the bus was our next move. Always leave something for a reason to return, perhaps at a more leisurely pace.

Wander over to ABC Wednesday where there will be more words starting with the letter W.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

On the Beach

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Sea, beach and land merge under a blanket of snow. Dusk at Bardsea on the shores of Morecambe Bay.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Window Seats

Maybe these chairs were here so you could sit while you browsed, or look through the window or even perhaps they were for sale. They are glitzy enough for Christmas.  I'll never know; I was following the crowds on a sunny winter's day to visit the famous ice-cream shop a few doors down at Parkgate on the Wirral.

Mary the Teach is our hostess for the midweek meme  Window Views and Doors Too

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - V'eol

Flags volant on vertical poles in the city of Caen in north west of France. Two flags of France and two of Normandy with their two lions.  But enough of this vacillation, on to the main word...
V'eol. The name of the bike loan scheme in the city which was started in March 2008.  There are 350 bikes and 40 stations. Pay an annual subscription of €15 or rent by the half hour, getting the code to unlock (or as they put it the Liberté formula), by wap phone, SMS text or website and even from that old fashioned thing a phone line number. The user card has a radio frequency so it can be used without even leaving your pocket, use the code and voilà the bike or velo is yours to ride and venture around the city.  The biker message boards give it a thumbs up but say the shaft drive mechanism was 'interesting', no idea what that means as we were not in Caen long enough to take advantage of the scheme.  There are quite a few of these loan schemes around the world but wouldn't it be marvellous if more places had them. As you may be able to tell I am a bit of a bike enthusiast so of course when I saw these I was almost as excited by the racks as the Gothic church
they were stood by.  Added value to my day was to see them being towed vaward by a van across the city.
Once used and finished with left at the nearest station so I imagine they may pile up at one destination.
possibly after taking the victuals  out of the basket, leaving the vehicle and paying a visit to a local café.

Vroom across to ABC Wednesday for more words starting with the letter V

Monday, 13 December 2010

All The Fun of the Fair

In the run up to Christmas in the dark December nights the crowds descend on the square by the castle to Chester's "Victorian Christmas Fayre" where there is bustle round the stores
and a few people looking up in anticipation of the other attraction,
the Ferris Wheel. We went on at dusk to views across the city in all directions but the wheel looked prettier later,  lit up in the dark. Unlike our Victorian forebears we were in enclosed carriages rather than the wind whistling round you swinging in a chair. Much more civilized. There was ice skating at ground level and  
a merry-go-round at full tilt and of course the obligatory Santa's grotto, the door looked it little low even for me. The only thing was to go off for mulled wine and fire roasted chestnuts.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

ABC Wednesday - Umbrageous

Umbrageous - shady or forming a shadow.  This path will not look like this now for we have had another three snow falls since this picture was taken in November.  Even though all the leaves have fallen the slanting winter light means that the
trees still throw their shade.  There is still lots more of winter to come and when we pass the shortest day the saying goes "as the days lengthen the cold strengthens",  brrr.  I hope not, temperatures have plummeted well below zero this month. But the world turns and soon Spring will arrive    
and those plants that thrive in umbrageous conditions such as bluebells
which this year appeared later than usual due an unusually lingering winter. Worth the wait.  A walk through woods at bluebell time is undeniably an onslaught of the senses of sight and smell.
Sometimes unexpected things can be found in the depths of the umbrageous forest

such as a megalithic tomb, Roche aux Fées, hidden in the middle of the woods near Essé in northern France. A large partitioned chamber and an entrance oriented roughly towards the rising sun of the winter solstice. Its purpose unknown and unfathomable to us, lost in time, but thousands of year ago later this month the sun would strike through to this wooded clearing illuminating the chamber.  Perhaps they left their dogs behind to guard the village
today they enjoy themselves going for walks and this one finds the tiniest of shade from the information sign which is giving a little bit of umbrage.  Interesting how words change. The noun, unlike the adjective, is hardly ever used in this way.  It is considered an archaic usage.  Nowadays one takes umbrage rather than finding it on a sunny day.

Undeniably more interesting words starting with U can be found at ABC Wednesday 

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Snow Returns

 Cavendish Statue near the Town Hall
Surrounded on three sides by water when we get an inch of snow in Barrow there will be a foot elsewhere in the north. Yes there is "traffic chaos" in Scotland today with blizzards and airports closed.  Rather peaceful here but nobody sitting on the seats, although the nearby cafe had its tables and chairs outside, ready for business in case anyone wanted to admire the new snow while sipping a hot cup of cocoa.  Don't know whether they sell cocoa but it is a drink I always associate with winter.

Some Thomas Hardy seems appropriate:

Snow in the Suburbs

Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.
A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eye
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.
The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

Thomas Hardy, 1840-1928

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Attic View

It was the yellow lichen on this house which first caught my eye, and then of course, those windows under the dormer. Although the other windows of this house see only fields, from these two the view would be of the sea. Where, as the tide was on the turn, might have been where the flock of birds I caught unintentionally in the photo were heading.

Mary the Teach is the hostess of the midweek meme  Window Views and Doors Too.