Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Yesterday's Treasure

Destination Wembury - our fav beach of the summer.  Just one problem - the car park is full and, as there is a wedding later, the church car park is unavailable. There are residential streets where we could park, but that doesn't seem fair, so we decide to head off to South Milton. The forecast is fair, but even if the main car park is full there should be space in the overflow field. We ponder further. The lack of parking at our original destination provides the opportunity to go somewhere new.  Wembury is the easy option - free car park for National Trust members, facilities and a cafe if we choose to use it. So we divert to Mothecombe - a place we had long intended to visit. The beach is accessed through a private estate, and until recently access has been restricted to a few days a week.  To date these days had never coincided with good weather, us remembering and having the inclination to go to an unknown destination. Today was going to be different.  We negotiate the narrow lanes, paid our £4.50 and unpacked the car. We knew from the online beach guide that the only loos were close to the car park, so it was essential to take advantage of these before we embarked on our walk to the beach.

A sign on the gate of the Schoolhouse Cafe directed us to the rear of the building. We then followed the footpath down the hill, past a field where an event was being set up. The workers looked rather warm as they laboured under the sun.  We passed through trees and suddenly the most beautiful beach was there in front of us.  We set up our chairs close to the high water mark. This was not a place where we would find sea glass, as it was too far from any major settlements.  However, there were some fascinating groups of people to watch, including those who dressed up, rather than down, to go in the sea. I overheard one of them say as they walked past
"Just remember, if anyone asks we are doing this for charity...!"

After lunch the family on the edge of the beach packed up and left, so we moved over to the spot they had vacated.  Shortly afterwards four small boys aged from about 3 upwards approached us.
"Excuse me, our rock is under your groundsheet. Would you mind if we get it ?"
Who could possibly refuse such a request?  We duly moved our groundsheet, but could see no sign of a rock.
"Are you sure it is here?" we asked.
"Oh yes. It is buried it in the sand. We need to dig it up."
The treasure hunters started digging. I looked at the smooth sand.
"The sand here has not been disturbed today, are you sure it is here?"
They gave me a look. The sort of look you give someone who should understand, but somehow does not.
"That is because we buried it yesterday!"
Dad was growing increasingly uneasy about their excavations close to our sitting place.
"Can't you find another rock?"
"But Dad, it is Fergus' rock.  We have to find it!"
"Well Fergus will just have to have another rock"
They struck rock, and the digging continued with renewed enthusiasm.
"We have found it!" They were delighted.  However finding rock is not the same as digging up a  rock. For all we knew it could have been part of the substructure of the beach. However, following further instruction from their father, they agreed that Fergus would be satisfied with a substitute and departed, leaving behind the evidence of their excavations.

The other strange thing was that there were about 4 large family groups of orthodox Jews on the beach, notable by their distinctive clothing. The older boys and men wore white shirts and black trousers, some changed into grey shorts to bathe in the sea.  The girls seemed to wear the same clothing as their sisters, and paddled and splashed around in their matching dresses. It seemed a good way of keeping track of your offspring. The ladies paddled in tights and most had their heads covered. We had seen some Jews on the beach at Wembury, but I do not think I have ever seen such a large number in any one place before. By 5 o'clock I estimated there were about 120 people on the beach, of which over 60 were Orthodox Jews - easily identifiable by their distictive clothing.  It made me wonder, if there had been 60 Christians on that beach, would anyone have known?

We watched the waves swell up the river, there were dark clouds to the east.

As we returned we could see that the event was an open air cinema, but apparently, it was sold out. I later found this Link.
What a fantastic setting to sit and watch a film under the stars. Even if the view would not be visible in the dark, it would still be a magical setting.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Border Crossing

The forecast was indifferent.  Definitely NOT beach weather!  We cogitated. We deliberated.  A plan of action was required, but where shall we go? Finally it was decreed that we would cross the border into Cornwall and visit some of the south eastern corner of that county - the bit most people bypass on their way to more exotic locations, such as Newquay, Padstow or St Ives.
"Would you rather go by ferry or use the bridge?" we asked the KHT.
"The Bridge" declared that romantic little soul.  There was a pause, and then she said quietly, "But is IS a long time since I have been on a ferry. Let's go by ferry and return by the bridge."  Thinking that returning is always a good plan, we readily agreed to this scheme.  However, the Sat nav seemed a bit uncertain about our proposal.
"Have you allowed 'tolls' and 'ferrys'?" I enquired. We didn't want the poor thing having a nervous breakdown each time we crossed the river. Buttons were pressed,and seemed to indicate that 'the woman' would allow our journery, but the sat nav was still not certain. It hasn't entirely forgiven me for yesterdays mishap, when I accidentally ejecting the sd card containing the memory banks of the the sat nav, whilst trying to recharge my phone.  So it came to pass that we had to resort to the old fashioned method of map reading, and following road signs whils negotiating Plymouth.  Great joy!

We knew we didn't want the continental ferry (our plans were not that ambitious), but signs to the ferry to Cornwall were few and far between.  It was not until I looked at the map more closely that I remembered that Torpoint was in Cornwall, so all we had to do was follow Torpoint signs.... There was a fair old queue for the ferry, but we were soon loaded on, and crossing the Tamar. Once this was accomplished the satnav forgave us and started behaving again...

We headed to Mount Edgcumbe, as it sounded rather interesting, but when we arrived it didn't feel like what we were looking for - though what exactly that was none of us were certain!  We consulted the map once more, and decided to head up to Rame Head. The route took us up some very, very, very narrow lanes.  However when we arrived at the car park we knew we had made the right decision as it was absolutely stunningly beautiful.

After lunch we joined other tourists on the pilgrimage to the ancient 13th century chapel and admired the views. Afterwards we stopped off at the coastgard observation station to chat with the volunteers, who keep watch and log boats entering Plymouth Sound. While we were there some of the leading boats from this years Fastnet Race passed by.  The lighthouse on Eddystone rock was clearly visible today.
"How far away do you think that is?" they asked the KHT.
"About 10 miles" she guessed.
They were impressed. Most people guess 2 miles, instead of the 8 and a half miles, which it is. I must admit it looked a lot nearer than that.

We paused to admire the simple stone church at Rame, which appears to be lit only by candles.
By now the sun had broken through, so we stopped by at Kingsand to enjoy a sneaky sit on the beach in the sunshine, whilst the KHT collected more sea glass.

We headed back over the Tamar Bridge, admiring the beautiful sceenery. Later when I looked a my photographs, I noted that the Tamar Bridge was built as recently as 1961! That must have been a vintage year!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Glassy Conversations

On Wednesday afternoon we found ourselves in the unenviable position of considering renaming our home 'Spring House', as water suddenly began bubbling up from one of the corners at the front of our house.  After ten rather worrying hours the water board appeared and solved the problem. The water sorted, we headed off to the coast....

Saturday was sunny and I spent a few hours happily wandering around the beach collecting sea glass. Occasionally I get the odd person commenting on my haul, usually it is fellow collectors.  However for some reason today I was being interrogated by men...

Man 1 "Are you collecting stones? Here is one for your collection."
Me "No, I am collecting sea glass," and show him the zip and seal bag containing my treasures.
Man 1 "I collect stones, and then I get a hot glue gun and stick them on to a glass tree."
Me - "Oh lovely."  Meanwhile, I am thinking I really hope the end result looks better than it sounds...

Man 2 (American) "What are you collecting?"
Me - "Sea glass" and I show him the same zip and seal bag.
Man 2 "Ah green stones... What are you going to do with them?"
Me "They will go in a jar on my windowsill to remind me of my holiday."

Later on my travels around the beach, I encounter the first man again. He looks at my collection.
Man 1 "If those were emeralds I would have to mug you..."
Me  "Fortunately they are just sea glass." 

The American greets me again. 
Man 2 "You have got a good collection there.  I have started my daughter collecting sea glass too. Have you got on words of advice for her?"
Me (think, yes, make sure you don't wear a low cut top...)  "Just tell her to keep looking. You only see the glass when it catches the light, so you do turn round and walk back over ground you have covered and you will see glass that you didn't notice the first time."

Today we went to another beach, and no-one commented on my collecting.
Now I will wait until we are home, to discover what is real glass, and what is mere imitation.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Recipe For Success

Take regular intervals of sunshine.
Visit a beach location, preferably one with a mixture of sand, shingle and small stones.  A few large rocks could be beneficial, but by no means essential.  Add a falling tide and an appropriate receptacle and off you go, searching for sea glass, which is an excellent excuse to wander around a beach, enjoy the sunshine and accidentally overhear fascinating snippets of conversations...
"I think we always have this inaccurate idea of what a beach should be like..."(sat among the seaweed)
"I have no idea why you are still with him..." (beach counselling)
or the one that totally bemused me
"Don't get your clothes dirty, we are going on holiday in a few days..." #whatiswrongwiththebeach? Wherecouldyougothatisbetterthanthis?

Rural beaches are perfect for a quiet relaxing day, but if they are miles from any significant amout of housing there will not be much sea glass to be found. Instead chose a location just outside a town where drunks and the odd optimistic message sender may have cast their containers into the depths, only for them to have been dashed to pieces on nearby rocks and smoothed into sea glass by the combined actions of sea and sand.

In my experience green glass is easiest to find, it glows in the sunlight and stands out most clearly among the pebbles, sand and assorted detritus. Clear glass is also common, but the action of the ocean and abrasions from sand, shingle or rock turn clear glass increasingly opaque until it impossible to distinguish from a pebble. Amber and brown glass are the next most commonly found colours.  Orange glass needs careful checking to ensure it isn't actually plastic.  Red and deep blue discoveries are the sapphire and garnets of the sea glass discoveries - rare and precious.

Good colour vision is desirable.  My poor colour blind husband doesn't stand a chance of seeing the green glass, for him, it does not sparkle.  Interestingly, where there is a good supply of clear glass he is better at spotting that than I am.

Sometimes other items of interest find their way into my collection  - an interestingly shaped stone, a bottle top or best of all, a rusty hinge...

As you wander along the beach you spot the glass because of how the sun sparkles. A falling tide is best, as the glass shines most brightly when it is wet.
"Hmm," observes my husband, "You gather what is left behind?"
I pondered. Actually, I discover what has been revealed.  No matter how many times I walk across this beach, there will always be pieces I have not noticed before. It is a bit like a passage of scripture. You may feel that know each word, but each time you read it, some fresh insight will be revealed, like a piece of glass reflecting sunlight.

A fellow collector admires a piece of orange glass in my zip and seal bag.
"Did you find that today?"  I confirm that I have. As I pick up each bit I always wonder how the glass came to be in the sea.  Was this orange bit once part of a car indicator light? Is it actually glass?  How long has this bit been in the sea?  Mysteries of the deep, dredged up for our delight and fascination!

Not all discoveries have happy endings. I wonder what Prince Charming made of this discovery?  Actually, it looks more like the shoe worn by a pantomime prince that a Cinderella.  Meanwhile, someone has some sole searching to do...and that is not a fishy pun!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

17 out of 16 aint bad!

Like most things it began as a 'good idea', and migrated to  being 'a very good idea'.  In the cold light of dawn (well 8am) on a wet May Day Bank Holiday Monday, it had developed to being a 'we must be bonkers' sort of idea, as we set off - destination Oxfordshire, for the Open Day organised by the Bicester Branch, of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Bellringers. Yes, for the first time in over two decades we were off on what ringers refer to as 'a tower grab', the opportunity to ring at a few new towers. Sixteen to be precise! In order to acheive this we had to move on from tower to tower, keeping up with the advertised schedule, travelling in what appeared to be ever decreasing circles around Bicester, but if you knew the area, was probably a very well thought out route.

We had intended to be on the road by 7:30am, but I am not a morning person, so that ambition had always been a tad optimistic!  The forecast indicated that the weather would improve. I took this photo at the traffic lights in Henley in Arden, as the skies were lightening, the glowing roofs indicating that change was on the way - and not just with the bells...

Our first stop was Finmere a 10cwt ground floor ring of 3 with ropes falling almost in a straight line. We purchased our £15 day tickets, which would authorise us to ring at all the towers open on the day, rather than pay £1 per tower, gambling that we would ring at all sixteen. The proceeds were for a good cause, so we were happy to be reckless...

At the first tower Plain Hunt was the extent of our ambitions. Some ringers do not bother with the rings of 3 and 4, but other than Open Days it is quite hard to get the chance to ring at towers with fewer than 5 bells, and you never know how well they have been maintained.  If there is sufficient local interest in bells they usually get augmented.

Souldern, was our second tower -  a light weight ring of six, with a tenor at 7-3-6. By now the sun had put in an appearance.  Beside the main path was a timely reminder concerning the potential slipperyness of the footpath.

The steward on duty advised us that we might need to wait as they had carried a gentlement who used a wheel chair up the tower.  Shortly afterwards, a procession of ringers trooped down the spiral staircase carrying two wheels, a seat and the occupant  - who was carried over the shoulder of his capable accomplice...This duo proceeded to ring at most of the towers on the day.  I was reminded of their determination when faced with the odd ladder to climb.  If they could manage, how could I not?

Fritwell, a 7cwt ring of four was next. Our last 'tower grab' was about 21 years ago, and navigation was by OS map.  Today we were using postcodes in the satnav to locate the towers. Here our navigation miscalculated slightly as we ended up in a close near by, and had a little bit of a walk to the church but we found it.. and a quicker way back to the car afterwards!  We could have stopped for refreshments, but we were on a mission with a schedule to keep to...and the loo was occupied.

Caversfield  was our next destination.  We spotted a row of cars as we entered the village, wound down our windows and could clearly hear the bells.  Here Stedman came to grief, but Plain Bob was successful.

Stratton Audley an 11 and a  half cwt ring of 5 were challenging.  Only one of the bells was not on plain bearings. On the bright side the church had a loo, which was much appreciated! When we met the Steward at another tower later he asked gleefully how we had liked the "gorilla bells" and yes, strong arms were definitely an asset there!

Outside the pub was a massive carved chair  which the KHT tried a for size.

Launton, a light (6-3-21) riing of six were next, accessed up an external metal staircase and then a short flight of stone steps into one of the cosiest ringing chambers I have ever visited.

Ludgershall a ring of 5 with a tenor just under 10cwt were next.  They were rung from a ringing floor accessed under the stone arches.

Below the ringing floor was a vestry type room, with these amazing carved doors.

The church also had oil lamps similar to where I ring, only these had been converted to electricity - don't tell Phil!

Brill was the last tower before lunch.  A very picturesque village with a very pleasant green featuring a very unsympathetically converted chapel, that just made you want to shout


It is sad enough when sacred buildings are converted, but to try and turn it into a suburban style home with integral garage really, really, really really does not work! The idyllic location just added insult to injury!

However, the church did have a very nice modern window inside.
This was a ground floor ring, so no climbing spidery staircases, or rickety ladders.
Cambridge was a surprise, in that it staggered to an unsatisfactory conclusion...

Lunch was eaten overlooking the magnificent windmill at Brill, before moving on to join the post lunch queue at Piddington.

Ambrosian, Charlton on Otmoor Bletchingdon, all merge into one, but I was taken with this sign on the screen at one of the churches "You are now entering the Mission field" - a salutary reminder!

The last tower listed was Bicester - we arrived just as the heavens opened, though from the look of the pavements this wasn't the first shower. to have passed by that afternoon. We had been watching the increasingly darkening skies for sometime, but the rain only reached us at the previous tower.

The Guild had booked the last tower, Kirtlington, for some event that didn't happen, or didn't happen there, I am not quite sure which!  As it was booked they tagged it on to the end of the Open Day.  We would have been well pleased to have got all sixteen towers, so to ring at seventeen out of sixteen was a great achievement!

Thanks to those who arranged the route, gave up their time to open the towers and to those who rang with us on the day.  The countryside was beautiful, the towers were interesting and the ropes were mainly long.  It was a great way to spend an indifferent Bank Holiday. How long until our next tower grab I wonder...?

Monday, 3 April 2017

One Ordinary Church, Fifteen Extraordinary People

A modern building sits uneasily in the middle of a 1950's council estate. A six-sided shape, complete with stainless steel spire, amidst the regulation rectangles of semi-detached and town houses. Its bricks redder, windows taller and thinner.  The hall adjacent to the church, with brickes and tiles of a similar hue to the houses, blends in, the church does not. It shouts "notice me" to those who hurry by.

Inside the church something surprising has happened.  During the last week or so fiften stations have appeared, each interpreted by a different member of the church.

Some are works of art,

others arrangements of objects.

 Some invite you to engage and respond,

others just invite you to think.

The events of Holy Week are some of the most dramatic of history.  The death of a man over 2,000 years ago should be long forgotten - except he didn't stay dead - which was somewhat inconvenient for the authorities. The pain in his side that should have finished him forever, was unable to defeat him, so he returned to be a pain in their side.

It is easy to go from the branch waving triumph of Palm Sunday one week, to the glory of the resurrection the following, without really engaging with the significance of sacrifice.  These stations help address the balance, by helping us to think through what happened.  As the stations have each been created by a different person, the style changes, and as you engage with each one you notice the small detail. Each person has been on a journey and now owns in a new way a part of the Easter Story.

Now the church sits and waits, to see who will come and visit.

The Way of the Cross

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

No longer the parent of a child

As midnight struck at the end of Tuesday, my role as parent of a child changed, for my daughter has reached her eighteenth birthday.

When my daughter was born, I fondly imagined that her birthdays would be marked by joyous gatherings and great jubilations, but such celebrations are a total anathema to her.  When she was younger, as her birthday approached, I would ask her if she would like a party, and she would decline with a look of absolute horror. If I am honest I used to think that a party would some how forge stronger relationships with her peers. The reality is because of her autism she has no need of friendships and all the demands they bring. She is far happier doing what she wants, when she wants, and not being hassled by others. Even family gatherings are complicated. She is always pleased to see her relatives, but en masse they are far too much for her.

Yesterday I asked her if she would like to go and see Beauty and the Beast.
"I would rather go and see Sing, at least THAT is a cartoon!" was her response.  Unfortunately Sing is no longer showing at our local cinema. I showed her the trailer of Beauty and the Beast, she watched with apparent interest, but declared that she still wasn't convinced that she wanted to see the film...

On the morning of her birthday she opened her presents. Her favourite was a large tome celebrating some anniversary of The Simpsons.  To celebrate her birthday we have purchased tickets to see Julius Caesar at Stratford next week,  which will be a completely new experience for her.  However, she was not really sure why she would want to go and see that....On the other hand she seemed a bit keener to go and see Beauty and the Beast today!

We arrive at the cinema and join the queue of one to buy tickets.
"And we are going to see Beauty and the Best." she reminds me.
"Great film," a dreadlocked guy behind advises her
"Oh really" she responds, looking impressed.

My daughter may have turned eighteen, but does not look it.
When it is our turn I ask for two tickets for Beauty and the Beast.
The assistant looks at me dubiously
"Two tickets?"
He looks at the KHT.
He looks at me.
"Two tickets?  You mean one and......"
He looks at the KHT "How old are you?"
The KHT NEVER voluntarily discusses her age.
Age has implications and brings expectations....
"Me? " she replies "I'm just a kid"
The cashier nods, satisfied that his suspicions are correct and she is NOT an adult, she is just a kid.
The KHT is satisfied, as despite the best intentions of her mother, no-one is seriously expecting her to be an adult.
I am satisfied as I offered to pay the full amount, but somehow saved £1.50...
The KHT LOVED the film.  Despite having real people in it, it also had a healthy dose of computer animation.

Thoughts I had whilst watching the film:-

Firstly, when the beast turned back into the prince, and turns to look lovingly at his beloved, I suddenly get a glimpse of another blonde prince and his darker haired princesss - Will and Kate? I am not a great fan of the royals, so they were not upper most in my mind, but I would be interested to know if anyone else thought that.

Secondly, parallels between Gastonand the villan of Holy Week.  Gaston - the guy who tries to get his own way, forcing events to the conclusion he wants, even betrays his friend by leaving him trapped while he goes off to be a hero (according to his own definition of the word), and tries to kill the one who is more powerful.  The Judas of the storyline, reminding us that when we are self-centred we too can be like Judas.

Afterwards I asked the KHT who was her favourite character.
Would it be beautiful Belle or the beast, I wondered?
Nope it was Chip, the teacup... (Watch the film to understand who Chip is...)
"Why Chip?"
"He is young and innocent."
The KHT did not relate to either the beautiful young girl, or prince/beast/prince, but to the character who was too young to worry about the complications of relationships between men and women, to the one who most closely matched her own character, young and innocent!

I may no longer be the parent of a child, but nothing has really changed. I am still a parent.