Watermill – Millgreen

Watermills were first used in and around what is now Iraq and Turkey about 300 BCE and would have come to England with the Romans. In Elizabethan times, there were watermills at each end of London Bridge which made the difficulties caused by rip tides through the remaining arches much worse.   I have seen it written that they use the power of water but in fact it is the power of gravity and running water is the transmitter of power rather as an axle is.  This is called Stream Power and there is an interesting and complex calculation needed to determine the power in a stream.  I did not know this when we went to visit the watermill and museum at Mill Green  nor had I thought to write a blog of the visit so did not take a photo of the outside which was an attractive wooden building attached to the brick-built house that was once for the manager but is now the museum.

The water wheel is just fabulous to see with its Elm paddles which would be fastened with nails of Holly Wood.  Here is a short video of it:

 

Pit wheel

The water wheel is driven by the flume at six rpm.  It is connected to the pit wheel, with 104 apple wood gear teeth by a large horizontal shaft of oak and this meshes with the wallower with 33 teeth taking the revolutions to 19 per minute.   The wallower joins with the Spur wheel via a vertical shaft and as this gear wheel has 112 teeth and in turn meshes with the 23 on the stone nut the running stone turns at 92 rpm to grind the flour.  Well, I find this fascinating, the gearing up through huge oak shafts driving wheels and gears of apple wood with Holly wood nails used when fixing is required.  The whole turns with a certain majesty and quiet rumblings.  Here are some photos and another video.

 

Wallower meshing with the pit wheel

 

Spur wheel with wallower underneath meshing with the pit wheel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I noticed some graffiti, in 1824 a C. Bonico carved their name amongst old wood worm. I expect that the black squares are the ends of Holly wood nails.

 

 

Here is another view of the mechanism:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The miller was a magician in white explaining all to me, children, mums and dads.  He showed the sock with grain running though the centre of the runner stone where it floated this turning stone keeping it apart from the fixed bedstone.  This prevents the stones wearing away, and the grain is milled to flour and drops down to the floor below where the miller catches it in a sack.

The magician
Catching the flour
Hey presto, the flour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the water wheel, there is a glass panel in the floor and I was fascinated by the flashing blades.

 

All in all, an enjoyable visit that I can recommend.  The staff are friendly and joyfully enthusiastic which was wonderful.  As well as the mill there is a small museum of 1960s clothes some of which I remember my sister wearing.

The whole experience inspired a poem and here it is!

Watermill – Mill Green

The gentle pace of the watermill its Elmwood paddles turning,
in the flume’s slow-revving flow.
Oaken shafts secured with Holly nails, geared with Applewood teeth,
104 on the pit wheel, 33 the wallower,
then the spur wheel, and stone nut, take this languorous pirouette
from six to ninety-two rpm, 15 feet above the race.

 There is a graffito carved amongst long – gone woodworm;
Bonico stayed a while enough to do this
but I move in the soft light, look down through a glass pane,
see the paddles splash and flash by.
Others are here, families with children who too sense the past
carried in timbers heavy with memory.

 The sound of the mill is gentle too. A rush of water, rumble of wood on wood.
The miller, magician in white,
shows us grain pouring through a sock, to float the runner on its bedstone,
to be milled to the powder that is flour
as has been done for the thousand years after the Domesday book;
soke demanded by the Lord of the Manor.

 © Anthony Fisher April 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guernsey Literary Festival – On the Move

The beginning of May, we were in Guernsey for its Literary Festival.  Valerie’s poem 1960 was one of the winners of “Poems on the Move” and her poem will be displayed for one year on Guernsey buses and Aurigny aircraft.  There was a reading at Elizabeth College we wanted to attend;  It was a proud moment.  Valerie’s poem was inspired by her 15 year old self in Enfield.  Queen Elizabeth I lived in Enfield and she as a good poet so there is an intriguing link.

Waiting for the cue to begin
The Winners
Waiting to read

 

Here is a video of Valerie Reading.

 

The next day we rented a car so we could tour around the coast.  The last time we did this I kept getting lost.  Guernsey is only 23 square miles but is run through with a tangled network of narrow roads with very few signposts and even fewer road names!  Enfield is 32 square miles of which 51% is farmland and only 25% are residential homes housing the 325,000 population.  Compared to Guernsey’s 65,000 it is crowded but signs and road names mean it is difficult to get lost.  We do not however have the lovely coastline, harbours and bays.

We drove North along the coast road and stopped in St Sampson.  Here I sat and gazed at the Harbour whilst Valerie and my sister Sarah visited the many charity shops.  There is quite a lot of industry here as you can see in the photo.  Valerie came back with a splendid earthen ware mug.  Just right as a present for the recipient she has in mind.

 

Next was L’Ancresse bay and we stopped to take in the view.  The sun was shining, the beach beautiful;  just right for a photograph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then drove to a rocky bay, I cannot remember which but it was close by and I took a video with my iPhone which is fitted with a Rode mic and windshield but the wind was very strong, as you can hear, so the wind intruded a bit.  I like to see rocks and islets.

 

We then drove to meet Janine for lunch in La Grande Mere.  Valerie and Janine met in Primary school when they were about five and have kept in touch despite Janine moving to Guernsey in the 60s.  I always like to hear her tales of island life and it was a lovely get together.

We were staying in St Peter Port which is a delightful town though traffic and parking can be a nightmare.  One of the attractions is the Guernsey Tapestry.  I did not take any photos but it is a good web site if you click on the hot link.  An inspired idea to celebrate the millennium, the Tapestry is strictly embroidery, it tells the history of Guernsey over the last 1000 years.  The designs and workmanship are staggering and I very much enjoyed the visit and recommend it to you.

An enthusiastic volunteer told me of the oldest pillar box in continuous use in the UK that was just a step away.  An idea copied from France.  It was decided to try it out in Guernsey as it could be closely monitored.   It was an immediate success and post boxes were then introduced into the UK.

Post boxes in Guernsey are blue but this has been restored to the original livery.

The dates can be seen on the nearby plaque.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The harbour used to be just in front of the houses built into a steep hill.  Nowadays the steps, or stairs, no longer lead down to a jetty but to the road. They are still very steep!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the reclaimed land from the harbour and how steep the hill is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally another view of the daisy Chain.

Chin and disy St Peter Port

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coal Drops Yard – Kings Cross

I like reflections especially if they are on a grand scale.  In fact one of my previous posts in October 2017 focused on this.  They show a world apart from the one I inhabit, are mysterious and deep though they exist only on a surface, no depth at all.  Imagine my excitement when we came across a waved, glass-sided building in York Way en route for Coal Drops. The reflections looked like a painting.

Bus and reflections - Yorkway

We had been told of the development behind Kings Cross Station alongside Regent’s Canal and decided to have a look.  The station itself is well worth a visit, the Victorians built to last with such Panache , confidence and style. I had not realised that the canal development  was once a coal yard, Coal Drops Yard. We approached it along the south bank of the canal where there is still much building taking place.  I like watching boats I suppose because of the times I spent with my Father on his various vessels.  A motorised barge came by towing a house boat.  The waterfowl in the bottom right hand corner was taking no notice!

Barge and bird

There is a large open space with water shooting up from the ground and several food huts.  One selling Taiwanese lunch boxes had a very long queue that never seemed to reduce.  We had lunch in a Brasserie which was very pleasant but I’d like to try the lunch box next time we go.  If we are early enough they may be no queue.  I took a photo of the water feature but not the huts.

Water

The shops looked boring and were probably too expensive but it is early days yet, the area has to settle in.  I took some shots including one of the gasometers that had been converted to apartments at over £800,000 each.  A welcome and interesting use of our industrial heritage.

On the way back we stopped on the bridge where York Way crosses the canal:

looking West is was quite spacious but narrow to the East and looking up We spotted elephants!

Elephants

and further along Harry Potter.

Harry Potter Voldemort placques

The reflections in the wavy glass building were quite different looking South.

Reflections Yorkway Kings Cross 2

Finally me having fun and a poem on reflections and my fascination with the thought that water has been everywhere and the water in my body has occupied millions since time began.

Having fun

Epron – Deux Sevres 

I reach for the other world of cloud, trees and sky
but it’s not there; only the cold and weeds,
great fish that tickle my fingers.

At the weir a knife has sliced along its edge,
peeled it back to lay bare a turbulent cascade.

I could follow it, spinning in my coracle,
bounce amongst continents, come to another land
where it rains, joins the bodies of women and men
transpires through trees, shrubs and them
to drift back through sea and air, fall here and there,
rain again, where I am now.

© Anthony Fisher January 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Cemeteries and Mistletoe

Both Valerie and I like to look around cemeteries.  They can be quiet and peaceful with just the occasional person tending a grave or just standing remembering.  We like reading the names on headstones and tombs which are often interesting in design and texture with changes in style over the years; social history recorded in stone.  Lavender Hill cemetery is lovely to walk around with its meandering paths and trees.  Valerie being born in Enfield has relatives and friends interred here which is another reason to visit.

We parked in newly metalled Cooks Hole Road over looking Hilly Fields Park.

blog cooks hole road

 

 

It used to be a favourite parking place for courting couples.  Not sure if that this still happens or not.  Our dog, Merlin, liked staying at the kennels at the end of the road.  He always greeted any kennel maids we met in the park.

 

blog hilly fields

 

He was a Durham lurcher and used to love running around here.  He would tease other dogs by letting them catch him up and, just as they were going to nip his tail, he would streak away.   He died some years a go but I always think of him when visiting Hilly Fields.

There is a back gate into the cemetery which is fun to use.

blog lavender hill cemetery gate from cooks hole road

 

blog lavender hill cemetery.

 

 

The cherub marks the grave of a boy who died in 1954 when I was just 11.  Seeing children’s graves always makes me sad.

 

A couple more images:

The one on the right has houses from the 1930s in the background.  The one below shows high-rise flats built in the late 60s early 70s.  Valerie lived there for a while and tells me that the view was magnificent especially when mist started to fill the hollows.

blog lavender hill cemetery flats

The next weekend we decided to park again in Cooks Hole Road and walk along by Maidens Brook to Fourteen Arches which is a wonderful  brick-built viaduct on the Hertford railway loop.  I have subsequently discovered that it proper name is the Rendleshem Viaduct though I have not been able to find out who Rendleshem was.  We were amazed to discover how the meanders of Maidens Brook ( I prefer this name to the other used, Turkey Brook) have become even more pronounced.  It is about 40 years since we were last there.

blog maiden's brook

And the path was very overgrown and we almost couldn’t get through!  When we did, to our dismay, we found the viaduct to be fenced off!  We had been looking forward to standing underneath them to admire the brick work and shout at the echoes.

blog fourteen arches 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog fourteen arches

 

 

 

A close up view.

 

 

 

 

 

The way back was easier as the road to the Strayfield part of the cemetery ran by here.

Valerie told me the story of how, before the war, her father had found a suicide hanging from the trees in front of the viaduct.  He and his friend were looking at the row of straight-trunked trees when they noticed one swaying.  They went to investigate and found a man hanging from a branch.  It must have been a terrible experience for them.  This inspired a poem which I give below.  Writing the blog called for a poem so it is an early draft and will change as I re-write and edit.

Fourteen Arches
Properly Known as Rendleshem Viaduct

The distant trees were once straight, not unruly and tangled
as they are today but the two boys could see that one swayed.
They found a body hanging from a branch; suicide.
I was never told who he was or why he struggled to loop a rope
from a high limb, or what pain he suffered, eighty years ago
that was greater than that of a hangman’s noose.

Forty years ago I could stand under the arches, shout at the echo.
Now access is denied by a neat, green and steel palisade.
I went to see them today, searching for the memory of that slim
bushy-bearded man that was me; now grey-bearded, plump.
I could only catch a shadow, see the viaduct through trees,
listen to the trains pass but not the rumble heard from under
the great and beautiful arches, brick-built over Maidens Brook,
to serve the Hertford loop, more than one hundred years ago.

© Anthony Fisher January 2019

 

New Southgate Cemetery is huge, 64 acres!  We were first there for the funeral of a neighbour who was here when we first moved in and I miss her.  She was Hindu and, though a sad occasion, I was interested in the nature of the service and the wake.  We could see that the cemetery was an interesting mix of age and styles so planned to re-visit.

The sheer size is staggering.  Here are a couple of images that give some idea of how it stretches into the distance.

blog new southgate cemetery dec 2018 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog new southgate cemetery dec 2018 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog new southgate musoleum 2

The cemetery is roughly circular and laid out in sections for different groups.  There is a map which shows this.  One small area is Italian with a long mausoleum with crypts looking like drawers in a chest.  I saw these near Sienna in Tuscany well over 5o years ago.

 

 

One section is beautifully overgrown.

 

blog new southgate cemetery dec 2018 6

 

 

It looks as if cowled monks are rising from their tombs,

 

 

 

 

 

blog new southgate cemetery dec 2018 7

 

 

and here an angel is weeping at the neglect and desolation.

 

 

 

Just a couple more:

and this is a section which must be Victorian graves when the cemetery was first opened In 1856 probably as a result of a series of the 19th century Acts governing burials.

blog new southgate cemetery dec 2018 2

On the way home we stopped in Winchmore Hill so I could photograph a tree laden with mistletoe.  I can remember how amazed I was to see just one bunch; look at it now! The mistletoe website, see link, suggests that it is spreading as continental black caps are overwintering in England now and they are very efficient at spreading mistletoe seeds.  Whatever the reason it is great to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Mud, glorious mud.

In the middle of August we went to a family celebration in Bristol.  It finished about five so we drove to have a look round the center of the city but could not find anywhere to park!  Driving back to the hotel we spotted a sign to Sea Mills.  Intrigued we parked by what looked like a boring patch of grass and got out to stretch our legs.  What a surprise it proved to be!  As we climbed up a wonderful view through an old stone bridge appeared; you can see this in the featured image above and below.

RIver Trym running towards the AVON

What we were looking at is the river Trym just before it joins the Avon and where once a commercial dock was, an area now used only for leisure craft, according to the web site though not sure where the craft are!

Clean Seagull

Stuck in the Mud

Looking the other way the river looks as a river should:

 

River Trym

until it hits the concrete weir which must stop the tidal waters surging up stream.  It amused us to see a flock of female ducks and one seagull seeming to be watching for the tidal waters.

Ducks and one seagull

Of course a poem started scratching in my head.  The boat I mention, Mignonette, had a center plate which meant it only drew 18″ (45 cm) and could thus sail up river without grounding, an ideal vessel for estuary sailing. I found an advertisement for one almost the same!  It gave me quite a jolt to view the images.  Though once the pin holding the center plate sheared in Pin Mill and my father and uncle had to dig a deep pit under it so as to replace the broken part.  It had to be done between tides; it was an exciting rush to which I was just an observer. Wild Rose, a Whitstable oyster yawl, was my favourite of my father’s boats.  He sold it to William Golding and the photo shows the author sitting on the tiller that I once grasped as I stood on the after deck in front of the mizzen mast.

The poem.

Sea Mills Bristol

There is a song, a favourite of my father’s
“Mud, mud, glorious mud
nothing quite like it to cool the blood”
I thought of it as I looked at shining, sculpted mud
lining the river Trym, a tributary of the Avon.
The sun reflected as clearly as from a mirror,
a seagull, its white untouched, swooping for scraps.
The Nile must have been like this after the inundation.

There was that time 60 years ago I watched a naked girl
slide down the slick-black bank of the Blackwater.
I remember her shrieks and shouts as the mud coated her
and her two nude, silent, male companions.
My father and uncle had left me in the cockpit of the Mignonette
anchored in the middle of the river and rowed to the yacht club.
Sound in a river at night is so clear; it was as if I were with them.
The mud and their bodies joined with the night air as it darkened,
and they disappeared leaving me listening to the the hiss of the Tilley lamp.

© Anthony Fisher September 2018

To my surprise, Tilley lamps are still available.  Ours was a storm lamp and I loved its brightness after the glow of a hurricane lamp.

Before we went to Bristol we stayed with some old friends in Bideford.  I love to look at the old bridge with its arches of different sizes

Biddeford Bridge

 

and think of the merchants who financed it arch by arch.  The bigger the arch the richer the merchant.  This time it was the clouds that caught my attention and the reflected sun in the windows of houses in the delightfully named East the Water.

 

Biddeford East of the Water

 

 

Biddeford rain clouds

 

Biddeford Clouds and Spire

And there were the scullers.

Biddeford sculling

 

Ogmore Stepping Stones; photos and poem

We often visit Ogmore Castle, in South Wales,  on the south bank of the Ewenni, – Welsh spelling as it is in Wales – east of where it joins the river Ogmore just before it runs into the sea.

Ogmore the Castle

 

 

 

Castle viewed from Merthyr Mawr

 

 

Ogmore Castle watching the ponies

 

 

 

Looking the other way from the castle. There are ponies and horses everywhere.

 

 

 

The castle was built by the Normans in about 1100 but I feel that there must have been something there before as our pendulums indicate that King Arthur is buried in one corner.  Though bones of the great were often moved around as were King Harold’s now in Waltham Abbey.

Ogmore Arthur's Grave

 

 

 

This is where our pendulums say King Arthur is buried.

 

 

 

 

A great attraction are the stepping stones that were created soon after the castle was built.  Legend has it that they were installed so a castle princess could visit her lover in Merthyr Mawr.  It does not tell why he could not visit her.  I didn’t count them when we were there and I have found varying counts on different web sites but, looking at the photographs I took, there seem to be about 40.

Ogmore Stepping Stones

Some more Images

The stones lead to Merthyr Mawr which is a delightful Hamlet with a church and a few houses but a short walk takes you to a most wonderful nature reserve with the second highest sand dunes in Europe. We have not walked there yet so there are no images of the dunes but the hot link takes you to a good site.

So a few photos of the hamlet

Merthyr Mawr Thatch

 

Church and cemetery

 

Walking back to the castle and pub, The Pelican in Piety.

Merthyr Mawr walking back

 

The legend of the stepping stones and the mere strength and skill of those that built them inspired a poem; here it is.

Stepping Stones Ogmore Castle

It is said, they were created
so a castle princess
could visit her lover.

They say the congregation
would tumble from
Merthyr Mawr church,
leap across to the pub
behind the castle.

Perhaps.

With chisel and maul,
plumb bob and square,
Norman masons
set 40 massive stones,
each with a level cap,
each deep into Ewenni’s bed.

Once runnelled
with many-toothed chisels
the steps are worn smooth
by a thousand years;
still level,
still steady,
still used.

© Anthony Fisher September 2018

 

Zwartbles in Somerset

Early August we spent the weekend with friends on their farm in Somerset.  It was David’s 80th birthday.  They had bought the farm after spending the first ten to eleven years, sailing the English winters away, around the Caribbean and the northeast coast of South America; quite an achievement.  We only saw them during the warmer months in England.  As well as Lin’s magnificent, lush garden they have a flock of sheep made up of just over half  Zwartbles  pedigrees the rest being Zwartbles/Charolais crosses and, now, an additional pedigree  which was a birthday present from his daughters.

Pedegree Zwartbles

The farm was once a park in the grounds of a rich man’s house and the fields have single trees laid out in a most attractive manner; chestnut, oak and even an elm.

Trees dusk

It was very hot when we were there and the sheep gathered under the shade of a wonderful chestnut.

Chestnut shade

 

 

 

 

Shade 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who are you

 

 

 

Looking at this image I noticed something in the ewe’s eye.

 

 

Reflection

 

 

It was the reflection of the Discovery I was taking the picture from.

 

 

Post Parturition

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having lambs is exhausting and this ewe is recovering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived on Saturday for a barbeque, delicious desserts and champagne!  In my case sparkling elderflower.  Instead of bunting, pennants hung in the air:

Post Party

 I liked the sun shining through this one.

Pennant

 

Final thought and a poem which is after the photo of the shepherd (it is only the third draft and will change).

Another friend, Becky, obtained  a black fleece from the farm, spun some yarn and knitted me a wonderful tea cosy which she then felted.  I like my tea to mash and a Zwartbles tea cosy keeps it hot, hot!

Tea Cosy

David communing with a Zwartbles cross.

Shepherd

 

David

Grey-grizzled, the shepherd walks ancient footsteps,
to the lambing shed, he wears nightshirt, wellingtons
and carries the shades of lanthorn and crook.
It is 2am.
Stars hidden by clouds, the air breathes on his cheeks.
The sound of night is silence, the rustling of a turning ewe.

He leans on the cold neat lines of a steel hurdle,
inhales the fecund odour of sheep, the smell of lanolin.
A heavy-bellied ewe hoists herself on to her forelegs,
reproaches him with beautiful, impenetrable eyes,
black fleece striped with last year’s sweet hay.

On the way back, he plans circuitry and positions
for cameras, lights and perhaps a microphone.
But from the screen of a tablet in his warm bed
he could not savour the odours of hay and sheep
nor feel the gaze of a sitting ewe as he gains her trust,
or exchange sounds and thoughts in the intimacy of night.

© Anthony Fisher August 2018

Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in Enfield

Elsyng Palace was a family home for Henry VIII and his children, probably as large as Hampton Court.  Each summer the Enfield Archaeological Society excavate a bit more and then cover it up to prevent weather damage.  The patience and skill of those who trowel and brush are just amazing.

 

Forty Hall Elsynge roots edit

 

It is lovely to see how roots spread.  Trees connect to each other by their roots using their own internet , Mycorrhiza.  You can read about it in a superbe book “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben.

 

Forty Hall Elsynge roots 2 edit

One of the local oral histories is that Sir Walter Raleigh laid down his cloak for Queen, Elizabeth I to prevent her getting her feet wet at Maiden’s Bridge. Elizabeth lived in Elsyng Manor from time to time and Raleigh lived in nearby Chase Side so I feel it is a credible story.

Forty Hall Maiden's Bridge 2 edit

 

 

 

This image is of what is probably a Victorian bridge but I like it and,  it is called Maiden’s Bridge.

 

 

Some more images; it is a delightful spot.

 

and one of a tree:

Forty Hall tree edit

All the above are in the Forty Hall Estate which, for a while, was owned by the Parker-Bowles family.  Thinking about it all a poem came to me.

Maiden’s Bridge
Here, five hundred years ago,
Raleigh laid down a cloak for his queen.
It was rich-velvet, patterned with fine jewels.

Half a millennium later,
A son of the family who came to own around here,
Laid down his willing wife for a prince.

Raleigh was beheaded,
The man divorced.

© Anthony Fisher July 2018

About five miles from Forty Hall, just over the boundary in Essex,  is Waltham Abbey.  It has a connection with Elsyng through Henry VIII.  It was the last Abbey to be taken over by Henry during the Reformation which he had planned whilst staying at Elsyng.  The abbot was  a very learned man and Henry enjoyed conversation with him.  I have a tenuous connection too.  The last Saxon king, Harald, was buried there some time after he was killed by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. One of the Knights that fought with William was Robert-with-a-beard. and of the 850,000 ancestors I have of that time, he is the only one I know!  The U of my initials is for Umfreville which is derived from the village in Normandy he came from.

Enough of that! Waltahm abbey is delightful and we had in interesting visit.  There are faces carved into the exterior stone and this is one most venal:

The ducks are more beautiful on the river near the mill race.  They arranged their pose and waited for me to take the photograph quacking their impatience.

Waltham Abbey Ducks edit

Inside the ceiling is beautiful with Victorian paintings of the zodiac.  The magnificent organ is being restored so there is bright shiny scaffolding as you enter.

 

Waltham Abbey scaffoldng edit

 

 

 

 

 

Waltham Abbey scaffoldng 2 edit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sign is Capricorn the sea or mergoat. I feel that it is older than Greek mythology and it has its origins in Oannes.  Perhaps, but here is the Capricorn panel.

Waltham Abbey Seagoatc edit

There is a lovely freeze behind the alter and a mediaeval wall painting in the Lady Chapel (I did not photograph the painting).

Waltham Abbey instruction edit

All in all, two good places to visit.

 

Amsterdam – bikes and trams

The first night of our holiday in Europe was in Amsterdam where we had dinner with our niece who is now officially recognised as a Dutch speaker and has Dutch nationality.  She showed us around the university where she works.  What a fabulous place it is!  The Dutch take education seriously – her 14 year old daughter is learning 6 languages -and they treat students extremely well.  During the day we took a tram to Grand Central Station and I was amazed at the barrier reef of bikes!  How can anyone find theirs?

Bikes and Grand Cenrtral Station

 

I find walking in Amsterdam dangerous and scary.  The trams, fabulous to use, are silent, potential assassins of unwary tourists and marauding bikes whiz from every direction!  Amsterdam authorities are considering banning foreign cars as it is so dangerous.  I was glad when we drove away.

 

 

Grand Central Station

 

The poem below came to me as I watched a sexy tram draw away from the station.

 

 

Amsterdam – Grand Central Station

 The tram shakes her hips at me
as she snakes away
from Grand Central Station.

I decide to walk,
cross the small bridge,
past bicycles high tech,
bicycles simple, ancient,
chained to iron railings,
in democratic abandon.

Looking down I see
brightly painted boats
laden with tourists fleeing
the marauding cyclists who,
on their tactically silenced bikes,
attack from behind, the side –
all around.

Next day at the station,
I see bicycles locked
in steel mesh cages.
These are the most murderous
that need to be restrained,
until the tourists have gone.

© Anthony Fisher June 2001

 

Amsterdam is not all bikes and trams, the canals are lovely.

CAnal

We started to walk back to the hotel as we had spotted an interesting group of bronze statues and wanted to have a closer look.  We found them placed in front of a statue of Rembrandt . It proved to be a representation of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” ; what an inspired idea!

It is in the featured image above but here is again:

Rembrandts watchmen

and some more shots:

We caught a tram back to the hotel and changed before walking across the park to meet our niece.

The Next night we stayed in Dinant, Southwest Belgium, the home of Aldolphe Sax inventor of the saxophone.  The cathedral there is a magnificent brooding edifice.

 

P1000201

The Belgium owner of the hotel we stayed in knew Enfield as he was a Tottenham Hotspur fan.  He also published illustrated books on football which were displayed in the foyer.  It was a lovely quiet hotel.

The next day we set off for Epron stopping the night in a delightful small hotel near Orleans on the way.

 

Easter Sunday Floating Market

‘Til now, the children have come to us for feasts and gatherings but Easter Sunday we went to daughter Megan’s for lunch and next weekend it is with son Iwan.  She laid on a lovely meal, smoked, salmon, quails eggs, asparagus starters and roast lamb with five vegetables  followed by apple crumble. As well as Ryan and young Jake we were joined by Snuggles and Sparkles the school rabbits who, for rabbits, were well behaved.

 

 

 

After lunch we went to Cassiobury Park and farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

to visit the floating market.

 

 

 

The Grand Union Canal runs through Watford and Cassiobury Park straddles it with a small diesel train circuit for rides, a farm and water cress beds as well as wet lands.  Ryan spent his teens cycling the network of paths and hours sitting fishing so I new we would not get lost.

Start of the floating market

 

This is the beginning of the market.  It was great seeing the narrow boats with the different wares, the boat folk and, of course opportunities for photographs.

 

 

You can just see the  vinyl records on the side of this boat.  All manner of images had been cut out of the discs with a hand fret-saw.  It was an unusual and impressive display

Floating Market

I bought a stone with  orthoceras  fossils, something I have been looking for some time.  It had to be the right shape and, of course, price, and it is both!

 

 

Searching orthoceras on the web I found this interesting article about scientists using its fossilised ink.  I find it fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of images

Bow to bow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For sale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and two swans

Two Swans

We decided to have our walk amongst the paths and wet lands.   First we had to walk along the canal.

On the way, Valerie and Jake tried to rescue a balloon which was on the other bank.

 

 

Passing by

 

I Like boats and being on the water.  Quite a few years ago I rented a narrow boat for a long weekend from the boat hire centre in  Broxbourne.  It was November and pouring with rain.  I decided to go up the River Stort rather than the River Lee to Hertford. We managed to pass under the first bridge but by the time we reached the second, the river level was so high we could not pass under the second so I had to turn about.  This was hairy, the river was in full spate due to the heavy rain.  The technique is to turn the bow into the river bank and, turning the tiller in the appropriate direction cause the boat to swing round.  We managed it but got stuck under the bridge we had first passed under as the river had risen even more!  Passers by gazed down fro the bridge in wonder and amusement!  My brain leapt into action and I raced through the cabin to the fore deck and, laying on my back,  walked the boat through the arch by pushing and walking on the underside of the bridge.  We then took the River Lee which was less turbulent.  By Saturday the rain had stopped and we had a good time.

It was lovely seeing the boats.

Narrow boats moored

 

Water cress beds

 

 

On the way we discovered watercress beds, apparently this was big business at one time.  My father liked watercress, something I inherited from him.

 

 

And then found pelicans.

Pelicans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wet lands were not photogenic but I was able to view some bull rushes from a hide we came across.

Bull Rushes from the hide

We had an enjoyable walk and chat and set off back to the car, home and tea.  As we were leaving the park I looked back.  There was an interesting bridge that once had a small house on it.

Remains and willows

The willows in the feature image above were from here too.

 

It was a wonderful Easter Sunday, family afternoon.