Category Archives: United Kingdom

Remembrance Sunday 2018

Remembrance Sunday 2018 – the centenary of Armistice Day – the end of the First World War, and for some of us a day to remember for different reasons. I had always wanted to learn the skill of bell ringing, so with that aim in mind, in May of this year I made my way to Hereford Cathedral where local bell ringers had set up a mini – ring to demonstrate what actually happens when you pull on that rope and the bell, which is usually hidden in a chamber above your head, turns through 360 + degrees and chimes out.  I was invited by the tower captain, Karen Powell,  of St. Bartholomew’s, Holmer,  to start my apprenticeship under the watchful eye of her husband, Dave,  whose career in bell ringing spans some 30 + years. I practised every Tuesday, from June to October, and eventually joined the regular ringers for their practice on a Thursday evening. I learned to ring handstroke and backstroke unaided and was just getting the hang of learning to ring rounds with the others when disaster struck – I was forced to take a break due to a car accident.

The regular ringers continued with their preparations. Experienced ringer, Hayley Clarke, had been given the task of ensuring that all the local churches which had ringable bells also had a full complement of ringers on Remembrance Sunday – no mean feat as it turned out ! But she succeeded and on Sunday November 11th church bells across the county rang out from 12.30  onwards.

Before this the team had already rung the bells muffled for the service at Holmer, before ringing open at 12.30. Then, after a photo call, 

we three apprentices,  Jayne Morgan, Laura Simpson, and myself joined the regular Holmer bellringers on a ride round the lanes of Herefordshire to call in on four other churches. starting at  Vowchurch, in the west of the county, which has a ring of 3 bells.

Next stop was just down the road at Peterchurch. First impressions? it was so warm and cosy ! With the aid of Heritage funding, the church has become an important social space for local residents,  with a café, comfy sofas to sit on, a library cum bell tower on the first floor,  as well as some lovely traditional stained glass windows.

      

We then visited Tyberton, a small village about 3 miles west of Madley. Tyberton has an unusual red brick built church with plain windows. See if you can spot the other unusual feature in the next few photos!

Yes, that’s him – the dummy vicar who resides in the bell tower! Anyway, here we are, apprentices and old hands alike, marking the day. After Tyberton we called at Holme Lacy, a beautiful, but sadly, redundant church. When you decide to learn to ring church bells one thing you realise is that there are ladders or spiral staircases to be negotiated to get up to the ringing chambers in some churches – in Holmer we are spoilt because it is a ground tower – and I am told Herefordshire has a disproportionate number of ground towers, but eventually you face a scary ladder. Luckily, Holme Lacy’s looked scary -but wasn’t !

Holme Lacy, a beautiful church, set in the lovely Herefordshire countryside near the River Wye,  boasts some unusual stained glass windows.

 

Our last stop was Wellington, a village, just north of Hereford, off the A49. This time it did mean wending our way up a stone spiral staircase but quite an amenable one.

This day was special –  It was special to be part of it and special when you realise that this anniversary will never be  repeated -the Centenary of the end of a war which happened at the beginning of the last century. My grandfather would remember it as he was one of those boy soldiers who ran away to fight, to serve his country.  But with each passing generation it becomes harder to recall the sacrifice and suffering that those men endured to guarantee peace for ensuing generations. But remember we must! 

It was special for me too because I am starting to achieve something I had wanted to do – to acquire a skill and help maintain a tradition which is so quintessentially English – when you hear bells ring out on a Sunday morning you think of everything that is good about England.

And …………. bell ringing is fun! Try it!

CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO of The Holmer Band at Tyberton

Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2018

Our second attempt at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta! This year we decided to camp overnight – well, I say camp,  but it was a lot more civilized than that – we spent two nights in this splendid vehicle

whilst all around us there were brave souls in tents  – not my idea of fun.  The campsite was actually Cotham rugby pitch, which meant there was a clubhouse, showers, toilets,  an outside tap for water and a bar to get beer and hot food all close by!

The Fiesta is run over 4 days and IF the weather had been more benign those four days would have been packed with exciting arena activities like wing walkers and  parabatix,  but as we all know, in the UK that is a big ‘IF‘.

This year’s programme included 6 mass launches – one at 6 am and one at 6 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – I’m not sure but  I think I may have witnessed the only one that happened  – the Saturday dawn launch. The organizers were at the mercy of the rain and wind for most of the weekend – a real shame.

This is what greeted me as I headed down the hill towards the main arena

 

I was not alone! It was like an army on the march

The first balloon we saw was this owl

 

although I don’t think he actually left the ground.

There were around 40 ‘Special Shapes’ balloons – I spotted 9 – this motorbike, the dog, Bertie Bassett, a fire extinguisher, a lion from Longleat, Paddy Power’s green Y fronts, a Minion, a Panasonic battery, a fish and even a Scottish piper!

From Friday to Sunday there were two mass launches planned each day of over 100 balloons – one at 6 am and one at 6 pm. There were all manner of food and drink stalls, bars, trade stands, a fun fair, huge inflatable slides all around the huge arena – lots to keep people happy – but 12 hours is a long time between launches even for your stalwart Fiesta fan – so my advice is to pace yourself! Or just plan to see one. Of course, this sort of thing is completely weather dependent and the weather wasn’t cooperating!

I watched the mayhem in the main arena – dozens of balloons jostling for space, inflating in a matter of minutes and taking to the clear blue skies over Bristol, watched by masses of spectators, cooking burgers and bacon on portable barbies! I wouldn’t trust myself to make a coffee at that time in the morning let alone be in charge of a barbecue.

I headed back up the hill in the general direction of our campsite but I noticed that in an area over to the right some of the balloons were landing – another photo opp.

By three o’clock the rain had set in so there was little activity in the main arena – we should have been watching the likes of Lee McCrory perform his aerial antics, but things were turning decidedly damp so we headed back up the hill (again! certainly got some exercise on Saturday!) and bide our time in the comfort of our mobile home. But nocturnal activities were also a washout, the Night Glow, where they tether the balloons and illuminate them, was cancelled. The firework display did go ahead, which went some way to ameliorating my brother’s disappointment at the Gin stall being closed!!

There was no improvement in the weather by Sunday and an air of despondency and resignation descended on the campsite as people decided to pack up and go home early.

 

I really felt for everyone concerned in the organisation of such a huge event as well as all the spectators who didn’t see a single balloon lift off, especially as we have had weeks of wall to wall sunshine!!

I didn’t feel for some of the food and drink stalls which were happy to charge outrageous prices (for sometimes almost inedible food – you know who you are!) My best buy was a disposable rain poncho from the Hospice stand – £1 – a bargain!

So ……….. here’s to next year. The Balloon Fiesta is a great spectacle – and no one can do anything about the weather…………

so let’s hope for sunshine.

Homage to the Dandelion

The grass and fields and hedgerows around where I live are awash with dandelions –


– they resist any attempt to eradicate them, keep the pesticide industry going almost single-handed and seem to mock us as they pop up on our manicured lawns, flaunting their bright yellow petals.

The name ‘dandelion’ comes from the French ‘dent de lion’ or ‘lion’s tooth’ , used to describe the marked indentations along the edges of the leaves and the ragged appearance of the tips of the petals.
But why do we so begrudge their presence?
Every part of this plant can be used:
the roots can be ground and roasted to make a caffeine free beverage, although more palatable to my mind are dandelion and burdock (or dandelion wine for an extra kick!)  made from the petals. The leaves can be blanched or sauteed in a similar way to spinach and added to salads and soups; the dandelion is also used in herbal medicine for liver infections or as a diuretic. It is even used as a dye, although the resultant slightly muddy brown colour (called ‘caramel’ by the more charitable) is disappointing, given the original glorious yellow of the petals.
Its colour alone would persuade me to rebrand it! It’s a flower! Let’s cherish it! We love the colour yellow! All the best things in life are yellow! Gold! Saffron! Buttercups! Butter! Egg yolks! Sunshine! Submarines!
Think how many songs have the colour yellow in their titles – you should be able to think of at least TEN. This is one of my favourites
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICkWjdQuK7Q
My dad was never a gardener. His idea of keeping the place tidy was to sally forth, scythe in hand, once the grass was knee high.  Dandelions thrived! And so did lots of other pretty things like these:

And so did dandelion clocks – the fascinating, spherical seed heads which appear after the flowers and use the wind (or excited little children ! – the hour is however many puffs it takes you to blow all the seeds off the ‘clock) to scatter those seeds to the four corners of the garden, producing masses more dandelions the next year! So Dad was nurturing a wild life garden long before our present  ‘crop’ (oh!dear!) of TV celebrity gardeners advocated them!


But the real reason they are there is for these little guys:

……….the army of pollinators, buzzing busily from bloom to bloom – they don’t care whether we think it’s a weed or a flower!