At Work: Missing The Queen

logo We were very sad at work yesterday.  The Queen came to Borough High Street to open up the Royal British Legion and we had no idea she was right in our area!  Once we realised that the Queen was visiting, we rushed out of the building and were greeted with the sight of the police guard departing.

We went around the corner to check anyway but she was definitely gone.  How sad for us!  We did get to see a couple of dashing young chaps in uniform so it was all worth it!  I think I am going to start walking up and down Borough High Street again instead of taking my usual short cut through Kings College and Guy's Hospital.

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Apologies for the photo quality - I took them using my mobile phone again.  Maybe I'll make a Spring resolution to carry around my camera in future.

Road Trip (North): York - Minster and surrounds

Part 1 - Churches

Alongside Cologne Cathedral, York Minster is the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe (some say it is the biggest).  While it is known that earlier versions of the Minster existed, there is no longer an archaeological evidence for these.  The building in its current form dates back to 1100 though, which is pretty old

York Minster York Minster York Minster

York really was a festive little town and I loved the atmosphere in many of the places we visited on our road trip.  Many times in York, Warwick and Bath there was an air of festivity with live music and stalls and fun fairs.

This man was playing "Hallelujah" on his piano.  I couldn't really say whether it was the Leonard Cohen or Alexandra Burke version but seeing as I spent tons of money voting for Alex to win, I'll just say it was hers.

Anglo-Boer War memorial

There was a memorial to those lost fighting the Anglo-Boer war in South Africa between 1899 and 1902.  Even though I am of English decent, I took a moment to remember the many Afrikaans people who perished both in the fighting and in the concentration camps too.  It is an often overlooked fact that the British invented concentration camps.

War memorials are very sad to me actually.  I think war is such a senseless thing and there is rarely a true right or wrong side, just thousands of needless casualties.

I'd better steer off the politics before I lose all of my readers!  (Or the ones Blogger and Google Connect did not drop, that is).

Right across the road from York Minster is another church, St Michael Le Belfry.

St Michael Le Belfry St Michael Le Belfry

St Michael's is an Anglican church and was built between 1525 and 1537 during King Henry VIII's break with Rome.  How does one describe Henry's architecture in the way that we describe "Elizabethan", "Victorian" or "Georgian" styles?  This style is not my favourite, anyway.

Bridal partyOn our way back into the town, we spotted this bridal party making their way into the York Minster.  Can you imagine getting married in such a place???  Hardly the outdoor, poolside, South African bush experience I had!  

They must have been freezing.  As it was, we were too cold to stick around and wait for the bride!!

Road Trip (North): York - Churches

The final destination on our road trip around England was York.  We were staying a couple of days at my friend Nina's house in Bolton and so we were able to spend almost a whole day in York without the worry of checking into and out of hotels and spending hours travelling between cities.

Incidentally, we were meant to go to St Albans on the way home to London when we left the next day.  Unfortunately, Mandy only managed to make it out of bed after 10am that day so that idea fell by the wayside.

I knew nothing at all about York before we went but it was the one destination that my mum-in-law had requested before they came over from South Africa.  York is an absolutely charming and pretty little town located four hours north of London.  It has a really rich history dating back to Roman and Viking times and it is a walled city.

York is full of churches.  This old gem dates back to the 14th century and is named Church of All Saints Pavement because it stands on on of the earliest paved streets in York.

I really loved this red brick building but I couldn't find any details about it online.  This is an exquisite exam of Victorian red brick architecture - look at that detail!

St Helens Church is an incredibly old church.  From their website, "the oldest datable feature in the church is the mid twelfth century font, and it is likely that the church was rebuilt in stone at that time or earlier".

This spectacular example of Victorian architecture is St Wilfrid's Catholic Church which was completed in 1864.  How beautiful is it?

Townhouses York Minster

I loved the terraced housing in the picture above.  It reminded me of all of the romantic notions I had about Victorian England and the world of Peter Pan and Mary Poppins.

That is York Minster you can see in the distance there but that deserves its own post!

Road Trip (North): Liverpool part 4

Part 1 ¦ Part 2 ¦ Part 3

I have to be honest.  I'll be happy once I've finished uploading all the pictures and stories from our road trip in December.  We just saw so many wonderful things and I want to remember it all!

The last stop on our trip to Liverpool was the Merseyside Maritime Museum.  This is a massive museum actually comprising several different exhibitions and attractions and if you were spending more than a few hours in Liverpool, then I would recommend that you set aside a whole morning here.

First things first - it was a cold day that day and we had been traipsing around for hours.  So our first stop was for some rich hot chocolate with cream.  Yum!

We then went to see the Titanic, Lusitania and Forgotten Empress exhibition.  This was really, really interesting. 

Figurehead from HMS Hastings  Items salvaged from the wreck of the Titanic Apron worn by Titanic survivor
Figurehead from HMS Hastings / items salvaged from the Titanic / apron worn by Titanic survivor
Click pictures for bigger photos

I stood looking at that apron for a really long time. A person had been wearing that apron and had escaped the sinking Titanic and was taken to safety. I found it really touching in a way I can't explain. 1,517 people died on the Titanic as there were not enough lifeboats. More men died as women and chldren were taken to safety first. The band continued to play music as the ship went down and none of them survived. The captain of the Titanic went down with his ship. Most of the people that died in the Titanic were third class passengers and staff. There were 706 survivors.

I knew some of these stories before but I hadn't previously known anything about the RMS Lusitania. This story really shocked me. This luxury liner was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 during World War I.  More passengers died in this disaster than in the Titanic because so many of the passengers were in their rooms or were hit directly by the torpedo.  1,198 people died that day and over a half of those were children. 

The next part of the complex that I visited was the International Slavery Museum.

This is a rich and complex exhibition detailing the slave trade and the history of racial oppression round the world.  There is a lot of material on modern day slavery and human trafficking as well.  I didn't take any photos during the exhibition (except for the above) but I spent a lot of time there absorbing the wealth of information.   I do think the ISM is badly placed in the Merseyside Maritime Museum as I believe it should be a destination in and of itself but I imagine that this is one way of making sure that people visit and that they get people through the door.

The last part we looked at before we went was the Seized! exhibition which is a fantastic exhibition about the type of items that people try to import into the country.  Very interesting!

It was getting late by then and suddenly it was time to go.  There is so much we didn't get to see including the Tate Liverpool and the bombed out Church of St Luke.

Swanky Apartments in Liverpool  The Pillar of Friendship Installation in Liverpool One 
Dockside living / The Pillar of Friendship installation
Click pictures for bigger photos

We did get to walk through Liverpool One on the way back to the car.  This is a trendy new dockside-living and shopping complex.  We dreamt of one day living in those swanky apartments (one day after The Puppies have gone on to the big dog kennel in the sky) and we admired the Pillar of Friendship installation on Paradise Street.

All in all, it was an awesome day and I can't wait to go back to my beloved Liverpool sometime in the near future.

Road Trip (North): Liverpool part 3

Part 1 ¦ Part 2

Next on our tour of Liverpool was the Pier Head. The Pier Head is definitely my favourite part of Liverpool and it has some of the best architecture in the world (once again, my fascination with old buildings comes up. It's not my fault I spent much of my working career as a property manager housed in a listed building, is it?)

The Pier Head is a small strip of land with three magnificent old buildings facing out over the Mersey River. This is where you will catch the ferry made famous by the Gerry and the Pacemakers song, Ferry Across the Mersey.

Liverpool Pier Head  Liverpool Pier Head 

Most days we would catch the Merseyrail under the Mersey and come out at Hamilton Square, then we would catch the ferry back. On this particular day though, it was very cold and we had loads to do so we settled for lots of photos instead!

The Royal Liver Building & the Cunard Building   The Port of Liverpool Building
The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the magnificent Port of Liverpool Building
(click on the pictures for larger shots)

The Royal Liver Building was built between 1908 and 1911. "Liver" in this instance is pronounced "laiver". It houses two Liver birds on top of the buildings. These are the fabled birds that look after the city of Liverpool and the story goes that if they were ever to fly away, then the city of Liverpool would cease to exist. They are not the only Liver birds in Liverpool but they are the biggest and most famous. The two Liver birds on the Royal Liver Building face in opposite directions - one of the birds faces inwards towards the city of Liverpool and the other faces the Mersey River.

Many of you will know the Liver birds from the Liverpool Football Club crest of course. I would post a picture but that would just ruin my blog. (I'm a proud Everton supporter).

The Cunard Building was built between 1914 and 1917 as the headquarters for the Cunard Line, the shipping company that owned the Lusitania. I'll talk about the Lusitania more in my next post about our visit to the Merseyside Maritime Museum. My brother worked on the fourth floor of the Cunard Building from 2006 to 2008 when I convinced him to rather come and live in London with us. Looks like that worked out for him as he is earning twice as much now than he was in Liverpool!!! In any event, I would absolutely love to work in an old building like the Cunard Building and I think he is very fortunate. He says they often popped over to the Royal Liver Building for lunch in one of the restaurants. Can you imagine that?

The Port of Liverpool Building was built between 1903 and 1907 and was designed by Sir Arnold Thornley following an architectural competition in 1901. It is an absolutely exquisite building with the most intricate details and finishings. Actually, after reading the details about it on the Liverpool World Heritage website, I now know that I have to go inside the building if I truly want to appreciate it.

During the Blitz in 1941, a bomb exploded in the basement of the Port of Liverpool Building. The cost of the restoration project that began after the war far exceeded the original cost of constructing the building!

Merchant Navy War Memorials Liverpool Pier Head   Merchant Navy War Memorials Liverpool Pier Head

Liverpool was so badly affected in the Blitz of World War II and these memorials to sailors from the Merchant Navy are also located on the Pier Head.

The Buildings of Liverpool Pier Head   The art deco George's Dock Ventilation
The Buildings of the Pier Head and the art deco George's Dock Ventilation with the rear of the Port of Liverpool Building and the Royal Liver Building in view
(click on the pictures for larger shots)

Finally we tear ourselves away from the old Pier Head and walk on up to the Albert Dock. On the way we are reminded of just how much this magical city has to offer.

Snow Day!

We had our first snow day today.  This picture shows the field behind my house with all the children playing on sleighs and building snow men.  I had to stay home for the day because all of the trains were cancelled.  Luckily, Ste and my brother work outside of London and their colleagues picked them up and took them to Orpington and Dartford respectively.  I was a bit disappointed after sitting around in my work clothes for three hours to learn that apart from there being no trains or buses, our offices were closing at 1pm and those of us that hadn't made it in would have to take a day's annual leave.  I tend to sleep in late and lounge about in pyjamas on my days off - not get up earlier than usual to make a special effort to get in and sit around waiting in my suit and jacket.  Grumpiness aside, once I realised it really was a day off, I made some Milo and watched Demons and Being Human from the weekend.  I also experimented with changing the layout for this blog, as I am a bit tired of this layout, but that didn't go very well.

The most amusing part of the day was observing my pets' differing reactions to the snow.

Early this morning, Seth was being an incorrigible pain in the neck bold and was meowing and asking to be let out.  So I opened the window thinking he would feel the snow on the window sill and realise that it was to wet and cold to go outside.  He put a tentative paw on the window sill and quickly shook it; but instead of coming back inside, he launched himself out of the window and promptly disappeared!  All I saw then was him shaking his back paws as cats do when their paws get wet and forging a way ahead in the snow.  Before I could do anything he sped off and was gone.  Oh dear.  I had to leave a window open for him then as I went to bath but soon he was back announcing at the top of his lungs something that sounded remarkably like, "Mum! I'm home! And wet! And cold! Close the windows quick!"

Well, his wet and cold experience didn't really leave an impression because a few hours later I was confronted with these friendly faces as I walked into the sitting room:

I promise you! He was giving me a right mouthful!  Summer supports him but won't actually go outside herself.

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Well, as you can see, he got kind of insistent after a while so I hauled on my wellies and went outside the front door with him.  He immediately ran to the shelter of the bay window, complaining about the cold all the way!  Then he ran under the car and sat forlornly under the engine as if he were the most hard-done-by cat on the planet.  Unable to coax him from under the car, I returned inside and he came shooting in at the sound of the door.  Thankfully, that was that and he seems to have accepted that it is too cold and wet to go outside.

Considering how terrified our dogs were of our swimming pool in South Africa, I never imagined that they would like snow so much!  I had opened up the back door to see if the dogs needed to pee and they just stood there watching it snow. 

That wasn't so much fun for me so I went inside to make some tea.  Suddenly, I noticed the pair of them prancing about in the snow like two little puppies, and they were even playing about with a rubber toy between them which is something they never do (share, I mean.  They are very possessive over their toys).  It was so funny to watch!

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In the end, it was a pretty fun and exciting snow day!  Now to cook some dinner!