Category Archives: Blogs

The River of Life (a metaphorical personal observation)

The River of Life

(a metaphorical personal observation)

Winding River

The river of life has many twists and turns, we may have an idea of its general direction but we can never be certain where it might ultimately take us.

It can be rough and turbulent, it Turbulent Riverhas many currents often unseen, it can have falls and eddies;  it can divide making us chose a direction without knowing the consequences; it can temporarily turn us back or spiral us down in a whirlpool from where we may never return.

Swirling River  River Dividing

It can destroy us and it can exhilarate or inspire us but even after the worst of the turbulence or the highest of falls, if we survive, there can be a wonderful calm, a place of tranquility and beauty….

Never give up, KEEP SWIMMING.

Life can be full of happy surprises so look forward and don’t dwell on the past, just remember past good times and learn from the bad.

Calm

A Late Summer Day in Whitby

Whitby Inner HarbourDropping down from the sometimes bleak yet beautiful North Yorkshire Moors we see the distant shimmer of the North Sea reflecting blue from the warm late summer sky. The sea glints and sparkles passively in the gentle off-shore breeze and the small town of Whitby nestles seemingly peacefully in the valley. The town straddles the estuary of the River Esk as it discharges its peaty brown heath and moorland waters into the green/blue vastness of the open sea. We can see the ruins of the cliff top Abbey silhouetted against the watery backdrop and the ancient lighthouse that marks the harbour pier. As we descend through the village of Sleights the distant view of hills, valley, sea and town is lost, but soon we will arrive.

Whitby Outer Harbour & Old TownIt is still holiday season, the town is full of happy people escaping the reality of work and daily routine.  Around the harbour there is a smell of street food; fish and chips, cockles, whelks, hot-dogs, burgers, doughnuts. On the west side of the river are the amusement arcades, the fish docks and cafes. Behind and above on the steep sided valley on this north side is the Victorian/Edwardian area oWhitby Abbeyf town with the main streets and cliff top guest houses. The Royal Hotel, where Bram Stoker reputedly stayed and was inspired by the view across the harbour towards the Abbey to write the novel “Dracula”, sits atop the cliff behind the famous whale bone arch. The Victorian grandeur is long gone but signs of its heyday are everywhere. On the east side of the river is the ancient part of Whitby dating back to the 1500s and still with many old characterful terraced cottages and cobbled streets.

Whitby AbbeySome properties in the town would have originally been occupied by ancient whalers and fishermen living hard and dangerous lives, yet in a different era others would have been occupied by wealthy Victorians and Edwardians who would promenade along the harbour walls and cliff-tops in their extravagant finery. Now these same properties are often holiday homes, sadly unoccupied for half the year giving the town a slightly ghostly feel on quiet dull days mid-winter. It is difficult to imagine the ancient fishermen mending their nets around the harbour that would be packed full with enumerable working sailing ships, or later the ladies discretely enjoying the waters of the sea Whitby Abbeyvia their “bathing machines” that seem so comical to our modern thinking.

Today it is summer and we can ignore the crowds and simply enjoy the uniqueness of the surroundings. We can sit and sip coffee watching the milling multitudes of holiday makers walking the same routes as those wealthy Victorians of the past but without the same style or aesthetic grandeur, but there is still tranquillity to be found and pleasure in simply taking in the surroundings. It is a short visit and soon we will be gone, but we will return, it is a lovely place in a beautiful part of England and the smell of the sea or of wild heather on the moorland hilltops is a constant pull on my island soul. So until the next time……

Whitby Abbey

 

Memories of Niagara in “springtime”

P1010857a

I am woken by a warm red glow as the sun rises above the river. It lights the room, shimmering on the walls and ceiling as it reflects from the deceptively calm waters flowing with apparent laziness towards the yet unseen conflagration. The powerful roar of falling water as it smashes into the rocks of the plunge pool filters through the thick walls and windows sounding no more than a soft gentle rumble as I lay high above the torrent, I am at Niagara Falls, the magnificent spectacle of the tumbling water is below the hotel window.P1010808a

Spray is drifting high into the sky as water gracefully spills over the precipice, it catches the morning sun and glistens like a million tiny stars. Rainbows are forming, arcing through the cool early mist forming a multi-coloured crown. A few birds are on the smooth yet turbulent Niagara Falls - Rainbowwaters below the falls, gulls and cormorants are feeding where they can, unconcerned about the dangers and oblivious to the beauty.

I should be up to admire the wonders of nature, the colours, the power, the grace, but outside it is freezing, the ice clings to the rocky walls that climb vertically from the river, still partially covered by ice and snow. Niagara Falls - IceThe normally garish town is quiet; the summer chaos and noise; the smell of fast food; the holiday revellers, all thankfully absent. Niagara is an icy ghost town except for those hardy travellers seeking out the beauty of winter, if we face the river we can ignore the rampant commercialism even from within the warm confines of the hotel….. but the clear frosty morning air beckons, it’s time for a walk to feel the biting cold on my face, to feel the vibrations of the falls beneath my feet, to hear the deafening roar and remember it until the next visit. Maybe it will still be here, unless it is destroyed further by our human presence. The apparently uncontrollable power of the water is already reduced to a virtual trickle through our demands for electricity, the water flows being diverted to hydroelectric power stations. Knowing we can turn it “off” an “on” at the flick of a switch somehow detracts from its natural beauty and coupled with the corporate commercialism now evident at every view point I have mixed feelings. Perhaps the romance is not in the place itself but in the person we visit it with?

An interesting link: Niagara Falls water control

British Isles

Cairgorms-Scotland
Cairgorms Scotland
st-ives
St Ives, Cornwall

I have travelled to different countries, east and west, but when it comes to variety and quality of life I find the UK difficult to beat. From the remote, dramatic mountains of the Cairngorms in Scotland to the almost Mediterranean like beaches of Cornwall, and in between there is lush green countryside dotted with pretty ancient villages, thatched cottages and buildings with so much character it is possible to imagine the ghosts of the countless past generations that lived and worked there. cotswolds

The country is busy with it’s relatively dense population and the cities and large towns have good and bad areas, but like all the major towns and cities in Europe they have history and character and such a wealth of architecture spanning centuries. Despite it’s density peace and tranquillity can still be found in the thousands of colosheepurful parks, or on the wild moorlands and hill tops where the stress and noise of modern life is left far behind, replaced by the sound of the wind, the rustling of trees and the call of the birds.

I love the sea, perhaps because I am from an island nation; it has a power and a life that is simply not present in the great lakes of the world. seaWherever I am in the UK I am little more than one hour from the coast; the gentle lapping of sea on the shore or the thunder of waves against soaring cliffs; the screech of gulls and the smells of salt air and sea shore; the atmosphere is invigorating and brings renewed life and vigour to a tired soul.

The UK is ever more multicultural, a colourful and vibrant mix of cultures and history and within 2 hours I can be in the heart of Europe, enjoying the culture first hand. It is easy to browse the romantic streets of Paris or sit in the canal side cafés of Amsterdam, so close yet so different. In a similarly brief time I could be on the shores of the Mediterranean enjoying the laid back atmosphere of a small Greek fishing village or walking in the unique sophistication of the South of France. Europe is so close and is so varied with every nation having its own individual eccentricities and heritage.

amsterdamfishing-village-greece

I am not “patriotic”, I am not “proud” of my nation, I did not choose where I was born and like so many nations the U.K. has had a chequered past and done many bad things, but we cannot judge a country on it’s history, we live in the present and look to the future and there are worst places to be. Besides, perhaps the unpredictable temperate climate suites my mild, predictable yet temperate temperament (others may have a different opinion).

flowers

 

 

Doncaster

Minster-at-night_tcm4-52111A small town in the north east of England in the county of South Yorkshire.

cbc_crestDoncaster began when the Romans built a fort in the area about 71 AD. The Romans called the fort Danum. However in the 4th century Roman civilisation declined and the last Roman soldiers left Britain in 407 AD. mansion_night_tcm2-5729

After the Romans left, the Saxons invaded Eastern England. The Saxons called a Roman fort a ceaster. When they arrived in South Yorkshire, being built beside the River Don, they called this one Don ceaster. In time the name changed to Doncaster and they created a village nearby.

In the 12th century Doncaster grew into a busy town. In 1194 King Richard I gave Doncaster a charter (a document granting or confirming certain rights). In the Middle Ages Doncaster was a busy little market town although it would seem tiny to us. In 1204 Doncaster suffered a disastrous fire. In the Middle Ages most buildings were of wood so fire was a constant hazard. On the other hand if buildings did burn they could be easily be replaced.

The street name “gate” is derived from the old Danish word ‘gata’ which meant street. In Medieval towns craftsmen of one type tended to live in the same street. Baxter is an old word for baker so Baxtergate was the baker’s street. Frenchgate may be named after French speaking Normans who settled there.

corn exchangeIn the 14th century friars arrived in Doncaster. The friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. In 1307 Franciscan friars arrived in Doncaster. They were called grey friars because of the colour of their costumes. Carmelites or white friars arrived in the middle of the 14th century.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the little market town of Doncaster continued to grow. This was despite outbreaks of plague in 1562, 1582, 1583, 1604 and 1606. Each time plague struck a significant part of the town’s population perished but each time it recovered.

Transport has played an important role in Doncaster’s heritage. The stagecoach trade of the 17th and 18th centuries generated the wealth that built the town centre in the Georgian fashion complete with one of only three Mansion Houses in Britain as its civic headquarters.

Horse breeding for the stagecoach trade gave rise to Doncaster racecourseRacecourse and the founding of the Great Northern Railway Locomotive and Carriage Buildings Works, the factory that built the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard, brought further recognition.

One of the founding Pilgrim Fathers, William Bradford, was born within the Borough and Doncaster’s rich history also includes an archaeological site in Sutton Common, grand country houses and magnificent churches.

conisbrough_castleThe spectacular white circular keep of Conisbrough Castle dates back to approximately 1180. Made of magnesian limestone, it is the oldest circular keep in England.

The Minster Church of St. George Doncaster lies at the heart of our town, where a church has stood for over 8 centuries. The present church was built between 1854-1858 after the medieval church was sadly destroyed by fire in 1853. St George’s Church, is a landmark on Doncaster’s skyline This masterpiece was designed by architect Sir Gilbert Scott who also designed St Pancras station. The church also boasts a rare Schulze organ and fine Victorian glass.

Welcome-to-the-Home-of-The-Minster-Church-of-St.-George_-Doncaster2

the_minster_church_of_st_george

 

DoncasterChristChurch_2

 

Christ Church, Thorne Road, Doncaster