Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lancaster's Grisly Past

Just outside the park where the Ashton Memorial stands, at the top of East Road there is a large open space where you can enjoy this view of Lancaster City and the seaside town of Morecambe beyond. This open space is now a recreational area, "the Rec" as we cal it. Its a nice peaceful place. But it has a dark past. If you stand at the top end of the "Rec" and turn your back on the view above..... will see this monument to the Catholic Martyrs who were executed here at various times in our historic past. Elizabeth I referred to "that thorn in the side of England.... they call Lancaster." Lancaster has always been a Catholic stronghold and was certainly central to the "Pilgrimage of Grace", a monastic led uprising against the Suppression under Henry VIII for which those involved paid dearly. The Lancaster Castle site will tell you more.
The inscription reads
To the memory of those
Martyred for their faith in Lancaster
"Can you drink the chalice that I am about to drink?"
They said to Him, We can"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Familiar Skyline

Those of you who travel along the M6 past Lancaster can't fail to notice the green domed building dominating the Lancaster skyline. This is the Ashton Memorial situated in Williamson park high up the hill above the city. The site can tell you far more than I can. Suffice it to say it was built at first as a dedication to Queen Victoria but Lord Aashton's wife died at that time so the memorial was in honour of her instead. T he doughty queen's statue now stands in Dalton Square looking most disapprovingly at the Town Hall, another of Lord Ashton's gifts to this city.
Cause for celebration tomorrow. Its our wedding anniversary. Forty three years.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Drawing

Its only 27 cm square but it took some little time to complete, a whole week in fact.
This last week has seen clear skies but with a biting wind. Rather like the Wife in the North on her blog, guilt feelings crept in. This sunny weather, - shouldn't I be out there taking a walk or riding my bike? Well, no. The sun streaming through the window is deceptively warm but its cold outside. Besides I was very involved with this drawing project. It is also posted on The Draughtsman if you want to read a more technical description. Its of a stretch of shingly beach by the way. I worked from a photo taken a couple of years ago in Corfu.
Why should I feel guilty about not getting out into the fresh air? This drawing was very absorbing and in doing it I was content. Surely that is enough.
Last week (March 16) it was my birthday. I'm 67 now. As Anton Chekhov once wrote, "...once you pass sixty you can advertise your age and have people comment you don't look it." But in Uncle Vanya's case they could mean he looks much older!?! Ahem!
Been out today redeeming book tokens I was given and got two books. One about Picasso and the other a comprehensive manual on Greek Mythology. I'll probably post blogs about the ancient Greek gods and prattle on ad nauseam - sorry.
Brenda got me an Expresso coffee making set. Now I can indulge myself in some really serious coffee drinking. What with that and the Greek coffee and the brihkta I brought back from Cyprus I'll probably end up with more caffeine than blood in my veins. Moderation in all things, - eh?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wife on Holiday

My wife is in Barcelona with a friend for a week. Prior to the departure she went to great lengths to ensure I would be OK. Lots of pre-prepared frozen meals and, seing some of the family were visiting over the week-end, a long list of instructions. Needless to say all has gone without a hitch. There's still enough frozen food left over to cope with a prolonged siege and I made no enemies. Take a look at this blog. It illustrates the point precisely. She (the blogger) very graphically describes the day to day problems and occaisional joys of being a housewife. Read it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The ship comes in

After posting the last entry, "Dawn Chorus" I suppose I had to post a picture of a ship!

Dawn Chorus

I was listening to a programme about L.S.Lowry and life in the 1950s on Radio 4 last week. The time of my youth. What really triggered the old memory cells was the sound of factory sirens announcing the start of the working day.
How I well remember being awakened at 7-30 in the morning, time to get up and go to school. Not the alarm clock: but the different tones of the sirens at each factory/foundry/shipyard etc. It always started with the deep sonoruos tone of Doxfords. Then then Laing's, Pickersgill's and all the rest joining in to make a cacophanous chorus which would last for a minute or so. At the end each horn would fall silent in turn making a diminnuendo trailing off to a single plaintive note, the Mayfair toffee factory at the bottom of our street. The day had begun.

Similarly, at New Year, at five minutes to midnight, all the menfolk, - and us lads sometimes, - would leave our houses ready for first footing at the start of the New Year. Never mind Big Ben or the Greenwich time signal, we re-entered our houses when the ships on the Tyne and the Wear told us. The New Year was always heralded by a chorus of ship's horns. It was a wondrous and is now an evocative sound.

Alas, all that has gone. Tyne and Wear no longer have the great shipyards. The port of Sunderland no longer plays host to great ocean going ships. All has changed.

A couple of years ago I went on a cruise. When we left the harbour on our final evening, the ship was accompanied by three tugsboats. When they had cast off and left us to set out across the bar, the tugs gave us a farewell toot. Each with its individual note. An exchange of hoots from our ship and others in the harbour ensued. The whole thing triggered off some deep emotions. It made my hair stand on end. Memories of things long gone. Strong stuff.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Something of a Rarity?

Barely two miles outside the City of Lancaster there is this very rural looking postbox. If you look closely you will see it is of some antquity bearing the "VR" monogramme. Victoria Regina! That makes it at least a hundred years old. Still in use too, as the modern collection times notice shows. It is not quite a perfectly preserved relic. If you look very closely you will see there has been some repair to the bottom right hand corner of it. What tales could this post box tell I wonder? It has carried not only the mails of two world wars but probably the Boer war and possible even the Crimean too. There's a story or two here for some budding writer.

This is the rural setting for this postbox. It lies a little off the main road from Lancaster to Garstang via Cockerham. If you really want to find it, I can give the OS reference.
A little haven of quiet just outside a bustling city.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Promise of Spring

"Winter's sky, - blue, - like ice;
The promise of Spring; -
A single daffodil."

Probably not the best haiku ever written but it came to mind as I looked at this daffodil blooming in my back yard garden or "yarden" as I sometimes call it. This second picture is of the same flower but viewed through the kitchen window. There are others in bloom in a pot in the background. It won't be long before the forsythia makes a blaze of yellow.

But these bright blue days where the sun starts to warm things up a bit despite the lazy wind that seems to prefer to go through you rather than round you are rather rare in Lancaster just now. Already things have changed and the rain and drizzle has once again re-asserted itself. But nice while it lasted.

In the next pot, three daffs making up a trio. Reminds me of the Triple Treasure, Buddha, Dharma and Sanga.

Spring is definitely in the air.