Thursday, 26 November 2009

5 more family Join us for The Weald and Downland Museum

The other day of note is when we met up with the other five family members (if you’ve been keeping count, you will realise that I’ve only mentioned fifteen so far) who joined us at Singleton to visit the Weald and Downland Museum. Jon, Kerry, Layla, Tariq and Kalif drove down for the day from Maidstone and we found one another easily – hooray for mobile phones.
After an enjoyable visit, Shirley and David stayed on to see more and the rest of us went to a nearby pub for a meal and a catch up on news.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Joining 6 more family (+ 2 dogs) - A Visit to Fareham

Sunday, we spent with Ian, Fiona, Sam and Joe at their house a few miles away. Dave and Shirley and their dogs were already there with their motor home to help with the preparations for lunch as Ian, Fiona and Joe were setting off for India early on the Monday morning.

We had a great day with them and a fantastically good lunch before saying farewell and leaving them to pack. James headed back to Manchester (poor lad had work on Monday) and Shirley and David followed us back to the campsite to join us for the rest of the week and we all met up for a meal in the evening before leaving the younger folk to talk into the small hours.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

20 family and three dogs go to the seaside - West Sussex

The title isn’t quite accurate because only 11 actually saw the sea but it appealed to me.
It’s always fun to get as many of the family together as possible, even if it does mean staying beside the sea in late October (in England). It’s not always easy as we are fairly scattered over two continents but we do manage it from time to time. We’ve never yet got all four children and their families together in one place and we didn’t quite manage it this time. Dave, Tara and Simon were busy at work and school in California and Jessica couldn’t take a week out of University to travel over from Kentucky but, as Vickie said afterwards, “We're so fortunate to have family we can miss."
This year we rented a cottage in West Wittering  in West Sussex for a week and managed to gather a total of 20 variously related folk and three dogs at various times. I’m not even going to attempt to say who is related to who as it doesn’t really matter and it might give you a headache.
First to arrive were Alan, Pat and Mac. We weren’t staying at the cottage but in our caravan a short distance away. We arrived on the Thursday evening, much later than planned and settled in for a reasonably early night as Alan planned to leave at crack of dawn to Heathrow to collect Vickie, Jay and Darvik who were flying in from Cincinatti.
Rosie, Mike and Dan couldn’t leave Plymouth till late afternoon due to school and work and planned to stop overnight in Bournemouth on the way and meet up with James (from Manchester) who joined us for the weekend.
All went well with the journeys and settling in, Rosie and family joining us on the Saturday morning.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Winifred Holtby, Rudston

Winifred Holtby was born in Rudston and was a writer. Her bestselling novel, South Riding, was written using Rudston as a backdrop. She was born in 1898 and died at the young age of 37 in 1935 and was buried in the churchyard. Sadly, she knew she was dying when she wrote the book and it was published after her death.

I read the book years ago but, sadly, can't find my copy now. It is back in print so I might be tempted. It gives a good view of life in 1930s England and her writing is superb.

Added later : Thanks to Rosie, I have a new copy of South Riding.

Rudston Monolith

Rudston is one of the oldest inhabited villages in England and lies in the Gypsey Race valley. There are square and round barrows with numerous Neolithic and Bronze Age burials. Unfortunately, many of the excavations were carried out in the 19th century and due to the methods of "archaeology" used, little remains of the content.
Rudston is also famous for its Monolith. It is believed to be the tallest standing stone in England, Weighing 40 tons and standing 25 feet tall with a similar length believed to be buried beneath the ground. It is 6 feet wide and 2 feet 3 inches wide at its base. The top is now covered with a metal cap to protect it from the elements. It is believed to have been brought from Cayton Bay, situated on the coast 20 miles away - around 4,000 years ago, for some religious reason. It may have once supported a cross of some description, which has long since, disappeared.
At least this time I remembered to take a photo of Alan to give a size reference.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Boynton - Turkeys before Thanksgiving

We spent 5 days just outside Bridlington on the East Coast of Yorkshire at a small village called Boynton. The local church is a fine Georgian building, probably about the fourth to be erected there with elements of the previous buildings - except the first which was built in the 11th century. From the photo of the interior, you can see that the altar is not at the end of the church, but set in a space with rather fine pillars enclosing the chancel. Behind this, a railing separates the mortuary chapel of a local family - the Stricklands.

So what about the turkeys?

William Strickland sailed to America with Cabot in the 16th century in search of gold. They didn't find gold but it is claimed (though I can't find anything to support the claim) that came back with the first turkeys to appear in England. So proud of this were the Stricklands that they adopted the turkey for their coat of arms in 1550 and a turkey appears on their monuments in the mortuary chapel.

The Lectern was actually installed in the 1930 in memory of Major Fred Strickland who was an engineer and involved in the development of motor car engines.

The family seems to have been populated by 'characters', including one who became a geologist in the 19th century and travelled as far afield as Africa and Asia in his search for fossils, only to be killed in a railway cutting near Gainsborough when he was too absorbed in the rock formations to notice the approach of a train!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Devil's Arrows

Since 1957 I have been travelling up and down the A1 which mostly follows the route of the Great Northern Road and links London with York and then Edinburgh. The Romans built the road and long straight stretches of it can still be seen, though it has recently been converted into a motorway along much of its length. When I say 'recently', I really mean that as Boroughbridge, where the Devil's Arrows can be found, was only bypassed in 1963 and now that road is superceded by a stretch of motorway.

So, I passed within yards of the Standing Stones without even knowing they were there!

They are three large stones of millstone grit which were erected somewhere around 2200 BC and so have stood as long as some of the Pyramids and belong to the same era as Stonehenge.

The largest is 22 feet 6 inches tall with about another 6 feet below ground and is over 4 feet on each side. The second is shorter and the third even shorter, though around 8. feet to a side.

As with all the standing stones and stone circles, no one really knows why people would go to the trouble of moving the stones over 6 miles from Knaresborough. The legend is that they were thrown by the Devil and aimed at Aldborough but he missed. More info here.

It's a shame that you can't see them all at once as the tallest one is on one side of a lane and the other two in a field behind high hedges. I forgot to take a reference shot to give a better view of the sizes so I've included one of Alan and Mac beside the tallest stone.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The best laid plans . . . One of us goes to the US

This is the first of a series of 'catch up' posts.

We had booked a holiday in the US, staying a few days in Chicago and then moving on to Santa Maria to holiday with Dave and Victoria and their families.

We took Mac (our rather elderly dog) to the kennels where he has been staying for years but he became distressed. The kennel owners know him well and he has always been happy there so we called the vet who thought he was probably confused (senility was mentioned) and prescribed a tranquilliser - Diazepam - and we delivered the tablets to the kennels with the instructions to call the vet if he was not OK in three days. If he hadn't settled by then, they would sedate him.

Then we went home.

I checked Diazepam on the internet and discovered our poor old Mac was on Valium!

So I decided I couldn't leave him in distress. He's fifteen and a half and I really felt he deserved rather more care than that promised. You may imagine the discussion which ensued! In the end I took Alan to the airport at 4 am and picked Mac up at 9 am. It took a week for him to wag his tail again and he is still, several weeks on, less well than he was before.

These are three photos of family. Alan took many more and, if you go to the contact page above,  I'll get him to send you the link to them - Warning. There are LOTS.

I was pretty devastated at not seeing the 'children' and grandchildren but don't regret the decision and know that Dave and Victoria understand. We took Mac on as a rescue dog from the RSPCA and he has repaid that with many years of devotion and love. I do believe that we have a duty to repay that at the end of his life and am sure I did the right thing.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

First stop in new caravan - Braunston

We picked up the caravan from Daventry last week and drove a few miles to Braunston to stay on a 'certified location' site at the Marina. These are sites licenced to take 5 caravans and are usually a field rather than an organised site with laid out roads and pitches - much more to our taste. In the picture, our caravan is on the left. Not exactly crowded, is it?

The other caravan belongs to Doreen and Tony, another retired couple who have been caravanning for 35 years. With their friendly help (including a welcome cup of coffee) we were soon set up and going "ooh" and "ah" at the clever way the caravan is organised.

Braunston Marina (see the website here) is on the Grand Union Canal and is home to 250 narrow boats. Coal was carried from here to London right up until 1970 by narrow boat, later than I had expected. A Google of 'Grand Union Canal' will give you more information than you probably want (!) but this site gives an idea of the extent of the waterway.

We were lucky with the weather until we came to pack up and a thunderstorm held us up for a while but it soon cleared and we came home with a long list of things to get and do before taking a longer trip. That will have to wait till we come back from America! More photos here.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Free at last! Graduation Day

Alan’s last day at work with Leeds Metropolitan was Graduation Day on 15th July. The perfect day to retire as the class of 2009 paraded in all their finery to receive their awards. After the formal ceremony, the celebrations get a bit chaotic but in the midst of throwing mortar boards in the air, Alan was presented with a scrap book of email messages and photos from past students and colleagues. His colleagues bought him a Windmate (for details see here). He does love his gadgets!

Technically his last day will be the end of the month but he had vacation owing so was able to finish early.

More pictures

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Goodbye Mr Quips - Alan Machin Retires

This image  was chosen by one of Alan's colleagues for the invitation to his Pre-retirement party back in May as exams finished and students prepared to leave Leeds Metropolitan  University for the Summer.

A large room above the Original Oak pub in Headingly was booked and over a hundred students, ex-students and staff spent the evening eating, drinking and, above all, reminiscing and catching up with old friends.

Stuart Moss has put up two videos on FaceBook here then if you press 'next' you will get a more general one. More pictures are here.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Lanhydrock, Cornwall

Lanhydrock is a National Trust Property in Cornwall and one of the best houses in the country for a visit. We went with Rosie, Mike and Dan and had most of the day there. The weather was lovely and it is well worth a visit.

They don't allow you to take photos in the house but the gardens are a photographer's dream. The rest of the photos are here

Charlestown, Cornwall

While we were staying with Rosie and Mike, we went to Charlestown in Cornwall. Built between 1791 and 1801 by a local landowner, Charles Rashleigh, and typically named after himself, it was intended as a port for exporting copper and coal. Later it was used for exporting china clay.

It is still unspoilt, though it gets busy in the summer. We went to the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre and were amazed to see an old Scarborough lifeboat.
For more photos click here

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Moskva Cheryomushki at Leeds Grand Theatre

We went to the opera yesterday evening – but it was an opera with a difference! I had some doubts about a ‘light’ opera by Shostakovich telling the story of a 1950’s Soviet housing estate and the machinations of bureaucrats but it was a light hearted romp with a great deal of topical humour. We enjoyed it tremendously.
Cheryomushki translates as Cherry Tree Estate and the re-orchestrated version we saw is titled Paradise Moscow. For more info on the production and Opera North, go to this link
There’s a great clip on youtube here
We’ve not been to the Leeds Grand Theatre before and were most impressed with the fine restoration. Rather than run the risk of plagiarising, I’ll just send you to this site to read about its history if you are interested. I just wish there were more photos.
We ate first at a little vegetarian cafe almost next door in the Grand Arcade (alas, grand no more). At first sight it looked doubtful with unmatched chairs and plastic tablecloths but it served a very good falafel (my choice) and Alan had mushroom stroganoff, thereby messing up my planned menu for today. It gradually filled with opera goers and we topped our meal off with apple and gooseberry crumble with custard. M’mm! Thank you for the recommendation, Andrew.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Getting ready for retirement

When we were young, gap years didn't exist so we are planning to have one (or two or three) at the end of our working lives. To give us maximum flexibility and keep costs down, we have bought a caravan and tour the UK over the next year or so. If it all works out well, we will then venture into Europe - beyond that, we are keeping our options open. More caravan pictures are here

The last few years of travel and happenings are still at Machinhome but from now on, new postings will be here.

With a lot of hindsight, I can recommend these posts now (2011).  We have tried to future proof the caravan so we can continue travelling as we get older and less active.

Adjustments in the kitchen and installing a TV bracket.

Automating the steadies – Pat’s creaky joints.

Power from the sun.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

A family visit to Plymouth April 2009

Just after Easter, we went to visit Rosie, Mike and Dan for a few days. Luckily the weather was fine and we were able to have one of Mike's magnificent barbecues. We also visited Lanhydrock and Charlestown, finishing our stay with a cholesterol raising breakfast at Cap'n Jasper's at the Barbican. For more photos see here.
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