Sunday, 28 February 2010

Books we read in February

Some people say (read this in Jeremy Clarkson’s voice and insert a pause and raised eyebrow here) that we have too many books. We don’t agree, though will admit Alan has had to mend a bookcase this week due to overloading it.

We've read :

'Churchill’s Wizards'  by Nicholas Rankin, published by Faber and Faber, paperback 2009  
As the blurb says ‘This is the story of how the British really won two world wars – by conning the Kaiser, hoaxing Hitler and using brains to outwit brawn’.  It covers the development of camouflage and the technique of sticking a dummy’s head over a parapet to lure hidden snipers in world war 1, right through to the deceptions (including inventing an entire army to mislead the Germans) which preceded D day towards the end of World War 2.  It is full of anecdotes and character sketches and uncovers stories which remained secret for decades.
Above all, it turned out to be a really good read. If you read these stories in a novel, you would say it was not true to life.
Pat read it. Alan started it.

'Ross Poldark' by Winston Graham, published by Pan 2008 (originally published 1945)
Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall from America in 1783 to find his father dead, his estate impoverished, and his girl engaged to his cousin.  This is the first novel in a series of twelve and traces the first four years of a saga which continues to 1820.  The depiction of Georgian Cornwall gives a good view of what real life must have been like and the characters are well drawn.  Winston Graham has an understated writing style which makes the story even better.It was televised in the ‘70s and was very popular in several countries, including the US.It was good enough that we have bought the next two books already, having lost/lent the series somewhere along the line.
Alan re-read it.

'On Basilisk Station' by David Weber, published by Baen Books 1993
This is the first in a series, known to aficionados as ‘The Honorverse’ after the heroine Honor Harrington. If you like your Science Fiction as a rip-roaring space opera, galactic in scale and with a strong heroine, this is for you.  David Weber makes no bones about the fact that the series, is to some extent, a tribute to C.S. Forester – Horatio Hornblower in Space.

As this is the first of the series, Weber has to spend some time explaining how the FTL technology works in his universe but he does remain consistent throughout the series and it is easy to follow, if you suspend disbelief – and you wouldn’t like Science Fiction if you couldn’t do that.
I have to warn you that, as the series progresses, Weber has no hesitation in killing off some of his more likeable characters and not all the books end on a happy note.  The books are best read in sequence and I strongly recommend that you start with this one.
If I were to say anything negative about the series, it is that there are too many explanations particularly of spaceship combat. It makes for dull moments with lots of numbers. On the other hand, his accounts do give a sense of the sheer distances in space.
The best place to find all about the series is at Baen Books, which publisher I highly recommend for contemporary Science Fiction.  You will find the first two books in the series for download in a range of e-book formats in the Free Library.  Yes I said FREE.
Pat re-read it.

'The Eagle of the Ninth' by Rosemary Sutcliff,  published by Oxford University Press, paperback 2004 (first published 1954)
Somewhere around A.D. 117, the Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana) marched north into Scotland and (so legend has it) were never seen again. Nearly 1800 years later, a wingless Roman Eagle was dug up at Silchester.
Rosemary Sutcliff wove the two stories together by telling the tale from the perspective of a young Roman Centurion Marcus Aquila and his attempt, 20 years on, to discover the fate of his father’s legion in Scotland and recover its standard.
Although it was written over 50 years ago, it stands the test of time and the geography can be traced through the Roman place names.  As for the history – well, 50 years on, we know that there are records of the Ninth Legion later than 117 and it is thought it met its destruction in the East of the Roman Empire.  The museum housing the Silchester eagle states that it "is not a legionary eagle but has been immortalized as such by Rosemary Sutcliff.”   She also assumed that the legion's title of "Hispana" meant that it was raised in modern Spain, but the title was probably awarded for victories there.
You will hear more of this tale in 2010 as no less than two films are being released based on the story of the Roman Army which crossed the border in a campaign against the Picts and the legend that they never returned.
One is ‘The Centurian’, which had the working title of ‘The Ninth Legion’.  This is directed by Neil Marshall who says it isa straight-up action thriller which just happens to be set in the 2nd century AD.
The second film is directed by Kevin McDonald and is called ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’.  It is supposedly ‘based on’ Rosemary Sutcliff’s book – we shall see.
Both films did some filming in Scotland so the Ninth Legion returned twice in a year after a gap of nearly 1900 years.  Not bad for a book that was intended for children.
We both re-read it.

We've also enjoyed this reproduction of an 1844 Panorama of London.  

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Stonehenge - A new Visitor Centre

We last visited Stonehenge in October 2009 while on our family holiday near Selsey.  I can’t remember exactly when I first visited but I do know it was on a walking holiday in the late 1950s, well before the current Visitor Centre and totally inadequate car park was established. 
About a dozen of us in our teens or early twenties, wandering silently among the stones under a threatening sky. Everything was dark and mysterious, the stones loomed above us and the only sound was the occasional harsh caw of a crow. It was a place apart. This kind of access ended in 1977 when the stones were roped off due to serious erosion and graffiti.

With any luck, I shan’t see that overcrowded Visitor Centre and rough, cramped car park again because we discovered when our English Heritage Magazine arrived yesterday that Wiltshire Council have approved the planning application for a new Visitor Centre which looks much better, but will involve a longer walk to the site.  The best way I can show you what is planned is to send you to this site and suggest you go to the ‘gallery’ which shows pictures of now and the future.

But don’t hold your breath. There have been many plans which have come to nothing. Now there has to be consultation for a new Traffic Regulation Order to restrict motorised traffic on the A344 – which runs right by the site, and to close two byways which are within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

As you can see, the A344 is a very busy road and the byways are popular with off-road enthusiasts so objections may scupper the scheme.  At least, this time, the funds have been confirmed as available.  Everybody, please cross your fingers.

Today, Stonehenge is on the primary tourist trail round Britain and was visited by 887,000 people, 50% of them from overseas, in 2008.  In 1961, English Heritage claims that 337,000 visited.  It is difficult to see how the mystery of the site, which silenced a group of young people in the late 1950s can be shown to these chattering hordes but they have as much right to see our heritage as anyone and English Heritage is trying.  That can only be good. There are more pictures at my album here.

The History of Stonehenge

Image licensed by Wikipedia Commons
drawn by Stephen Balfour Powell
The history of Stonehenge raises more questions than it answers. The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork (or Henge), with a ditch, bank, and the ‘Aubrey holes’, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are 56 round pits in the chalk, about one yard wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms and form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling and scientists are still arguing (nearly 350 years after they were discovered) as to their purpose. They show as the while dots on the plan above.  A few years later, a timber monument was erected.

The stones we see today were brought to the site from around 2500 BC. The inner circle of Bluestones come from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales, Some weighing 4 tonnes each, they were probably dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. If so, they were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury. That is nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. The original entrance of the earthwork was widened and the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.  For lively debate and alternative views on how the stones were transported, please see this site
I can only say “I dunno.”

There was an attempt, a few years ago, to bring one stone from Preseli but it failed and the stone ended up at the bottom of the Bristol Channel.  It was eventually recovered and is now in the Museum of Wales.

The third stage of Stonehenge, about 2000 BC, was the erection of the Sarsen stones, which were almost certainly brought from the Marlborough Downs near Avebury, about 25 miles north of Stonehenge. The largest of the Sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weigh 50 tonnes and the stones could only have been moved using sledges and ropes. The best calculations to date show that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the huge rollers in front of the sledge.

These were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels. Inside the circle, five trilithons (two upright stones with a lintel placed on top) were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, whose remains we can still see today. A tenon can be seen in one of the photos here.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Rhubarb Triangle - Protected Status

Appellation Controlee (d**n, how do you get an acute accent in Blogger?)

“Huh? She’s really flipped this time.” You are thinking. “The Bermuda Triangle, yes. Everyone has heard of that – but rhubarb?”

Well it does exist within 20 miles of our home in a geographic triangle between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford. Once there were hundreds of rhubarb farms, now there are twelve. We see the fields as we drive along the M62 but, what not many people realise is that the early, tastiest, sweetest rhubarb is transplanted, by hand, into long dark nursery sheds to be ‘forced’.

Workers harvest the stalks by candlelight to avoid damaging the young stems that are still growing – just as it has been done since Victorian times. Rhubarb was introduced in the 1800s from Siberia and flourished in Yorkshire’s cold and damp and, when the sheds were introduced, by-products of the woollen industry provided the fertilizer.

In the 16th Century it was imported and sold for more than the price of opium but it went out of fashion after the 2nd World War when more exotic fruits were introduced. Now it is back in fashion because it has only 7 calories per 100 grams and is a high source of calcium – what goes round, comes round.

Now, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb has been given Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union, just like Champagne. There is a BBC news item on the story, but I don’t think it is available outside the UK.  Sorry about that, but I don't think the BBC would appreciate me reproducing their news!

I sent the link to Alan via email (sad, but our studies are two floors apart) and his reply was:

'I really feel that anything involving being forced in sheds is on the dark side. This sort of thing is growing. It really leaves us in a stew. Society might crumble. Well, I suppose we might get acustard to it ........'

Sorry for the puns – that’s Alan for you!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Wainstalls - a Village School

When we were walking on the hills above Wainstalls on Saturday, we met a man taking photos who had been born up on the moor near Cold Edge Dam – about as high as you can get on the moor – and went to the school in Wainstalls village when he was five years old.  It must have been quite a trek for a little boy of five.  See this map for location. That got me thinking about the school, which is still there, and I found out some of its history.

The Elementary Education Act of 1870 established a system of ‘School Boards’ to build and manage schools where they were needed.  Only two fifth of children between five and ten were estimated to be attending school at that date.  There was some opposition to the idea of universal education  and it was not taken up everywhere – after all, if the working classes learned to ‘think’ they might revolt.  Most schooling for the poorer children had previously been provided by the various Churches, with grants from the Government who were reluctant to lose their influence.  Industrialists were keen, on the whole, arguing that a better educated workforce would improve Britain’s competitiveness.

By today’s standards, they set their sights very low.  Education would be provided from 5 to 12 years of age and the main thrust was to be the 3 Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic.

In 1876 a Royal Commission recommended that education be made compulsory and, in 1880, school attendance became compulsory between the ages of five and ten – though by the early 1890’s attendance within this age group was still falling woefully short.

Wainstalls School opened 10th January 1877 with 84 children, mainly part timers.  This meant that they worked, either in local textile mills or factories for the rest of the day.  I was surprised to read in the school log that by the end of January there were 221 children registered.  At this point there were two teachers including the headmaster!  Two local ladies helped ‘at times’ and monitors (older children) were used to teach the younger ones.

The population on the moors must have been much higher then.  We see the ruins of houses in the most unlikely places on the tops and some of the population would be itinerant labour brought in for lambing, shearing and haymaking, so student numbers probably fluctuated a fair bit.

On 2nd November the same year, the school was inspected by HM Inspectors of Schools ‘This is a new school, in a wild and neglected district, which lies at a great height and is terribly exposed in winter to snow and stormy weather.’ they wrote in their report.

The village is only 3.5 miles from Halifax but in 1886 the school log shows ‘Two wanderers from the moors admitted, 11 and 8 respectively.  Know nothing whatever but Aah!’

The local mills ‘imported’ orphans from Liverpool as workers and some attended the school.  That reminded me of a local gravestone which we photographed some years ago.  It is almost impossible to read the names but it says :

                                                   ORPHANS EMPLOYED
                                                         I & C CALVERT
                                       MARY ELLEN CLARK AGED 14 YEARS
                                            ALICE DEVITT AGED 12 YEARS
                                      ELIZABETH EDWARDS AGED 17 YEARS
                                           JANE JOHNSON AGED 12 YEARS
                           SARAH SHAW DIED MAY 17TH 1892 AGED 15 YEARS
                            MARY EMERY DIED JAN 22TH 1895 AGED 15 YEARS
                    ANNIE STEWART DIED MARCH 7TH 1895 AGED 16 YEARS

What struck me as most sad was that the first four children did not even have a date of death recorded.  About 100 children were recruited over several years  from 1879 and the last one still living in the village died in 1966 aged 88.  It seems terrible to think of children being uprooted and taken across the country to a strange place to work in a mill but it was considered a philanthropic gesture on the part of the mill owners to give these children a ‘fresh start’.

It was difficult to get the labour the mills needed at Wainstalls as there was no transport from Halifax – just a horse bus which ran once on Saturdays.  The children under 12 worked ‘half time’ (41/2 hours) and were fed, clothed, housed and given a few pence a week pocket money. Once they were 13, they worked full time - 56 hours a week, Monday to Saturday and had to attend Church on Sundays.  Philanthropy or cheap labour?  (cynical, moi?)

Now the school has 140 children in five classes, its own website with weekly newsletters and podcasts.  The pictures of the children on the website are of happy healthy youngsters and I can’t help wondering what the first Headmaster would think if he could see it now.  Wainstalls school website is here.  Scroll down to the bottom of the ‘About us’ page to open the history documents.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A Favourite Drive

Yesterday was sunny and the snow had all disappeared from here, so we took the opportunity to take a drive out instead of walking Mac locally.  Once we got higher up, near Queensbury, there was still snow on the fields and roadsides.  It’s an overcoat colder at Queensbury, as they say round here.

We drove through Denholme which is on the old Roman Road from Ilkley to Manchester, though, apart from one straight stretch of road which follows the line, there’s no visible trace of it now.  There’s no record of a settlement there in Roman times but, not far away, Roman remains have been found along the line of the road.

It’s not a pretty town as most of it was built entirely by the owners of the local textile mills for their workers, which means narrow streets with rows of small terraced housing of no architectural merit.  The mills have gone now and the site of one is a new housing estate, while the other is up for redevelopment and who knows when that will happen?  The only trace I could find of the family name of Foster, the mill owners, is Foster Park.

If you buy jewellery in a velvet lined box, there is a chance the velvet was made in Denholme at Denholme Velvets which has an international reputation.  I had no idea till I looked them up on the web that there were so many types of velvet made.

We drove on towards Keighley, turning off onto the road to Hebden Bridge and climbed over the moors to Pecket Well, now more a dormitory village above Hebden Bridge but once more important as the road we were travelling on was a coaching route and The Robin Hood Inn was originally a coaching inn dating back to the 17th Century. There is a legend that St Thomas a-Becket drank from the well.  Pecket Well was originally called Becket Well so maybe that is where the legend comes from.
No lambs yet
We turned off the Hebden Bridge road at Pecket Well and came back towards Halifax by the high road (lane, rather) that runs parallel with the Calder Valley.  This would have been the original road before the valley was cleared and settled.  It follows, in places, the route of an ancient track across the country which made a trade route from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Although the Ordnance Survey shows it as a Roman Road, it is certainly much older and Neolithic and Bronze age artifacts have been found along it's length, including above the village of Midgley. 

Taking narrow lanes with hairpin bends up steep hills, we climbed from Luddenden up to Wainstalls, parking above the village to walk along a narrow farm lane.  Up here, there was snow on the roads.  Coming from a much flatter landscape, I’m always struck by how the weather can vary up here in a relatively small area.

Above Wainstalls
It was the sort of day which makes me, in that moment, want to celebrate the winter weather.  Alas, that doesn’t last and we pulled back the curtains this morning to swirling snow again and have about another inch which is lying on top of ice.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Lionel Jeffrries RIP

We’ve just heard on the radio that Lionel Jeffries has died, aged 83.

In 1955 he appeared in The Colditz Story and in the science-fiction classic The Quatermass Experiment.  He will also be remembered for may other appearances, including  Blue Murder at St Trinian’s and The Wrong Arm of the Law.
For a lot of people he will be best known for his role as Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in which he was actually six months younger than his supposed son, Dick Van Dyke, who played Caractacus Potts.

I remember him best for his direction of the 1970 adaptation of E, Nesbitt’s classic The Railway Children, the film with the line “My Daddy, oh, my Daddy”  delivered by Jenny Agutter, aged 17 at the time,  it still gives me a lump in my throat when I hear it – despite watching the film with 2 generations of descendants and other assorted other young people.
I might be biased by the fact that The Railway Children was filmed on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway near here and that we actually knew one of the locals who was involved.
Keighley and Worth Valley Railway are preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Railway Children and more can be found here.

I wanted to confirm that I was not passing on a rumour and 'googled' his death, producing over 20,000 results already.  

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Crete - In Praise of Books

Every so often, I curl up and ride with Irma Kurtz on Greyhound buses across America, travel the very edge of Great Britain with Paul Theroux (or laugh at our British foibles with Bill Bryson).  I sometimes sail the Aegean Sea with Mimi Lafollette Summerville.  I may never do any of those exact journeys in the flesh but, in my imagination, I have been there -  thanks to the authors.

Sometimes, it works the other way.  I bought a new copy of ‘Aegean Summer’ in a bookshop in Heraklion and turned to the chapter ‘Cretan Interlude’ while having a coffee and read ‘Noon found us, as planned, at the Taverna in front of the Morosini Fountain.’  I looked up – and there it was.  I was sitting where the author sat with her family in the summer of 1965.

My interest in Crete didn’t start with a travel book, though.  It was Mary Renault’s first novel about Theseus, ‘The King Must Die’ that sparked my interest in the Minoan civilisation when it was first published in 1958.  At that time, most of the books I read were borrowed from the Public Library and I finally bought my own copy in Heraklion in 2005 when I fulfilled my ambition of visiting Crete and Knossos.

Books mentioned:
The King Must Die by Mary Renault
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson,  
The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux
Aegean Summer by Mimi Lafollette Summerskill 
The Great American Bus Ride by Irma Kurtz

My trip was a Christmas present from Alan and Jon.   As it happened, one of Alan's students came from Crete and her parents met me from the plane and took me to my hotel in Heraklion and said, quite casually, "You must come for dinner with us tonight."  This was all in a mix of their inadequate English and my even less adequate Greek!  I was a little reluctant to impose but, having sampled Greek hospitality before, I knew better than to refuse.

"We'll pick you up at 10 o'clock." To cut a long story short, they insisted in taking me out every night (at 10 o'clock) and each night I rolled back into the hotel at about 2 in the morning having been to a different restaurant and being the only non Cretan there. It ranged from large places - in one of which I was toasted with shouts of 'Manchester United' by a group of youngsters, who were celebrating their own success in a local league, to a small cafe where you could hardly raise your elbows but served the most gorgeous fresh seafood I have ever tasted. That was the one where a young man suddenly produced his guitar and played a succession of traditional songs and everyone joined in.

On hearing that Vickie (Alan's daughter) was getting married and I needed an outfit, the student's mother marched me off to a local boutique and I was treated to a hilarious couple of hours where I tried on various outfits and more and more women arrived and poked me and tweaked the clothes and expressed quite blunt opinions till I had chosen one which met their satisfaction. It didn't quite fit so the proprietor got on the phone and within 10 minutes a seamstress had arrived and I was wearing the dress, inside out, while she adjusted the seams with pins - with advice and comments from all the locals. Two hours later, it was delivered to the hotel, fitted perfectly and was duly worn at the wedding in North Carolina and was worn for many formal occasions after that.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Quiz Night

Some neighbours invited us to join them for a Quiz and meal at their Church yesterday evening.  Alan was keen. I was reluctant.  I ended up being glad I went, though.

My reluctance stems from working and socializing with very competitive people in the past.  You know, the sort - they get into a sleeves rolled up, arms waving argument and come near to fisticuffs with the Quiz Master over any and every answer they get wrong.

I’m not really all that competitive – at least not to the extent of wanting to win at all costs, but I do hate making a fool of myself and my brain processes are slower than they used to be.  I blame the unspeakably quick kids on University Challenge for giving me a complex.  I can often get to the answer if I’ve time, but give me a quick fire situation and my brain freezes.  I visualise Jeremy Paxman looking down his nose at me and snapping “Come on!  I need an answer!”

This quiz night was not anything like that.  I’m guessing there were about a hundred people there and some were local people we have not seen since the snow started before Christmas.  It was good to catch up with a few of them and wave to others across the crowded room.

There was lots of laughter and, although we did our best, we weren’t above putting in a facetious answer when we really didn’t know.  Fred Flintstone did a lot of famous things you didn’t know about and acted in some excellent movies.

Five rounds of ten questions before the interval when we stoked our brains with delicious baked potato and chilli in readiness for the second half.  A few glasses of wine helped, too.

Five rounds of ten questions after the interval went very quickly.  A good evening and I was surprised how late it was when we left.

Alan was on the team that won second place and, although my team didn't win a prize, we came in with a respectable score.

Thanks to Jackie and Martin for inviting us and to Ben who was an excellent quizmaster, and (last but not least) to the cooks.

Do you know how many colours there are on a Scrabble Board, excluding lines, letters and numbers?  No cheating, and I need an answer, now!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

We should-a brought a camera!

We went out up on the moors yesterday afternoon as the sun was shining for once.  Unfortunately, it didn't last and we drove through snow showers and watched them sweep across the valleys.  Still, it was good to get up high for a change and we actually went above the snowline - and down a no through lane, hardly wider than the car!

It wasn't a good day for photography but, when we got to Blackstone Edge Reservoir, we chorused our personal anthem - We should-a brought a camera.  The sun was glittering on the ice and it looked beautiful.

I couldn't resist going back this morning  (the sun was shining when I left) to take photos. 

It's not a large reservoir but was certainly necessary when it was built as it tops up the Rochdale Canal - which has 92 locks on it's journey over the Pennines from Sowerby Bridge (Just outside Halifax) to Manchester.  The Rochdale Canal was the first built to cross the Pennines and, if you are interested, it's history is here.

The only thing, I'll mention is that during World War II, barges were brought up from the canal and placed on the reservoir to deter the Germans from landing amphibious planes.  It sounds so unlikely but it is very high on the moor and not in a valley like most reservoirs.  The remains of the barges were found when it was drained for maintenance some years ago.

Although most of the snow has gone, it is still heaped up on the North side where the sun doesn't hit.

I would like to have gone round the side down a narrow road to take pictures of the length but the snow started again and I had a nice white jacket by the time I got back to the car.


I couldn't help thinking that this notice was a bit superfluous today!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The National Railway Museum

We visited the National Railway Museum in York.  I haven't been there since they had a big expansion some years ago and was most impressed
The engine above is The Duchess of Hamilton, built in the '30s and very fine.

The biggest disappointment was that the Flying Scotsman is still in small pieces waiting for the rest of the money to be raised for its restoration. In this economic climate, who knows when it will get done.

Possibly the most interesting section was the Warehouse.  All museums have stores of items they don't have room to display and this is no exception so they have opened up the store.  Thousands of items, big and small, are piled high round the room - everything from a warning notice that throwing stones at trains can be punished by 'penal servitude for life' to a chamber pot from the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras.

We highly recommend it - and entrance is free!  More details here

Friday, 5 February 2010

A family lunch

Alan and his brother, David, occasionally met for lunch in Derbyshire which sits between us in Yorkshire and David and Shirley, who live in Staffordshire. The Lamb Inn is a very good example of a real English country pub with small rooms, low ceilings and a roaring (and most welcome) wood burning stove.

It also - most importantly - serves fresh cooked food to a high standard, served by friendly staff. You can find a review here. No, I don't have shares!

When we got a reasonable day towards the end of January, we took Joy with us to meet David and Shirley for lunch. We must have enjoyed it because it took us over two hours to eat two courses.

It was a winter wonderland

When the snow started falling everyone was excited - A White Christmas! Then it thawed a bit, froze, snowed, thawed, froze, snowed (repeat ad nauseum) right up till the present moment. Now it's just annoying. Rain, sleet and snow is forecast for the weekend.

That's why we've been missing for the past few weeks.

The picture was taken by our neighbour, Jackie, through her bedroom window and shows the park opposite our houses before the children were let loose to build snowmen. Very evocative and capturing the wonder of the snow.

Now we are longing for spring.
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