Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Mousetrap

Last night Mike and I continued with a tradition begun very early in our marriage.  While we were living in Spain we took a week's vacation to London.  One evening we went out to dinner and were sat with another couple at a table.  They were on their way to the theater, as were we.  They had seen the play on their honeymoon 25 years before and were back to see it again as part of their anniversary celebration.  We were going to the same play for the first time:  The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie.

Many years later, we returned to London with the girls and took them to see this Christie classic.  Last night we went once again to the St. Martin's Theatre to enjoy this long running play.  Tradition.

The Mousetrap has never closed since it initially began its London stage run 62 years ago this past November.  In 1974 it did move from one theatre to another just next door but this was accomplished without missing a single performance.  To date, it has had over 25,000 performances in its initial run in London:  the world's longest initial run. 

The original producer estimated that the play would run for about a year and a half.  Agatha Christie herself estimated a run of eight months.  They were both surprised, and wrong.

The proceeds from the play were given by Mrs. Christie to her grandson.  Little did she know she was providing him with an income for life!

If you are ever in London, I recommend the play.  If you like who done its you are in for an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

We're Going to Take a Short Break

I know, I know.  I have been taking a short break for the last week.  But, that one you can blame on uncooperative technology:  our internet access was VERY poor and VERY intermittent.  This break is a planned break.  We are heading back to the US to visit family and friends and attend our grandson's third birthday party.  Never keep a grandma from her grandchildren.  It could get very ugly. :)

Today we parked our boat, all nestled in with the boats the Woods own.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we are heading to London.  We will play tourist until we fly out for the US on Wednesday.

Today, we packed and prepared the boat to be vacant for the next month or so.  Packing  was much easier this time than when we packed to come over. :)

I may be posting once or twice while gone but I will be back on track once we return, promise.

Fradley Junctiion

 We spent the last few days at Fradley Junction.  We had planned on going to the National Arboretum but the locks had been closed in both directions so there was no way for us to go.
 One of the mornings we were there there was a heavy hanging fog that lasted well into the afternoon.  It was beautiful.
 There were several boats parked at the junction in the same position we were in.  Waiting with no where to go.
 But who can complain, the view was beautiful.
 This is a picture of a farmer's field with almost two dozen swans busy eating his field of new crops.  I am sure the farmer is very happy.
The Swan, the pub at Fradley Junction, is one of the oldest ones along the canal and in the country.  Mike and I had lunch here just to say we had.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Planes, Trains and Narrowboats

Remember two of my new year wants:  more impromptu activities and more conversations with strangers?  Well, did they change things for us yesterday and in a very good way.

I had gotten leftover pancakes and corned beef hash out for breakfast.  It must not have tickled Mike's taste buds because before I knew it he was asking if I wanted to walk into the coffee shop in Whittington and have breakfast.  I loved the idea since a.) no "cooking" for me, although reheating is not hard labor :) and b.) no dishes to wash. Yippee!

So, on went the wellies and we headed out to walk to town.

Normally, we walk to the first bridge over the canal and then head into town by walking through a residential section.  (Added aside:  I discovered on one of these walks that garage walls here, even in what we would call track housing, are BRICK.  How classy is that!  I told Mike that if our garage had had brick walls I might have turned it into a studio apartment for a teenager or for myself at points. :) 

Any way, back to yesterday.  We decided to walk up to the third bridge and head directly into town and the coffee shop.  (This was the impromptu part .)

As we reached the third bridge we met up with a man walking his short haired terrier, Branston, and we struck up a conversation. (The conversations with strangers part.) As often happens, as soon as he heard our American accents he wanted to know what we were doing in England in the winter, how long we were staying, etc. 

While talking we mentioned our soon to be trip back to the US for a visit.  He asked what we were going to do with the boat for those weeks we will be gone and we mentioned that, due to unforeseen lock closures, we were still in the process of finding a marina  we could get to with room to house the boat. 

As it turns out, Bob (the once stranger) lived just across the canal as did his father and mother, Eric and Doreen.  They, too, own narrow boats.  Eric and Doreen had taken theirs to Europe for 4-5 years in their younger days.  Kindred souls.

Bob and Eric and Doreen have private moorings along their canal waterfront for their boats.  (Do you see where this is heading?)  Bob suggested that we moor our boat with theirs while we were gone.  As he said, it would save us money and they could keep an eye on it for us.

Before we knew it, we were across the canal meeting Eric and Doreen, discussing taking a narrow boat to Europe and sailing on the canals there, and being invited back for fish and chips that evening to meet some of their friends who are also narrow boaters. (Wow, that is one run on sentence. :)

Somewhere in all of this the decision was made that we would, in fact, leave the boat there while we are gone.  I am not sure, but I believe it was Eric who decided but it could have been Bob. :)

Fish and chips from the local shop was yummy and their friends, Bob and Doris (I think I have her name right) were very nice to meet as was the first Bob' s wife, Kim.  Everyone seemed to take it as normal that relative strangers should be joining them for a meal and parking their boat, too.  I have a feeling we are not the first boaters helped out in this way.  Wonderful people.

Well, I have to close now since I have to get ready to go over to Eric and Doreen's.  We have been invited for coffee.  Ain't life grand!

Oh, by the time we reached the coffee shop yesterday we ended up with lunch. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A View of Lichfield (Warning, this is a LONG one.)

For the last few days Mike an I have been parked at Whittington (we were waiting for a lock under repair to reopen; just found out it will be longer than expected because they encountered more problems than expected. We are now developing Plan B. )

Whittington is a nice village with two pubs, a coffee shop, a convenience store and a large military barracks and related facilities.  One day and you have seen what there is to see. :)

So, we decided to spread our wings to places further off the canal path.
We took one of the buses that pass through several times a day into Lichfield and spent many hours over two days exploring this medieval city.  As we were waiting for our motorized transport we got a chance to see a local couple enjoying an earlier form of transport.

Lichfield began as the sight of a first century Roman fort.  When St. Chad died in 672 AD a shrine to him was created and Lichfield became a religious center attracting pilgrims.
When Henry VIII broke with Rome the reprocussions were felt in Lichfield. The destruction of St Chad's shrine in 1538 meant the end of the religious pilgrims that had traveled to the shrine. That year the Franciscan Friary in Lichfield was also dissolved and the land and buildings moved into private hands.

The daughter of Henry VIII, Mary I (or Bloody Mary as she was also known), was devoutly Catholic and her goal was to reunite England with Rome.  Religious tolerance was non existant resulting in torture, and even the public burning at the stake of three individuals. The last of these took place in Lichfield on April 11,1612

  built between 1195 and 1249.

The first thing everyone MUST do is go to see Lichfield Cathedral.  It is the only medieval cathedral in Europe that has three spires.  Each spire represents one part of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The present building was started in 1195, and completed in 1249. Fifty four years to build a church so it would withstand the test of time. It replaced a Norman building which had replaced one, or possibly two, Saxon buildings.

Above is a notice still found as you enter the cathedral grounds.  A bit humorous in today's world but helpful if you just happen to be taking your cows or oxen somewhere.

 The Angel

Excavated in 2003and housed in the cathedral, the Lichfield Angel is a high quality carved limestone panel, which has been dated to around 800 A.D., and is thought to have formed the corner of a shrine chest, possibly that of St Chad. The carving depicts an angel, his right hand raised in blessing and the left bearing a leaf shaped/leaf decorated sceptre.


Also on display in the cathedral are the St. Chad Gospels,dated from about the year 730 AD making it slightly older than the Book of Kells. The book is a beautiful hand illuminated copy of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the early part of the Gospel of Luke. A second volume disappeared about the time of the English Civil War when the cathedral's library was plundered.Written in Latin, the manuscript has added importance due to notes in the margins of pages written in Old Welsh.  These notes are the earliest known example of written Old Welsh yet discovered and date to the early part of the 8th century.  It is believed the Gospels were created to become a part of the Shrine of St. Chad.

The Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in a field near Lichfield, is made up of over 3,500 items that have tentatively been dated to the 7th or 8th centurary in the time of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia placing the origin of the items in the time of the Anglo-Saxon. It is assumed that the items were buried by their owners at a time of danger with the intention of later coming back and recovering them. The quality of the workmanship is extremely high The hoard has been valued at over £3.285 million.  The cathedral displays reproductions of some of the pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard.

Flickr - portableantiquities - Hilt Fitting.jpg

Above are gold fittings, still waiting to be cleaned, three of which have both gold and garnet.
Cheek piece from a helmet. (To the right)

Above is a sword fitting with garnet.

Lichfield was  the birthplace of Samuel Johnson and the house is now a museum with period room settings showing how Johnson, who wrote the first English dictionary, would have lived there.

Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, also resided in Lichfield.  Erasmus was a physician, scientist, botanist (with a sizeable herb garden), inventor and poet.  It is easy to see who Charles took after.

David Garrick, a famous 18th century actor, playwright, producer and theater manager hailed from Lichfield and the city's community theater bears his name.

Moving on to more modern times, Commander Smith, the ill fated captain of the Titanic, was also a son of the city of Lichfield and a statue of Commander Smith can be found in one of the many park areas in the city.

Last but not least,  Ozzy Osbourne, the lead singer in Black Sabbath, was born in Lichfield in 1948.  To date, no museum or statue of Ozzy can be found in Lichfield. :)

The birthplace and Infant School of Samuel Johnson.

Authentic Tudor structures from the 16th century can be seen and are still in use today, 500 years later.  Many fine examples of Georgian architecture can also be seen.  And, to add to the charm, many of the streets are still following their medieval route of narrow, twisting and turning lanes.

Bishop's Palace Lichfield.jpg

 Cathedral School & Chapel

The Cathedral School, adjacent to the cathedral itself, is an imposing structure being used today as a co-educational day and boarding school.  It traces its lineage to the 14th century when Lichfield Cathedral made provisions to educate its choristers.

 The Hospital (as in hospitality) of St John Baptist (below) was built in 1495 as an almshouse.  It has provided shelter to the needy for over 800 years. Today it provides housing for senior citizens in need.  It is noted as one of the finest 15th century brick buildings in the UK.  St. John's Chapel, built in 1135, houses a magnificent stained glass window by contemporary artist John Piper who died in the 1990s.


St. John's Hospital is Lichfield's alms house and has sheltered those in need for over 800 years.  Today it provides housing for seniors in need.  It is noted for being one of the finest 15th century brick buildings in the UK.  St. John's Chapel, built in 1135, houses a magnificent stained glass window by contemporary artist John Piper who died in the 1990s.

Even fast food joints have some period charm in Lichfield. :)
However, charm or no charm we opted to eat in a small restaurant/coffee shop with more authentic period charm.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Big Yarn

Above is a photo of a narrow boat we saw on the canal yesterday.  It reminds me of the advertising we see on the public buses in Erie.

Note the difference in spelling for the word fiber.  Oh how I wish I had known about the differences in spelling between British English and American English when I was taking my elementary spelling tests. :)

Looking at all that colorful yarn makes me want to start crocheting something in nice springy colors.  Any suggestions?

If I went aboard would I find a boat full of yarn to explore?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A View of Tamworth

I have posted pics of some of the flooding in Tamworth but thought you might like to see some of the area that are not as water logged.

This is a view of a major shopping street as we approach the city.  I loved the mixture of the older buildings with the newer in the background right next to the view of the cathedral tower.  That juxtaposition is all over and is very charming.

Here is a closer view of the cathedral tower.  Doesn't it  look like there should be a princess living in the room just under the "ice cream cone" spires?  These ancient churches can be found all over in large and small towns.  It is quite awe inspiring .

This is a picture of the Tamworth Primary School.  This section is over 100 years old and still in use.  More modern wings have been added to both sides.  If you look closely, you can see a portion of the newer wing on the right hand side of the picture.  In the states this building would have been abandoned as a school long ago and a new one built that would, itself , have been replaced by now.  I love that they have not done that here.  Instead they have revamped it for modern needs and kept on using it.  A sense of living history for the children.

Below is the entrance gate to Tamworth's Alms House.  It was originally built by the same man who built Guy's Hospital in London.  He built the first section of the Alms House to provide housing for six women with no financial means to support themselves.  They lived there and used the land behind the building to grow their food. 
Later a wing was built for men who also grew their own food as part of the agreement allowing them to live there.

 The sign above shows you what the alms house would have looked like in the early days. The middle picture shows the residents' vegetable garden.  The picture on the right shows what the living space of each individual looked like.  It wasn't luxurious by any means but it was a roof over their head, a place to stay warm and a chance to grow food for themselves. 

This shows the alms house today.  As you can see, it has been enlarged over time to house many more individuals of limited financial means.  If you looked through the front gate you would see a large center courtyard with buildings on both sides opening onto the courtyard.  It is quite attractive and peaceful looking.  I told Mike I wouldn't mind living there (assuming the accommodations had been updated over time, of course :)

Flooding Update

These pics were taken two days ago.  By yesterday the benches were underwater.  After last night's rain I am sure the  water fowl have an even larger area in which to swim.

They are calling for freezing temps and snow this weekend.
Plenty of places to ice skate.