Category Archives: Travel

Living in London gives us the opportunity for a Grand Tour. These are some of the stories of our travels.

16May/15
Magheragall Parish Church

Dawsons of County Antrim

A little family history.

“Belfast?” Elaine’s always up for going anywhere new, but this was unusual. “Is it safe?”

“EasyJet goes from Luton and we haven’t been there yet.” I looked up the short report from Jeanette Youngman. “We may be able to go to Lisburn once we get there and look up a few headstones in Magheragall.”

“Oh, nice. And?”

“And after that we can do as you like.”

Perhaps as early as 1980 Jeanette sent me a report she had commissioned from a family research company in Belfast. She wanted to know the story of her grandfather, William Dawson 1857-1910. She had been to Belfast and visited a Ewart family there and they had been very hospitable. The names on the report were echoes of the names that Mum’s family had used in NZ.

DSCF1622 Magheragall Parish Church

Magheragall Parish Church

Briefly, James Dawson of Lisburn 1776-1829, had a son William Dawson 1821-1889. This William married Ann Ewart (1826-1898) in Magheragall Parish Church (above) in 1852. Her parents were John Ewart and Jane Kirk. They had married in the Magheragall Church in 1809. William and Ann had 9 children one of whom was Richard Dawson 1855-1925, his immediately younger brother William Dawson 1857-1910 and his immediately younger brother James Ewart Dawson 1860-, and finally Thompson Dawson, about 1863, all of them born in Magheragall parish. William Dawson 1857-1910 was my maternal great-grandfather, as well as being Jeanette’s grandfather. So Jeanette (nee Dawson) was the same generation as my mother. By going on this visit to Belfast, I had an opportunity to seek out just a little of the story of William and his family.

My great grandfather, William Dawson, emigrated to New Zealand, where he met and married a Northern Ireland girl, from Lisnacloon, which is as far west as one can go, called Marguerite Matthews, after whom my mother was named. One of their sons was my grandfather, James Ewart Dawson and my mum named me after him. She called me Ewart, she said, because she didn’t want me called Jim. Mum always told me that William had left from Lisburn, which was close to Belfast.

We walked straight through Belfast International Airport, no passports asked for, and caught the 200 bus to the Central Bus Station. We had to take our bags to the Welcome Centre because our hotel wouldn’t store them. Something to do with security. Why the Welcome Centre would store them and not the hotel escaped me.

“The weather report said that it would rain all weekend, so a nice sunny morning like this might be the best chance to photograph a church,” I said to Elaine.

You pick up the bus for Lisburn from the Central Bus Station. No 51. As the bus left the station, on our right hand side was a huge notice painted on the end of a terrace house:

“You are entering Loyalist territory…” I missed the rest.

Are they still doing that?

Magheragall is just a church and a hall. There are no houses clustered around it as you might expect in a village, and the front door was locked, but there were the headstones and we examined all of them for Dawsons and Ewarts, eventually finding and photographing all of the ones in Jeanette’s report. The headstone on the left is for my ggg-grandfather, John Ewart who had married Jane Kirk in this church in 1809.

John and Jane Ewart headstone, Magheragall Parish Church

John and Jane Ewart headstone Magheragall Parish Church

Close to the door of the church was this headstone, right, which the report thought could be my ggggg-grandfather. It lists three generations of the Dawsons of Magheragall: James b1776, Richard b1802 and James b1820. This headstone, then, took my family back to living in this district since 1776

 

Richard Dawson headstone in Magheragall Parish Church

Richard Dawson headstone in Magheragall Parish Church

The report wasn’t at all sure who William Dawson 1801-1855 was, in the picture on the left, but he was memorialised along with his wife Jane and two infant children. I had no opportunity to find out where Killultach Cottage was. This is the inscription on the base of the left-hand pot.

William Dawson headstone.

William Dawson headstone.

The undated and unnamed Ewart headstone, right, is adjacent to John and Jane Ewart’s headstone above. We can safely assume whoever these parents were, they were John’s children and that his grandchildren raised the memorial.

Ewart headstone

Ewart headstone

Thompson Dawson, who died in 1937, was a brother of Mum’s grandfather, William 1857. You can see, then, that this family was still in Magheragall until at least 1994.

Thompson Dawson headstone.

Thompson Dawson headstone.

I don’t know who Thomas Lewis Dawson was, but this grave shows quite an extensive familial pattern in the parish, and also underlines how recently there was Dawson presence in the district. I have no certain knowledge, but it would not surprise me to find Dawsons still living there.

Thomas Lewis Dawson grave.

Thomas Lewis Dawson grave.

We were intrigued to see this sign pointing down a narrow lane that ran under a disused railway bridge from the road immediately in front of the church. “Her Majesty’s Prison” surmised Elaine. While we were there, several cars ran down the road, or emerged from it.

Sign to Maghaberry Prison

Sign to Maghaberry Prison

I stood for a long time reading and thinking about the first headstone we had seen. James Dawson, the father of the Richard Dawson who had erected the headstone, had been born in 1776. Richard had thoughtfully, perhaps even reverently, named his son after his father. Suddenly, the Dawsons had stopped being a mystery; my family had quite deep roots in County Antrim. I wondered where they had originally come from.

Some history from the Linen Building Library

In the Linen Building Library in Donnegal St, Belfast, the following morning I found some of the answers, courtesy of “The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland” by John P Prendergast, 1922.

According to Prendergast, Henry VIII lost power over the English born in Ireland, and wrestled back control of Ireland by beheading the House of Kildare (English aristocracy) for treason and enacting legislation that allowed only the Privy Council to sign into law any Bills passed by the Irish parliament.

In an area of land in the north, called the Pale, the inhabitants were of English descent, Protestant, and loyal to the Crown. Beyond the Pale, English authority was considerably weaker. Henry sent in loyal English families (Protestant, of course) to own and farm the land and to strengthen his hand. The problem was, since he was himself in a war with the Pope over his attempt at divorcing Catherine of Aragon, and since he had declared himself Protestant in order to sideline the Pope’s authority, he was now weakened in his own authority over anyone still loyal to the Pope and the Catholic Church. In one of those peculiar quirks of history, at that moment a parallel universe was born. Events moved on elsewhere, but the Irish in the north continued with Henry’s War.

He handed the work onto his heirs and Elizabeth 1 encouraged soldiers and “Adventurers” to take up land in Ireland. Prendergast’s appendix showed a James Dawson taking up land as an adventurer in the Baronetcy of Iffa and Offa in about 1640. This district is in northern Tipperary and is close to the border with County Antrim. It would appear he is our ancestor. I didn’t find out anything about the Ewarts, but they probably share the same story, since Ewart is a Northumbrian name, of Saxon origin, living in the Scottish Borders; sometimes English, sometimes Scottish. William Ewart Gladstone, Prime Minister of England, was fond of saying there wasn’t a drop of blood in his body that wasn’t Scottish. I did, though, find a William Ewart and Son Ltd, Flax Spinners, in Ewart’s Place, off Ewart’s Row, off Crumlin Rd, Belfast, in the 1950s. In 1979 the factory disappeared and between 1980 and 1989, the area was allowed to run down. In 1990 Ewart’s Row was no longer listed in the Belfast Street Directory. There is or was (I didn’t find it) a Ewart’s Warehouse in central Belfast.

I was sure that in the report to Jeanette there was an address for William’s brother – somewhere in Belfast. I re-read the report. Richard had joined the Royal Irish Constabulary as a 20-yr old, and so had William, aged just 18½ yrs. He was dismissed in 1881 and arrived in New Zealand not long after. I don’t remember Mum telling me any stories about Richard, but given that William called one of his sons James Ewart Dawson, and that was the name of his immediately younger brother, then William certainly did not forget his family back in County Antrim.

I determined to find the address: 41 Fairview Street, Belfast. Richard had lived there from 1911 to 1925, said the report, as “Richard Dawson R.I.C. Pensr.” I asked the hotel’s breakfast chef where Fairview Street was.

“I don’t know,” he said, “but I’m 1000% certain the name no longer exists.” I went back to the Welcome Centre and the chap there gave me a Belfast city map.

He looked at it very closely, “It’s not here,” he said, “but I’m pretty certain that it was off the Crumlin Road. Go up to the Mater Hospital and ask at the information desk. They’ll know where it was.”

“Crumlin Road? Isn’t that something to do with the Troubles? The Loyalists?”

He turned away. “Ask the Mater, they’ll know.”

An introduction to the Troubles

Outside, it was teaming with rain so we leapt into a taxi and asked him for Fairview Street.

“I’ve never heard of it,” said the driver, “and it’s not here in the directory.” He waved a small, tattered book above his head. We asked him to take us to the Mater Hospital, and he knew where that was.

I asked at the desk just inside the double doors of the entry to Mater Hospital and the lady there said, “It doesn’t exist any more, but it used to be directly across the road from the entrance doors.”

I went back to the entrance doors and looked across the road, but there was only a steel wall. We paid off the taxi and went exploring, crossing the road and going left. A grand neo-Victorian (if there is such a word) chapel sat across the road, next to the Mater. A sign alongside me said Fairview Nursing Home; we were near.

Blue Murals across the village green.

Blue Murals across the village green.

We followed a road between the nursing home on our left and a brick wall on our right and descended a gentle slope that swept off to our right. As the road levelled out, we saw quite a large village green and terraced houses. No trees. Two end terraces had blue pictures on them and one directly in front of us had an orange picture.

Walking along Old Lodge Road.

Walking along Old Lodge Road.

I realised with a sudden chill that the orange picture had two gunmen on it and as I got closer I could see that the whole was a mural, a memorial to a Steve McRea. Alongside the memorial was a modified version of a WW1 anti-war poem that I had grown up with. “Age shall not weary…” I was shocked. Fancy pressing a nearly-sacred work into a turf war such as the Troubles. I walked around the green, wondering if I was attracting undue attention, especially hostile attention, and I hoped my South African hat, and the camera, would provide assurance that I was a visitor. A house was flying an England flag, and the two blue murals were about oppression and ethnic cleansing. It was very intimidating.

A middle-aged man walked across the green and I approached him. “Do you know where Fairview Street was? I understood it was around here.”

He stopped and looked at me carefully. “You see that house with the English flag? It went from there up to the Mater. Why?”

 

Fairview Street was here.

Fairview Street was here.

“My great-grandfather’s brother lived at 41 Fairview Street from 1911 till about 1925. He was a sergeant in the RIC.”

“Umm, it’s been gone a long time, but that’s where it used to be, I’m sure of it.”

I turned around and photographed the house with the English flag. The Royal Irish Constabulary had become the Royal Ulster Constabulary and that was the basis of the existing police force in Northern Ireland.

A much older man was walking his dog in the rain. I thought he would know more about the street. Perhaps he had even walked in it. I asked him the same questions.

“Fairview Street? You see that house with the English flag, it went straight up to the Mater Hospital from there. That street between us and those houses was called Old Lodge Street, but it’s not now, and there were quite a few streets that ran from there up to the Crumlin Road.”

I stopped to think. “The Crumlin Rd?”

“Up there,” he said pointing past the house with the English flag.

“You mean the road in front of the Mater Hospital? Isn’t the Crumlin Road something to do with the Troubles? Is it the Loyalists?”

He looked at me in the pouring rain, brushing aside my offer of an umbrella. “You’re standing in the middle of it.” He waited until he saw my face clearing from the shock. “This is called the Hammer.”

“This village green?”

“The Hammer. Your Fairview Street, and quite few others, used to run up the hill to the Crumlin Rd from Old Lodge Road. There used to be hay carts and goods wagons running along Old Lodge Road, but you don’t see them now. The houses there got old and eventually they were pulled down and those new ones were put up in their place, but the street layout was changed to slow down access to the Hammer.”

“And Steve McRea?”

Memorial to Steve McRea.

Memorial to Steve McRea.

“Oh, he was drinkin’ at the Club just behind us one night and one of the boys pulled out his gun and shot him. That boy still lives here.”

“He wasn’t killed by the Republicans?”

“No! He was killed in a bar-room brawl and I could show you the house of the lad who shot him. He was killed by his own neighbours.”

“How do you feel about these murals? The atmosphere here?”

“It’s a bit much, isn’t it?” he said. “I don’t like it at all.”

I looked at the terraced houses and their pristine white curtains, “This might not be quite middle class,” I said, “but it’s certainly not a slum. I expected the Troubles to be taking place in the burnt-out wreck of a smelly hell-hole. But it’s quiet and there are children being taken for walks.”

I stopped as Elaine joined us and he was happy to share her umbrella. “There is a sign beside the Steve McRea mural that says ‘Anyone caught defacing Loyalist murals will be seriously dealt with’ how do they feel about that?”

He tapped a cream brick wall we had been sheltering beside, “There used to be a mural on this wall, but the new owner came out one morning and painted it over. There was a bit of a fuss, but nothing much. More mutterings than actual talk. If you can’t sell your house, you have to redecorate it.”

“Do you think the Good Friday agreement has finally settled the Troubles?”

“Once Ian Paisley joined the party, the Troubles were over.” He paused for a moment and whistled up his dog. As he climbed into his car he added, “If Tony Blair hadn’t gone to Iraq, this might have been his finest hour.”

I showed Elaine where Fairview Street used to be, using the house with the English flag as the marker. “My great-grandfather William, and his brother Richard were both in the Royal Irish Constabulary,” I explained. “Richard lived here, off the Crumlin Road in the very heart of the Troubles. How much and what sort of a role did he play?”

Elaine murmered quietly through the purr of the rain on her umbrella, the water glistening grey on her cream coat. “William had a job in the RIC in Sligo,” she said. “Jeanette said he was dismissed very young and shortly after went to NZ. I wonder why he was dismissed? Did he say yes and do something terrible, or did he say no, and they fired him for that?”

We roamed the nearest houses, documenting the murals. A small group clustered under their umbrellas and examined a mural of a Royalist soldier being comforted as lay dying, with his spirit on a white charger dancing on the water, in a hurry to leave and claim his reward from God.

The history lesson.

The history lesson.

A few thin trees waited, leafless, for spring.

The primitivist murals with their emotional re-writing of history and violent appeals against ethnic cleansing were nevertheless sobering and even intimidating.

On one wall, a severed and bloody hand crawled ashore with Viking warriors in the background cheering it on as they prepared to land in their fighting ships. The Red Hand Brigade was pictured everywhere.

Red Hand brigade mural.

Red Hand brigade mural.

It must have been a comforting thought for the locals that they were protected by such a malignant force, or perhaps it was one of the methods used by the force itself to ensure compliance and silence from the homedwellers.

The story on the painted brick wall below accompanies the mural on the house alongside. They claim they are being attacked on a daily basis and that’s why they have had to set up the Vigilanty (sic) groups to defend themselves.

Mural explanation

Why we have set up vigilante groups.

The scroll alongside the picture of the burning terrace houses quotes the Belfast Telegraph: “Several hundred familys were forced to flee their homes last night as houses came under attack from republicans. The number of homeless is running into Several thousand, more people were moving out of riot areas today. The women and children have been offered shelter in Cities across the world. Security forces moved in to bring calm to riot areas.

End of terrace mural, quoting the Belfast Telegraph.

End of terrace mural, quoting the Belfast Telegraph.

Below is an end of terrace mural showing the development of the Ulster paramilitary forces. The figure in the middle top, in the balaclava, is the pinnacle of that evolution.

End of terrace mural.

End of terrace mural.

This last pair of pictures shows a painted brick wall that explains the establishment of the Ulster Defence Association.

UDA manifesto mural.

UDA manifesto mural.

I am not familiar with all the symbols on the house below, but I recognise H block from the Maze prison, just outside Lisburn. It was almost exclusively Catholic prisoners who were held there, so I am unsure of the message of this mural.

UDA mural.

UDA mural.

We decided that we were wet enough and cold enough, and that our cameras had taken a sufficient beating, for us to retreat to the city by taking a bus from near the Mater. We walked back to the Steve McRea house because it looked as though that street led back up to the Crumlin Rd. I stopped a postie, “The building with all the pillars on the corner up there?”

Crumlin Rd Courthouse and Crumlin Rd Gaol chimney.

Crumlin Rd Courthouse and Crumlin Rd Gaol chimney.

He looked up the hill.

“Do you know what it is, please?”

“It was,” he said with heavy emphasis, “the Crumlin Rd Courthouse.”

“It’s pretty posh, isn’t it?”

“It’s not used now. And no-one’s bought it. As part of the Good Friday Agreement, they gave up using this courthouse and only use the one in town. They used to try prisoners in the courthouse and then take them by underground tunnel to the prison.”

“Prison?”

“Do you see the chimney? It belongs to the Crumlin Rd Gaol. They used to hold mostly IRA prisoners there. Mind you, Ian Paisley was there for a while.”

“This is a loyalist area but they held IRA prisoners in the local jail?”

“It’s closed now, too – part of the Good Friday Agreement – and they are trying to turn it into an arts centre with caffs and such-like. The prisoners from here all went to a new prison in Marghaberry.” He paused. “Mind you, most of them aren’t prisoners any more, either.” He pedaled off.

The Crumlin Rd Prison. I’d heard stories; they were dim echoes of violence, contempt and political manoeuvring.

I remembered Marghaberry; the side-road going under the bridge opposite Magheragall Church. Elaine was right.

We walked up the hill and I photographed the prison building before we crossed the road to see it more closely, and to catch the bus back into the city. It was at once menacing and beetle-browed but at the same time massive and self-assured in its Victorian brownstone solidity. It was like Mt Eden Prison – heavy and overpowering and yet, now that it is vacant, it’s not something that should immediately be destroyed. It has its own organic beauty. A perfection of form and function.

Crumlin Rd Prison.

Crumlin Rd Prison.

Was the chimney solely for coal-fired heating?

The courthouse building opposite, with its grandiose statues of British Justice, looked faded and care-worn. Why was it not possible to sell it, or to buy it? Perhaps the weight of its history was crushing the very stones it was built from. Too pretty, too colonnaded, too self-important; a busy modern world wants nothing of it.

On the bus, I took out the Belfast city map that the man from the Welcome Centre had given us and we had a look at where we had just been. I have reproduced a small portion of the map and you can see Belfast city is bottom right, so this area of the Troubles is west and north-west of the city. The Crumlin Road runs west, along the blue route for a while. Immediately above it on the extreme left of this map is the Boyne. You remember the battle of the Boyne. King James 1 (of the King James Bible) won a famous battle for England here and ever since the Loyalists have been indulging in marching celebrations in full summer. The brown road is the Shankhill Rd and it marks the boundary between the Protestant Loyalists and the Catholic Republicans. South of the Shankhill Rd to the purple Falls Rd is the Belfast Republican stronghold. Two adjacent neighbourhoods who refused to get on.

Map of West Belfast

Map of West Belfast

The Mater Hospital is shown on the map, but not the Crumlin Rd Gaol. I couldn’t help thinking – what was Richard doing all this time? For ten years or so he lived in retirement on Fairview St, in the very heart of the Troubles. His job as a policeman would have brought him into daily contact with both sides. Probably in conflict, also, with both sides. How did he cope? What did he do? What did he think? Did he work for peace?

Still a little shocked but without doubt very wet and quite cold, we called in to a little cafe alongside a row of bus stops and in full view of the Town Hall. We had to share a table and some beautiful leather loungers with an attractive young girl in a blue dress who said she was at Queen’s University. “So you have a genuine local accent?”

“I come from just out of Belfast, but I think it’s pretty close,” she grinned.

“Is it holiday at the moment?” Elaine asked. “You’re not in class.”

“I don’t always attend class – I also do charity work, helping others cope and giving them counselling. I don’t work for money.” She stood up and brushed the crumbs of her dinner onto the floor. “God provides,” she said with breathtaking innocence. “I never go hungry. And I always have a roof over my head.”

I turned around as she left. A young goth, whom I had noticed arriving, had been joined by what looked like his mother and some of her family. So goths have mothers.

A Belfast goth.

A Belfast goth.

I couldn’t resist. I walked up to the group and asked if I could take his photo. He nodded. They were intrigued. I took the photo and they saw the result in the camera viewer. The sky blue background and the shy young goth with his tattoos, black clothing and facial piercings were all so much in place in a major European city. After the head-turning madness of the Troubles, normalcy seemed so refreshing.

The crumbling of Fairview Street

I felt that I had one more job to do, so I returned to the Linen Centre Library to see what I could find out about Richard’s stay at 41 Fairview Street, and then to see when and how Fairview St ceased to exist. The tousled-headed, skinny young man on the library desk waved me through, recognising me from the previous visit. I took the 1901 Belfast Street Directory from the tall glass cabinet and hefted its bulk onto the oaken table where I had sat last time. The directories were tattered and time-worn, but most of them were there, judging from the dates stamped on the leather bindings of their 4” wide spines. 41 Fairview St was easy to find, since all the streets were listed in alphabetical order. After I had tried a few books, I could open them at about 1/3 of the way in and turn just a few pages to get to Fairview St. Richard wasn’t there in 1901, so I skipped to 1905 and he wasn’t there, either. Then, in 1910 there was this entry:

Fairview St

41  Dawson R RIC pensr

I checked every year and he was there until 1920, when I noticed that his neighbours had changed. Perhaps they hadn’t, but I saw the kinds of people who lived around him. At 1, 3 and 51 there were other RIC men, and I discovered it was quite a short street, too, because the numbers went from 1-51 and that included both sides of the street. There was a slater, a carpenter, a grocers asst, a shopkeeper, cattle dir (drover?) and a waiter. He was there in 1922 and all the way to 1925. In 1926 I noticed there were policemen at 1, 13, 19, 51, 6 and 8. He was there still in 1927 and then the entry changed for 1928:

41 Dawson Mrs Mary Jane

Was that his wife or his daughter-in-law? The 1929 directory was missing but the entry for 1930 was the same as for 1928. In 1931 the directory noted:

41 Short Wn Gardener

Perhaps Mary Jane was his wife and she, too had died.

I skipped to 1965, and all the properties from 1-51 were occupied, so I skipped to 1975. By this stage it had a British Post Code: BT13 1AU, but the listing was quite ominous: 1-53 were vacant and 2-56 were vacant ground. I took this to mean that all the houses on one side of the street were derelict and no longer inhabited, if even habitable, and that all the other side of the street had been bulldozed. In 1976, all the lots were vacant, again in 1977, again in 1979 – and then in 1980, the street name itself was missing from the directory. Fairview St was gone.

I showed my notes to a tall, greying man who had been ferrying books to and from a shelf not far from me, his green trousers and harris tweed jacket catching the corner of my eye as he moved about. We could have been in London, rather than Belfast. “What’s that all about? The vacant houses and then the vacant land.”

“Three kinds of relocation,” he explained in the kind of accent I had heard from Ian Paisley on the television. “You could volunteer to relocate and you’d get a new house somewhere else: you could get burned or bombed out of your house and the aut’orities would find a new one for you: or you could just go somewhere else and leave the whole thing behind.”

“Like New Zealand, or New York?”

“Precisely.”

And do you think of Northern Ireland as Ulster?

“Ulster and the Loyalists? The first thing they wanted was Home Rule because they didn’t want to be run by an absentee government in Westminster. Then when it came near, they realised that Home Rule meant being run from Dublin and they decided they didn’t want that, so they made it look as though the British Government was pushing them out of Britain, where they rightfully belonged. So now they wanted local rule, and they appealed to an area called Ulster as their homeland. Thing is, Ulster includes counties in Ireland, and Northern Ireland has a different boundary from that which would correctly be Ulster.”

“They just made up the rules as they went along,” said a much shorter man who had joined us “and took whatever suited them.”

“Calling themselves Ulstermen suited their political purposes,” said the first man tiredly. “I’m glad it’s over. Look how the city is prospering.” He looked again at my notes, “Fairview St? Off the Crumlin Rd?” I nodded.

“There is a long stretch of the south side of the Crumlin Road where they cleared away everything. But first they had to vacate all the houses. Leaving them to rot was the perfect way of clearing them out.”

He moved off. They had finished talking to me. I could feel that they had generated quite a bit of passion, and I thanked them and left.

The young man at reception nodded as I dropped off my pass.

The wounds are still raw. The hurts still hurt, but the citizens of Belfast warm to the present, look to the future and turn their backs on their violent past. The parallel universe has finally converged and Henry’s War is over.

Ewart Tearle

May 2008

14Apr/15

A Visit to Gallipoli; April, 2015

By Ewart Tearle
8 April 2015

The dual carriageway from Istanbul to Eceabat is long and winding and takes the best part of five hours driving. The countryside is green and pleasant with a patchwork of fenced fields on a wide and gently rolling landscape, sometimes resembling the Waikato, with its grassy green paddocks, and sometimes looking like Hertfordshire where knots of tight forest capped low rises. Small villages of unkempt cottages with broken tiles on the roofs told of rural poverty, little mosques with one dome and a single minaret lent romance to the valleys.

A little village mosque.

A little village mosque.

“We are travelling the coastal highway of the Gallipoli Peninsula in the Province of Canakkale,” said Kubra, our beautiful guide on the minibus to Eceabat, a slim young Turk in a wide-skirted brown trenchcoat that swept to her knees, her hair covered with a silk scarf that framed a face of peaches and cream with dark eyebrows over brown-green eyes. “All of the peninsula falls within the province.”

She looked through the bus window towards the sea thirty or forty metres below. “The houses between us and the sea are holiday homes, that’s why there is no-one in them.” For many miles the two-storied houses, with their tightly shut windows and locked doors, their sun-powered water heaters sticking out of their roofs, stalked up and down the slope to the sea, a few hundred metres away, waiting for the holidays. The rural cottages had no such sophistication. We saw very few people, even in the villages – and no stock of any sort.

In Eceabat, we found TJ’s Tours; it was they whom we had asked to take us to the ANZAC battlefields of the Great War. Genevieve had recommended them.
“Why are you going there?” our English friends had asked us.
“Because we are Kiwis,” we’d say.

When I was a Boy Scout, from about the age of fourteen, every ANZAC Day, on the 25th of April, I had been a member of the guard of honour around the Cenotaph in Rotorua, head bowed in the dark, foggy cold of a 6am start while small, old men honoured their lost friends with wreaths and tears. It was called Dawn Parade. There were soldiers from the Boer War, from the First World War accompanied by a small contingent of nurses who had served on the battlefields with them, and a larger section of men and women in uniforms of soldiers, sailors, air crew and nurses who had served in the Second World War. The deeply sad wail of a single bugle sounding The Last Post hung in the eerie silence while the grief-stricken sobs of women my mother’s age were muffled in the coats of their friends. New Zealand had paid a terrible price to help the British Empire in its hour of need, and the first realisation of how high that price might be was told early in the First World War, in a place called Gallipoli.

I had known the name all my life, but I couldn’t have told you where it was. I knew we’d fought the Turks, but very little else, in the way I knew we’d fought the Boers, and we had died in our hundreds in the trenches of Flanders, but apart from graphic monochrome photographs I had no conception of what and where those things had happened.

Gallipoli is a place apart; it is a finger of land pointing south-west from that small part of Turkey which is in Europe, parallel with the mass of Turkey that is Asian. The deep trench of water between Gallipoli and Anatolia is called the Turkish Straits. It leads from the Aegean Sea, and it is divided into three parts. The first part is called the Dardanelles, that flows into the Marmara Sea, which narrows at Istanbul and becomes the Bosphorus Strait and that in turn widens into the Black Sea. There is a surface current that takes water from the Aegean Sea to the Black Sea, and a deep, cold counter-current that takes water from the Black Sea back to the Aegean.

Gallipoli is a very small piece of land, yet 250,000 Allied forces fought there, along with 280,000 Turkish during a campaign that lasted barely 250 days. The figures are notoriously unreliable, but the maths would indicate that around 2000 men per day were killed or wounded, along a three-part front line that stretched for less than fifteen miles. At times the Turkish front line was only eight metres from the Allies.
We New Zealanders were the British, too, in those days. When I was at school, we learnt English history and British geography. We could see on wall maps of the world the scale of the empire of which we were a part. All that area coloured in red was British and that included us; our grandparents had come from Britain, and the New Zealand and Australian soldiers who signed up in WW1 and WW2 did so for the honour of defending our Homeland. When Britain joined the EU, they cut themselves off from us and put up trade barriers. We had to find our own markets, make our own way in the world and decide who we were, and what was most important to us. The Australians and the British troops, in two World Wars, had called us Kiwis, because of the Kiwi boot polish all New Zealand soldiers were issued. It was a term of friendship, of comradery, and gradually we adopted it over perhaps other choices. It helped that our national bird is also a kiwi.

Our Tour of the ANZAC Sites.
There are five cemeteries of particular interest to the New Zealand visitor to Gallipoli; Chunuk Bair, Ari Burnu, Lone Pine, Hill 60 and Twelve Tree Copse, of which Chunuk Bair is the most important, and there are other places where New Zealanders are buried or memorialised. But before you can go to Chunuk Bair you must pass through ANZAC Cove, as more than 8500 New Zealand troops had to do before you. To start with, the beach is tiny, much smaller than the beach you see in the photos of the 3,100 New Zealanders who landed there on the first day, because the current is removing the beach, pebble by pebble.

ANZAC Cove and North Beach.

ANZAC Cove and North Beach.

There is a little promontory, called Ari Burnu, a short curve of beach, then a short straight before the view widens out onto North Beach and you can see up to The Sphinx, a tall overhang of sandstone that towers above the beach. If you were an ANZAC soldier, at this moment you would be exposed to the full force of Turkish fire over a wide hillside that towered above you. The ANZACs hid behind a low sandstone cliff on a narrow, pebbly beach wondering what on earth had hit them.

The Sphinx from North Beach.

The Sphinx from North Beach.

The objective of the first day of the Gallipoli landings was Chunuk Bair. The ANZACs finally captured it in the last few weeks of the campaign, and held it for just three days. It was the only objective of the entire campaign that was attained. When Mustafa Kemal took it back with a huge force, that was the end of the Gallipoli Campaign. The entire force of Allied soldiers had moved barely six kilometres inland.

Elaine and I walked the short distance along ANZAC Cove, the sea licking at our feet. We each picked up a pebble, a little limestone memento before the sea swept it away, and headed back to the assembly point for the ANZAC Day commemoration, a grassy area surrounded by red tiered seating that looked out over the Dardanelles from whence had come the British sea-borne landing for Turkey, one hundred years ago.

“In a few days time, on the morning of the 25th of April,” said Aykut, our Gallipoli guide, “10,500 people will be here to commemorate the ANZAC landing.” He was a stocky Turkish man with intense black eyes, a ready smile, impeccable English and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Gallipoli Campaign. He stood before us in a red jacket, blue jeans and a brown leather hat with a wide brim. He waved his arms over the sea of red seats and the grass at our feet. “You will not find a square foot to stand on if you do not have a ticket. Don’t worry about the seats, this grass beneath our feet will be fully occupied, too. Then, when the first ceremony is over, everyone will join with the Australians at the Lone Pine Cemetery, and when that is over, everyone goes on to join the Kiwis at Chunuk Bair.”

ANZAC Cove is now its official name.

ANZAC Cove is now its official name.

He looked at a new stone structure barely high enough to serve as a seat, with the word ANZAC written in bold bronze capitals. “In 1985, the Turkish government renamed this beach to its wartime name of ANZAC Cove because the Australian and New Zealand governments asked us, and because there is now an Ataturk Park in Melbourne, a plaque in Albany, a plaque in Canberra and the Ataturk Memorial in Wellington. We, too, call this day ANZAC Day. Gallipoli was as nation-building for us as it was for you.”

We visited the Ari Burnu Cemetery, just a few metres away. I looked closely at the British-designed sandstone monument beyond the lines of headstones for the first time. It had a wide base and a tall centre decorated with a cross. In the lowest portion of the monument were carved the words “THEIR NAMES LIVETH FOR EVER MORE”.

Ari Burnu Cemetery

Ari Burnu Cemetery

Many of the headstones here recorded the deaths of these young men on the first two days of the landing. There were men from the Wellington Regiment, the Otago Regiment, the NZ Mounted Rifles and the NZ Medical Corps. The Australians mostly came from the 2nd and 8th Australian Light Horse. The plaque explaining the cemetery noted that the lines drawn up on the first day of the landings were largely unchanged until the end of the campaign, and that 2000 men died on the first day. The Waikato Times of 22 April 2015 noted that of that number, 200 were from the Waikato, Waitomo and King Country.

Close to ANZAC Cove was a sandstone monument with raised lettering containing some thoughts written in 1934 from the victorious general, who had become president of Turkey. His name was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; he was called “the father of Turkey,” hence his name, Ataturk.

He began:
“THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOOD AND LOST THEIR LIVES….
YOU ARE NOW LYING IN THE SOIL OF A FRIENDLY COUNTRY.”
These extraordinary words took my breath away. Whoever heard such sentiments from the leader of a country towards those who had attacked him?

Ataturk's message at ANZAC Cove.

Ataturk’s message at ANZAC Cove.

I wanted to find out if Turks really did feel friendly towards New Zealanders. I had my South African stockman’s hat on and it looked remarkably like a New Zealand soldier’s hat from WW1. The Australian hat was turned up on the left side, so they were easy to distinguish from the Kiwis. If the Turks were actually hostile towards the Kiwis, rather than friendly as Ataturk had declared, then I would soon know, and I would have to stop wearing my hat.

TJ’s bus took us to Lone Pine Cemetery. The shocking thing about the Gallipoli Campaign was how few soldiers were found in order to bury them. Only a hundred or so have marked graves at Lone Pine Cemetery, and a few have “Believed to be buried here” headstones. The rest of their names, 4,222 Australians and 709 New Zealanders, are on wall plaques, some cut stone, and some engraved brass. Plaque after plaque of closely-packed names, usually organised by regiment, battalion and rank. A lone pine does exist; a plaque reminded us the existing pine was grown from a seed of the original. The monument has a remembrance book which we signed “To our Australian cousins, because we promised never to forget.”

Lone Pine Cemetery.

Lone Pine Cemetery.

The next stop was Chunuk Bair. Only a few bodies were found, and we counted just ten headstones, all New Zealanders.

The ten NZ graves on Chanuk Bair.

The ten NZ graves on Chunuk Bair.

There were again the serried ranks of names on plaques, of men who served in the Auckland Regiment and the Wellington, Christchurch and Otago Regiments, as well as some who served with the NZ Navy and the Medical Corps and the Wellington Mounted Rifles.

Wellington Mounted Rifles names on Chunuk Bair

Wellington Mounted Rifles names on Chunuk Bair.

This photograph came from Elaine’s collection of photographs and includes the name Lance Corporal L M Natzke.

A huge bronze of Ataturk with a tall flagpole towered over the NZ memorial, one arm across his chest holding his binoculars, and the other holding a swagger stick behind his back, as befits the victor.

Ataturk guards Chanuk Bair.

Ataturk guards Chunuk Bair.

Recently recut trenches traced the lines down which Turkish forces and their supplies moved.

The trenches on Chanuk Bair.

The trenches on Chunuk Bair.

In a large clearing on the hilltop, four huge curved stones told the story of the Turks of Chunuk Bair on significant days in their desperate struggle to keep their country.

The ANZAC assault of 6 August is repulsed.

The ANZAC assault of 6 August is repulsed.

The plaque with the translation of 6 Aug 1915 assault.

The plaque with the translation of the 6 Aug 1915 assault.

One look over the brow of the hill to the land below was enough to show even the casual onlooker of the huge advantage the occupation of the top of the hill had for those who could keep it. Stripped of its vegetation, the view down the hill to those trying to climb it was panoramic and clear. No-one could move without the lookout seeing it, and the field of fire was almost total. For that reason, many of the most important troop movements in the campaign had to be completed during the night, with understandable confusion over battle orders, due to units becoming lost in the darkness.

The view from Chunuk Bair.

The view from Chunuk Bair.

Hill 60 Monument.

Hill 60 Monument.

We moved on to the Hill 60 Cemetery. The bus pulled over on a straight stretch of road and the driver pointed to a dirt track just wide enough for an SUV, but not for a bus. The sign on the side of the road pointed the way to Hill 60, almost directly in line with Chunuk Bair high on the horizon. To its left as we viewed it, and 20m higher, was the rounded dome of Hill 971.
The cemetery marked the last major assault of the Gallipoli Campaign. In eight days 788 Allied soldiers were killed, for no real gain. Of those soldiers, 182 New Zealanders have no known grave.

We walked up the track. Hidden behind the bushes that overhung the track was the now familiar form of a British memorial, enclosed in a field barely a third of an acre in size. We were looking specifically for a Richard Roland Jones, whom Dos Mark of Otorohanga had asked us to find. Elaine had found him listed  with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and finally here we were. None of the surprisingly few headstones mentioned him. Elaine said that Dos’ grandmother’s brother was never found; he probably did not have a headstone. She found his name on the memorial itself in the Auckland Mounted Rifles: Trooper Jones R. R.

Jones RR, the last name on the Auckland Mounted Rifles Hill 60 Memorial.

Jones R. R. the last name on the Auckland Mounted Rifles Hill 60 Memorial.

Jones R. R. closeup.

Our last visit to the ANZAC sites was to Twelve Tree Copse, where 179 New Zealanders are recorded. They were killed in the Second Battle of Krithia and on the Helles front during May and July 1915 and “whose graves are known only to God.” No-one else was visiting the site, and Elaine and I photographed some New Zealand and Australian headstones. The writing on the now familiarly shaped memorial was fiendishly difficult to read in the available light.

The memorial at Twelve Tree Copse.

The memorial at Twelve Tree Copse.

John Henry Tearle – The Hertfordshire Soldier

“Do you know anyone who was killed at Gallipoli?” our friends would also ask. Indeed I did, and he was the main reason I wanted to go to Gallipoli. His name was John Henry Tearle, from Hertford, a lance sergeant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. His name was on the Helles Memorial because he was fighting in a British Regiment. It may seem odd these days, but before 1922, all service in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland was called Home service and did not count for service medals or pension. John Henry was not fighting for or even with the Irish; he was fighting with the British. The Inniskilling Fusiliers were recruiting in Hertfordshire, so he joined them. The irony was that because he did not join the Hertfordshire Regiment, his name is not remembered anywhere in Hertfordshire as a Great War soldier and casualty.

Port Hill Bengeo - last terrace on right, now part of number 69.

Port Hill Bengeo – last terrace on right, now part of number 69.

Elaine and I had visited John Henry’s home in Bengeo, a short climb up a steep hill that looks down on the A414 as the highway snakes its way through the heart of Hertford. The house was an end terrace with a door and an upstairs window. It probably had no toilet and no running water. John Henry, his sisters Florence and Jane, and his grandmother Harriet Tearle from Soulbury, in Buckinghamshire, were so poor, they had spent time in the Hatfield Union Workhouse, as late as 1896. I think he thought that working in the army would at least give him a paying job. He was reasonably successful, too; lance sergeant was a good few steps up the ranks. Notice of his death on Gallipoli at only twenty-eight years old, was given to his mother, still resident in the terrace house pictured above. Large numbers of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers had died with him.

The Helles Memorial.

The Helles Memorial.

We arrived at the Helles Memorial, which was a beautifully built sandstone obelisk towering over the landscape and giving a view over the Dardanelles. On the map we had, it was called the Ingiliz Helles Aniti. A sign said that this memorial has the names of 25,000 servicemen who died in the Gallipoli Campaign. We three were the only people visiting it. After the busy scenes at the other memorials, it was a shock to realise that no-one seemed to know that so many young British soldiers had given their lives, and they had been forgotten. We were pleased we had come.

I gave Aykut the envelope containing everything I knew about John Henry – the photos of his house, his short military record, the file from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the plan drawing of the memorial – and he studied them all closely. He went off towards the near wall of the monument and stopped at the far end. He looked towards me and said nothing. He had found John Henry. He moved off when I arrived and I stood, head bowed for a short while, and paid my respects.
“He died on 29 June 1915,” said Aykut, when I joined him. “He would have been fighting in the Battle of Gully Ravine. It was very hot. It always is in June. The battle was on 24-28 June, so he would have died of his wounds.”

John Henry Tearle on Helles Memorial.

John Henry Tearle on Helles Memorial.

“If he died of his wounds,” I queried, “wouldn’t he have been buried? He is on this monument because he could not be found and buried.”

“He only had to be in a field hospital a few hundred metres from the front and if there was a delay of just a day or so to get his body to a more rearward position, then he would have been left behind, and he would never have been found and identified.” He paused. “So his name is on the memorial. Most of the men killed on Gallipoli, Allied and Turk, are still lying in this earth, unknown and unidentifiable.”

The Turkish Heroes
In order to inspire their troops, a nation needs heroes; ordinary men who did an extraordinary thing. There are two who stand out above all else. One is recounted by General Casey, who became Lord Casey, Governor General of Australia. An English officer lay wounded in the no-man’s land between the Turkish and British front lines. The fighting was fierce, and no-one dared to leave their trench to rescue the officer. From the trench in front of them, someone waved a white flag and after a moment, a Turkish soldier stood up, climbed out of his trench and walked towards the English officer. He calmly picked him up, and to the astonishment of all, he carried him to the British trench and handed him down to the waiting men. The soldier walked back to his own trench and jumped in. There is a huge statue near ANZAC Cove of a Turkish soldier carrying an English officer. The soldier’s name was Mahmetcige Saygi. For such gallantry on the battlefield, may his name live forever.

Mahmetcige Saygi and the English officer

Mahmetcige Saygi and the English officer

The second ordinary man was a gunner in one of the 12 forts the Turks built to guard the Dardanelles. His huge nine-inch gun had been firing at British warships all morning, and it was struck by a shell from the naval bombardment, destroying the crane that carried live shells up to the gun’s breach. Corporal Seyit Onbasi carried three 275kg shells up the ladder to the gun. “One of those shells hit the rudder of the battleship OCEAN,” said Aykut, “and she drifted onto the mines guarding the shore, destroying her.”
“Two hundred and seventy-five kilograms!” I exclaimed. “That’s an enormous weight.”
“All done on pure adrenalin,” said Aykut calmly.

Cpl Seyit Onbasi carries the shell to his gun.

Cpl Seyit Onbasi carries the shell to his gun.

The Turkish Memorials.
A three-times lifesize bronze of a Turkish soldier with a bayonet attached to his rifle guards the carpark and market of the cemetery for the 57th Infantry Regiment.

A soldier of the 57th Infantry.

A soldier of the 57th Infantry.

It is famed nationally for two reasons; this was Ataturk’s regiment, and it won the Gallipoli Campaign, having fought on the peninsular for the full length of the war.

The plaque detailing the acts of the 57th Infantry.

The plaque detailing the acts of the 57th Infantry.

The headstones lie in ordered ranks along the hillside, but Aykut warned me that they marked no grave.

A headstone for a soldier of the 57th Infantry.

A headstone for a soldier of the 57th Infantry.

“All those who were recovered are buried in a mass grave to the right of the memorial,” he told me.

“A mass grave,” I repeated slowly. “The dead soldiers were each rolled into a shroud and lowered into a pit, side by side.”
Aykut nodded.

“And then earth was spread on them and another layer was added?”
He turned sadly away. “The names of those in the mass grave are written on stainless steel pillars lying on the ground at the bottom of those steps.”
He indicated a set of honey-toned sandstone steps behind me. I turned and followed them, busy with visitors, down to see the names. I stood shocked at the scale of the disaster.

Turkish names at the Memorial of the 57th Infantry.

Turkish names at the Memorial of the 57th Infantry.

On the way back I met an old man working his way slowly down the steps and I wordlessly took his elbow to ensure he didn’t fall. He stood and looked at the silent memory of so much death and breathed a deep sigh. As I helped him back up the steps he said, “Where do you come from?”

I said “New Zealand,” but it meant nothing to him. “Kiwi,” I tried.

He broke into a smile, “Ah! Thank you! Thank you!” He shook my hand, and a younger man took over and led him gently towards the steps leading to the memorial, where hundreds of people were viewing the magnificent spectacle and quietly checking the names on the headstones.

DSC_3598 Gateway to Kesikdere Sehitligi

Gateway to Kesikdere Sehitligi – the memorial to the 57th Infantry Regiment.

I was browsing the market in the car park when a young woman in a formal black suit stopped beside me and asked me where I came from. She said she was from Turkish Television, and at the foot of the Turkish soldier, she and her cameraman interviewed me on why I was in Canakkale. I don’t know if it was ever aired.

The second great memorial is in Helles, not far from and in plain view of the English memorial where we had found John Henry’s name. It is more than 41m tall and it is called the Canakkale Sehitler Abidesi. It is the national symbol for the Gallipoli Campaign, in the same way that Chunuk Bair is for us. From the bus park we walked past a plaque with Ataturk’s 1934 message to all those who had died, slightly different in wording from that at ANZAC Cove, but obviously a translation of the same document. For the next hundred metres of the walk through tall pine trees, there were row upon row of glass pillars with perhaps a hundred names engraved on each of them. “64,000 Turkish soldiers are listed here,” said Aykut.

64,000 names of the Turkish National Monument to the Canakkale Campaign.

64,000 names of the Turkish National Monument to the Canakkale Campaign.

We walked towards the impressive monument, and noting that no-one was walking on the grass towards it, we followed the track beside the trees that showed the way.

 

Turkish National Monument to the Battle of Canakkale.

Turkish National Monument to the Battle of Canakkale.

As I arrived close to the monument, at the top of a few stairs were four men who looked long and hard at me. I stopped and lowered my camera, in case they thought I was photographing them.

“Where are you from?” asked a man wearing a cloth cap, who stood in the middle of the group. All of them were much shorter than me, and had thick, heavy overcoats and grey moustaches. “New Zealand,” I offered tentatively.

“New Zealand!” shouted one of the group. He turned excitedly to the others, who had gathered around him. “Kiwi!,” he shouted. They all turned round, ran the few paces to me and surrounded me. The short man pushed his camera into my hand. “Photo,” he said. I sat my camera down on the grass nearby, took the man’s camera and photographed the men standing proudly in front of their national monument. The short man came back to me, “Photo,” he cried. They stood either side of me and put their arms over my shoulders. The fourth man took a photo. They changed places and took another photo, then another, and another, to ensure each man was in a photograph with the Kiwi. It was a wonderful experience. I picked up my camera and shook hands with each man in turn, grateful to be accepted, as Ataturk had intended that I should be. I had learnt a great deal about the Turks.

I continued towards the monument, trying to fit its massive size into a single picture. I saw a bas-relief of Corporal Seyit Onbasi again, photographed it and then walked up a few steps into the bulk of the building. Three young Turkish lads crowded around me.

“Where are you from?” The tallest of the three, perhaps as young as 17 years, with a sallow complexion and close-cropped hair, looked at me intently.
“Kiwi,” I said, missing out the formality of country.
“Kiwi!” They yelled in unison. They sat on the steps in front of me. “My name is Kagan,” said the tall one, solemnly. I wrote the word in my diary. “Nice name,” I said. “I’d like a name like that; it has a ring about it.”
“This is Emir,” he said with a smile, waving his hand to his left where sat a younger boy with long dark hair. “And this is Utku,” he said motioning to the young Turk in a brown sweatshirt on his right. I checked the spellings with each of them, wondering why they wanted to introduce themselves. The crowd of visitors swirled around us noisily. “Why are you here?” he asked.
I pointed in the direction of the Helles Memorial for the English, “I have visited a member of my family whose name is on that memorial.” I paused. “Why are you here?”
“Because it will be the 25th of April.”
“And you call it ANZAC Day. So do we.” If he was worried about the differences between us, they vanished.
“Selfie, selfie,” said Kagan, standing tall and beaming broadly. He produced his smartphone and took a quick snap of himself with me. “Me too, me too,” cried the others and they crowded even closer.
“Can I use your hat?” Kagan asked. I gave it to him and he gleefully pressed it down onto his head. I thought, what have I done? Is that the last I have seen of my hat? He lifted the smartphone again and dropped his arm around my right shoulder. I could hardly move. He was pressed against the stone pillar and I was pressed against him by Utku; his arm was draped over my left shoulder.
“Me too, me too!” Emir’s long black hair pushed under my arm, between my chest and Kagan, his dark brown eyes shining with excitement as he looked up to make sure he was in the shot.
“And me, and me!” A pretty blonde girl whom I had not noticed at all, with a swirl of green something – a jersey or a blouse or a skirt – flung herself onto the step in front of me and knelt down to see herself in the smartphone. Kagan took the selfie two, perhaps three times, to the delight and high amusement of everyone in the vicinity. They all stood up. Kagan took off my hat and gave it to me. I dropped it on my head. He was laughing and crying and showing the picture he had taken to anyone who wanted to see it. He turned back to me, stopped smiling, and held out his hand. “Thank you, thank you,” he said solemnly. He shook my hand with both of his and then each member of the group did the same, including the girl in green. I was very, very impressed with the Turks.

Some Explanations
The Turks do not refer to Gallipoli, the word is an anglicisation of Gelibolu, the Turkish name for this peninsula, so the word means nothing to them; they refer to this battle as the Canakkale Campaign, or the Battle of Canakkale. The word is pronounced Chen-ark-alay, with the stress on the middle syllable. The name is everywhere, and Aykut pointed out that Chunuk Bair (bair is a hill) is actually a corruption of Canakkale, and should say Canakkale Bair; the hill from which you can see Canakkale. The town itself is on the other side of the Dardanelles, directly opposite Eceabat.

Lifesize tableau of life in the trenches - found in Eceabat.

Lifesize tableau of life in the trenches – found in Eceabat.

While we were in Eceabat, and again while staying in Istanbul, we saw an incredible number of ships passing by or at anchor, and being joined by more with every passing hour. Many of these ships would put WW1 battleships into frigate size in comparison, but every now and again we would see a ship so large it dwarfed everything in sight. Even then, this gargantuan vessel was still travelling in excess of twenty knots.  When you see this volume and majesty of shipping in the Dardanelles, and in the Marmara Sea, waiting their turn to proceed, then you appreciate what the Turks were fighting for.

When we visited Chunuk Bair, I was late for the bus and Cemal came looking for me. She was perhaps twenty-five years old, quite tall, with long dark hair framing a serenely beautiful face highlighted by deep, dark eyes in a honey complexion. She had a red leather jacket over a blue jersey and shiny new Spanish ankle-boots. She had joined us from Eceabat and she had told us on the bus that she was attending two universities, one to study public relations and the other to study Turkish. She wanted money to pay for her tuition, and she wanted to improve her English, so now she was also a trainee guide, learning her country’s history at the same time. It was clear to her I was not heading for the bus.

“Where are you going?” She asked. I pointed through the trees to the huge Turkish stones with the stories on them and we threaded our way through and over the trenches that had been cut into this hilltop by an earlier generation of young men of about Cemal’s age.

“There is a big worry in our country that the government is removing all the changes that Ataturk made for us,” she said. “This is a country where everyone is a citizen and there is no special treatment for any religion.” I recognized the definition of secular. “But the government is passing laws to change that. Ataturk would not have liked it.” She paused as we were about to jump a trench. “I have a tattoo.”
I stopped my headlong flight to the stones. “A what?”

Elif's tatoo

Cemal’s tatoo

She rolled up the sleeve on her right arm. “It is Ataturk’s signing. He is my hero.” On the clear white skin of her forearm was indeed Ataturk’s signature. “Everyone who wants Turkey to be governed as a modern state has a copy of this somewhere so people can see.”
“A tattoo?”

“No, the writing might be on their car, or on their house. We love our country; many, many young men died for it and they died for Ataturk. We want our country to go forward as Ataturk wanted it to.”

Her earnest vision was clear and beautifully expressed. Elaine and I had received nothing but good will from all the Turks we had met. I hope that in a troubled world, she, and her country, manage to negotiate the churning seas that lap at its shores.

Update

The New Zealand Herald of 14 April 2015 reported that Wellington and Canakkale had signed a sister city relationship. The Turkish ambassador to New Zealand, Mr Damla Yesim Say noted:
“All the fallen in Gallipoli are our grandfathers, and we are proof for posterity that people who once fought as enemies can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder today in remembrance of their grandfathers’ sacrifice, and in celebration of their friendship.”

Some figures

Elaine and I are from the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty respectively. From the towns and villages with which we are most familiar, here are some figures of the fatalities of World War 1, printed in the Waikato Times of 22 April 2015:

Hamilton 222
Morrinsville 10
Otorohanga 58
Paeroa 3
Piopio 19
Te Kuiti 30
Waitomo 1

“A few over 100,000 New Zealanders sailed to join the First World War. Of those 18,000 were killed and 40,000 were wounded.”

In 1914, the total population of New Zealand was 1.1 million.

Post Script

Elaine and I stayed in Istanbul for more than a week and visited the ANZAC sites of Gallipoli during April 2015, the centenary of the ANZAC landings, to discover the relationship we had with the momentous events of the Gallipoli Campaign. We found family members who had died there, and we found men from other families whom we hadn’t expected to come across.

What we never anticipated was the unabashed friendship that was extended to us when ordinary Turkish people met us and realised we were Kiwis. I told three stories above that illustrate this, but there were many, many others.

Our stay in Turkey was a revelation, and my one of my objectives in publishing this story is to express our deep gratitude to TJ’s Tours of Eceabat and his staff who worked tirelessly to ensure we were given every opportunity to explore Gallipoli to the fullest extent possible in the time we had.

18Mar/15

The Gold Coast, Australia

For a final treat after the 2011 Tearle Meet in Brisbane, Ray and Denice took Elaine and I on a whistle-stop tour of the Gold Coast. It was breathtaking. We loved every mile. Here are some pictures of that memorable journey.

Life on the Gold Coast - boating from city to city

Life on the Gold Coast – boating from city to city

Ibis - an icon of the Coast

Ibis – an icon of the Coast

Highrises on the coast road, Surfers Paradise

Highrises on the coast road, Surfers Paradise

Relaxing on the Gold Coast - there’s a hamper full of tinnies in the sea

Relaxing on the Gold Coast – there’s a hamper full of tinnies in the sea

Cheekie little chappie on a restaurant table

Cheekie little chappie on a restaurant table

After a hard day’s surfing, you take the taxi back to shore

The beach at Surfers Paradise

The beach at Surfers Paradise

The lifeguard’s hut

The lifeguard’s hut

Balmy days of glorious skies and calm blue seas

Balmy days of glorious skies and calm blue seas

Even the public seating is a statement of the lifestyle

Even the public seating is a statement of the lifestyle

Windsurfer

Windsurfer

Centaur Remembrance Walk

Centaur Remembrance Walk

The end of our trip along the Gold Coast was the Queensland-NSW border. At this point, there is a lighthouse containing a brass strip which marks the border exactly, and a memorial walk. Along the guardrail that overlooks a precipitous drop to the sea are small plaques, one for each of the ships that have been unfortunate enough to founder along the Queensland coast. We looked for the ship which had brought Elizabeth Cooper Cooper and her new son, Egerton, to Australia, the Scottish Prince, but we could see no sign of her. She is nowadays a dive wreck in Moreton Bay, not too far from Brisbane itself. I wonder if Elizabeth called her son Egerton Burleigh, after this place? Because this is Burleigh Heads.

Burleigh Heads Lighthouse

Burleigh Heads Lighthouse

The end of a truly memorable day. Ewart with Ray and Denice Reese near the capstain of the Centaur on the border of Queensland and NSW. The memorial is also, or perhaps is primarily, a lighthouse.

The end of a truly memorable day. Ewart with Ray and Denice Reese near the capstain of the Centaur on the border of Queensland and NSW. The memorial is also, or perhaps is primarily, a lighthouse.

The last memory of our day belongs to a fabulous creature: about a mile out to sea, a pod of whales threw huge plumes of spray into the air and lunged and porpoised in the waves. On a warm evening in Australia, walking and talking with our family and friends, life could get no better.

Thank you Ray and Denice for the invitation, for your time and your generosity, and thank you Deborah and Doug for your very kind hospitality. We wish all our Australian cousins the very best that life can give them, and we look forward to meeting any of you here in England.

17Mar/15
Fuente la Cibeles Madrid

Madrid, Spain

April 2007
Rainbow over Madrid

Rainbow over Madrid.

“How do I get to the Metro from here, please?” I asked the painfully thin middle-aged woman on the information desk at Madrid airport.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“Susannez.”
She fixed me with her brown eyes and pushed a lock of greying hair away. From beneath the desk she produced a Metro map and flipped it around to show the network. “I do not know that one,” she said carefully. “Show me.”
I searched for the green line that I had noticed during my researches at home and looked to the right of the map, and a bit north. I found it and pointed to it.
“Suanzes,” she said.
Swantes,” I repeated and added one more Spanish word to the two I knew already.
“Which hotel?”
It was my turn to be careful. “Comfortel,” I pulled out my accommodation voucher.
“Confortel Alcala Norte,” she said as she read the voucher. “I know where that is.” She dropped a single sheet of a much-photocopied city map on the desk and circled a place near the edge. “Take the 200 bus from the terminal and get off at the first stop. Cross the road and go into the Canillejas Metro station. Two stops and you are there. Here is a map of the city.” She unfolded a big map of the city and its surrounds and put that on the desk, too. I folded it as I thanked her. She gave me a smile and turned to the next person in the queue.

The 200 bus was sitting waiting at the end of the terminal and I pointed to a sign that had the stop where we wanted to get off. The driver nodded and Elaine paid him 2 euros. We paid for a one-week Metro pass each at the Canillejas station, got out at Suanzes and walked about 500m to the hotel, following the photocopied city map. Piece of cake. Nice room, too, with breakfast included and the contents of the mini-bar free!

Elaine had bought a Madrid guide at the airport and we looked at that, and then at the map, to decide where to start. “There are lots of interesting places around the royal palace,” she said. “We could start there, nearest Metro station is Opera – and that’s on our green line.”
We have used underground rail systems in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin and New York. Madrid’s proved to be no different. The lines were numbered (ours was 5) and coloured (ours was green) and named. On ours you went in the direction of Casa de Campo to go to town, and Alameda de Osuna to go home. It was the same for all the other tracks; find on the map the station you are in, find the station you want to go to, then look for the last station on the track in the direction you want to go. Follow that direction until your destination station arrives. Metro stations are always constructed at interesting places.
Palacio Real on Plaza de Oriente

Palacio Real on the Plaza de Oriente.

We arrived at Opera and in the rather weak, watery and uncertain Madrid sunshine that was all we had for the whole week, we found the Palacio Real in the Plaza de Oriente and met our first Madrid accordion player.

Busker on Plaza de Oriente.

Busker on Plaza de Oriente.

There was a large square with formal gardens, a beautiful white palace, a huge fountain, statues of all the monarchs of Spain since about 450AD standing around the edge of the square looking in and King Carlos IV on his horse on a plinth so high that Galileo had to calculate its centre of gravity to ensure the king didn’t fall off.
Carlos IV in the Plaza de Oriente.

Carlos IV in the Plaza de Oriente.

We walked around to the magnificent Cathedral de la Almudena and admired its complex roof structure.
Cathedral de la Almudena.

Cathedral de la Almudena.

Inside, its decorations were quite understated, not like the statues of the hundred gory ways the saints had died, along with their relics and their paintings, as we had seen in Seville Cathedral. Tall, vaulted columns leapt upwards and roofing supports swept in enormous waves across the ceilings.
Interior of La Almudena Cathedral.

Interior of La Almudena Cathedral.

We wanted to light a candle for Jason, but all they had were rows of LEDs flickering on little white stands under glass with a sign exhorting 1 euro. I know they are worried about fire, but if St Albans Cathedral can use candles, then electronic flames are a bit tacky. We put our euro in the box labelled “For the poor of the parish.”
We looked for the river. Madrid has the Rio Manzanares, famous for its lack of water. Elaine wanted to see the Toledo Bridge and to have a river walk in the sunshine. We walked through the palace grounds, across the beautiful formal gardens, statues and fountains of the Jardines del Campo del Moro, past the Principe Pio railway station and then down a narrow walkway to access the riverbank footpath. There was a weir with a river gate and beyond it was the Puente Reina Victoria, the Victoria Bridge. It’s possible it was named after our own Queen Victoria, since the royals of Europe are all related.
Weir and gate across the Rio Manzanares

Weir and gate across the Rio Manzanares.

The river would not have been three inches deep over the weir and it did not fully cover the sandy bottom. It was heavily tamed by thick concrete walls, but, amazingly, there were fishermen trying their luck. A hundred metres upstream a couple of anglers were hopefully tossing in bits of bread on tiny hooks to about a dozen red-finned fish that I took to be carp. None of them would have been under three pounds and each of them carefully dodged the offered bait. Either they were not hungry, or they knew too much. How such big fish were sitting in such a small pool was a complete mystery. “Can you eat them, if you catch one?” Elaine asked one of the men. He shook his head.
Freeing the hook on the Rio Manzanares, Madrid.

Freeing the hook on the Rio Manzanares, Madrid.

We kept walking upstream until we were past the overhead ropeway, noting that there was none of the river views worship that you get in London along the Thames, in Amsterdam along the canals or in Hamilton, along the Waikato. Like Vienna, Madrid simply ignored the river and 4-storeyed worker accommodation sat with its back to the river along most of its length. We turned back to the Victoria Bridge and walked into the Florida Café for a coffee. On the walls were photos of a Goya statue facing a distinctive little church, and I could see the church immediately opposite us. In fact, there were two of them. After our coffee we were followed outside by a short chap in a brown suit, “Goya,” he said and pointed to a hole in the ground surrounded by bricks.

I looked back to the café and this was the view in the photo. They had removed the statue to make way for all the construction work going on around us. He pointed to the church opposite and left. I thanked him for the tip and crossed the road for a better look. A sign on the cream painted wall of the little half-domed church said Glorietta de San Antonio del Florida. There was a bronze plaque saying this was a national monument and then, on a blue sign I had missed earlier, in Spanish and in English was a story that said the church was built in the 1790s and Goya had painted a scene on the ceiling of a miracle performed by St Anthony of Padua. Hence the San Antonio. It was a celebrated Goya masterpiece and to preserve it, the city had built an exact copy of the existing church in 1929, and closed the old one. The new church was the one used for worship and the old church was opened only on special occasions. Pity.

DSCF8658 Glorieta de San Antonio de la Florida

Glorieta de San Antonio de la Florida.

The Toledo Bridge was a mile or so downstream, so we retraced our steps past the Victoria Bridge to the Puente de Segovia. The whole of both sides of the river was a huge construction zone. We called in to see the little brick Ermita Virgen del Puerto church, but it was not open. Elaine’s guide book said it was built in 1780 by the mayor of Madrid to give the washerwomen a place to worship when they went to the river on their daily chores.  
Ermita Virgen Del Puerto

Ermita Virgen Del Puerto

The Segovia Bridge was swathed in protective clothing and the starlings (part of the bridge supports) were fully exposed. Upstream, a culvert had been constructed using very large concrete box-shaped tubes piled on top of each other and surmounted by a new road. If the river does flood badly one year bringing lots of tree debris with it, that will clutter up the square forms and cause a dam. When the buildup finally breaks, as it will, a torrent of water will rush downstream, towards the Segovia and the Toledo Bridges that may well crush them.
Puente de Segovia

Puente de Segovia

Construction near Puente de Segovia

Construction near Puente de Segovia

Toledo Bridge

Toledo Bridge

 Vast construction site around Toledo Bridge

Vast construction site around Toledo Bridge

 The Puerto del Toledo shares a bend of the river with the Calderon, a football stadium formally called the Estadio Vincente Calderon.
Calderon Stadium from Toledo Bridge

Calderon Stadium from Toledo Bridge

One arch of the bridge is for the river, while the rest of the bridge spans the banks. In the centre of the bridge are two highly carved upstanding things called kiosks, in the middle of which is a hole called a niche. One kiosk has the statue of San Isidro in the niche and the other has Santa Maria de la Cabeza walking with a little girl clutching her skirt.
Kiosk on Toledo Bridge containing Santa Maria de la Cabeza in the niche

Kiosk on Toledo Bridge containing Santa Maria de la Cabeza in the niche

We crossed the bridge and inspected the Glorieta Marques de Vadillo standing to one side of a busy roundabout. It’s a tall, multi-pointed needle, looking a little like any of the Eleanor Crosses we are used to seeing. I gather glorieta means a memorial.
As we walked up the hill to the Marques de Vadillo Metro station, some chaps in a bar with an open window overlooking the street started to yell at us and wave vigorously.
“Your hat,” said Elaine. “They think you’re Crocodile Dundee.”
I looked up. “G’day, Mate.” They nearly fell out of the window. They had met Dundee.

We put the river behind us to explore the city itself. “The centre of town is probably the Plaza Mayor,” said Elaine one night, examining the map and consulting the guide book over a cup of coffee in the hotel café. “If we go to Opera again we can walk along Arenal to Sol and then left into Calle Mayor to Plaza Mayor.”
We walked down Arenal (which we nicknamed Arsenal to help us remember it) and admired its lovely atmosphere. There are clean new paving stones, it’s fully pedestrianised, the shop fronts are new and clean and the window displays are sophisticated and minimalist.
Sol was a surprise all by itself. It was extremely busy, with large numbers of people, tourists and locals, walking around; beggars worked the crowd. An old woman hunched under a pile of black rags, only her hand with its begging bowl sticking out. As I took her photo she looked up out of the mound directly at me and then curled up again like a snail retracting. I put 50c into her bowl. “There you go, Love.” The black bundle heaved.
Even if you don’t agree with begging, as I don’t, you owe it to them to pay them if you take a photo of their theatrics. A chap with no arms and a red singlet, to make sure you noticed, rattled coins in a plastic cup gripped in his teeth; sometimes up and down and sometimes side to side like a dog shaking a stick, and yelling loudly all the time. Two cops in a Madrid marked Citroen C3 looked on while they talked with two more cops sitting astride BMW scooters. Not motorcycles, scooters, but quite large and very quiet.
Old begger in Puerta del Sol

Old begger in Puerta del Sol.

There is supposed to be a big fountain in Sol, but it was the victim of the construction boom and while we were there, its site was enclosed by a steel-panelled circular wall, centred on a tall crane. As a backdrop to it all was a 5-storeyed building topped with a 1920s-style advertisement for Pepe Lopez.
Tio Pepe sign Puerto del Sol

Tio Pepe sign overlooking the Puerto del Sol.

The real highlight for me was the bronze statue of the bear and the madrona. I suppose a madrona is an orange bush, or something very similar. This image of the bear eating the fruit from the madrona tree was everywhere, and used most often by the Madrid council, even down to the ironworks on drain and sewer caps. Sol is also kilometre 0 for all the roads radiating from Madrid; there is a plaque on the ground to mark the spot.
The bear and the madrona in Puerta del Sol

The bear and the madrona in Puerta del Sol.

Plaza Mayor is rather like St Mark’s Square in Venice, and built for the same reason. It’s a great place to show off your royal credentials and the power and prestige of your court. It lacks St Mark’s tower and I don’t think it’s as big, but it is still an impressive place. A rock band was tuning up for an Easter concert and the acoustics were good. A statue of a mounted Philip III stood in the middle of the square and the building in the sunshine was called the Casa de la Panaderia.
Casa de la Panaderia in Plaza Mayor with Philip III

Casa de la Panaderia in Plaza Mayor with Philip III

Two tall towers dominated and paintings of mythical people (mostly naked ones) adorned all the flat areas between the grey-bordered windows and the heavily ornamented architectural elements of the building.
Paintings on Casa de la Panaderia in Plaza Mayor

Paintings on Casa de la Panaderia in Plaza Mayor

At ground level around the entire square small shops sold whatever small shops do – coffee, art, antiques and nick-nacks.
“We have to see the square of the Cibeles,” said Elaine that night. “They are the symbol of Madrid.”
“I’ve seen more made of the bear than any Cibeles,” I said.
“They are a woman in a chariot with water gushing all around, so it’s probably easier to draw a bear than the Cibeles. We go to Banco de Espania.” She looked up the metro map. “Swap from our green Line 5 to red Line 2 at Ventas.”
On the Metro, a young chap was smoking from a straw buried in sawdust in a squat bronze vase. He handed it to a girl sitting on his right who tipped water into it from a thermos flask. So they weren’t smoking, and the straw was a copper pipe tipped with brass, like a flute. She took a suck and handed the vase across the chap to a girl who I hadn’t seen, sitting on his left. She took a suck or two and handed it to the first girl who filled the vessel up to the brim. The chap took a drink and as the second girl took the vase I asked her if I could take her photograph, by simply pointing at my camera and then at her. She nodded and I took the shot as she drank. By now the entire carriage was watching. Elaine said, “What is the drink?”
The girl said “Argentine herb tea.”
Argentine drinks her herb tea on the Metro

Argentine drinks her herb tea on the Metro.

“You are from Argentina?” She nodded and sucked again, handing the vessel to Elaine. “It’s hot!” Elaine handed it back quickly, declining the offer of a drink. “What is the cup made of? Is it hollowed wood?”
“Melon,” said the girl and made a sawing motion across the top of the vessel.
“Oh, it’s a gourd, and you cut the top off?”
Banco de Espania arrived and we got up to leave the carriage. “Isn’t it wonderful who you meet.”
The first thing you see when you arrive at street level from Banco de Espania is a magnificent view from Calle Alcala all the way up Grand Via to a tall cream tower building called Edificio Telefonica. The Telephone Building.
Looking up Grand Via to Telefonica building

Looking up Grand Via to Telefonica building.

On the corner is the Metropolis with a gold-embossed black dome and a gently curving road along the side of which run grand buildings glowing in the sun. Elaine saw it first, it’s a breathtaking view. We walked down the road towards a fantastically carved building grandly called the Palacio de Comunicaciones – the Palace of Communications. A Telecom Building. Hard to believe.
Palacio de Comunicaciones on Plaza de Cibeles

Palacio de Comunicaciones on Plaza de Cibeles

In the centre of what used to be the Plaza de Cibeles and is now just a traffic island was the lovely Fuente des Cibeles. A vertical gush of water to the front announced her coming and another behind guarded her leaving. A spray like a moonbeam or a shooting star, or even a meteor, accompanied the chariot as a beautiful woman rather like our own Brittania made her stately way in a chariot pulled by bronze lions while two little cherubs embraced sensually in her wake.
Fuente la Cibeles Madrid

Fuente la Cibeles, Madrid.

“This street is the Calle Alcala,” Elaine explained. “Our hotel is close to this road, and named after it, so that way must be north. This way,” she said turning her back to the Bank of Spain, “up the hill, is the way to the Puerta de Alcala. It’s the gate to the city if you arrive from the south along its most famous road, the Alcala.”

We walked up the hill and she sat down on a streetside bench, in full sight of the gate. “All the round arches are the same height, but the middle one looks bigger because it has an attic. That’s the roof thing on top. The two side arches are square. We have seen photos and souvenirs all around town and now this is your chance to see it up close.” She stopped. “I’m not going any closer because I can see it perfectly well and I know you are going to stand in the middle of the road and ask the traffic to go around you. I’ll come and pick up the pieces if I have to, and I’ll order a cup of coffee in here while I wait.”
Puerta de Alcala

Puerta de Alcala.

She waved at the door of a nearby café and sat down. I made for the gate. She was right, the best shot would be from the middle of the road. I waited for the lights to stop the traffic, walked out into the road and took a few shots while the sun was shining so well. It had been fickle sunshine and quite a sharp, even cold breeze for the whole time we had been in Madrid. The BBC News had been telling us about sunny London and rainy Spain.
I wondered if I could shoot the gate without traffic in front of it. I finished crossing the road and walked up the median strip; slightly to its left where it finished – only a little out onto the road – was the very best place. The gate filled the lens and the lights would stop the traffic. I took my photos of the gate looking as though traffic hadn’t been invented and did the same for a couple who asked me to shoot them with their camera.

That night we trawled the map and the guide book to find the essential Madrid. “I guess there are three things we haven’t seen yet,” said Elaine. “The bullring, the Prado and the leaning towers.” She looked in the guide book, “the Torres Kio.”
“Since the Prado is close to the Cibeles, why don’t we visit the bullring, then the Kio, first?” I suggested.
“In that case, we leave our green line at Ventas in the morning.”
What are we to make of this? A modern European country, a full-time powerful member of the EU with a strong history of diplomacy, how does it endorse such a blood-sport in public, as bullfighting? How has it escaped an edict from Brussels banning the sport? The bull never lives; the odds are heavily stacked against it and we have never heard of a brave bull allowed to live because it defended itself mightily and killed the matador.
Plaza de Toros Monumental de las Ventas

Plaza de Toros Monumental de las Ventas

Monument to the fallen

Monument to the fallen.

The bull is not borne high out of the ring in triumph because it fought a wonderful fight. Even if it beats the matador it is still killed and it is dragged out ignominiously through the red dust. We had walked through the bullring at Ronda and even though it was Christmas and therefore some months since there had been an event, we could still smell the blood and rendered fat such as are familiar around a meat works. A bronze relief on the wall at Ventas told the story of the roundup and herding of the bulls. Another statue was a song in bronze to the fallen fighters. Such poetry, such passion, such drama – to kill a bull? A poster announced the next event in the bullring and advertisements on TV kept up the theme.

Herding the bulls lead cowboy detail Ventas

Herding the bulls. Lead cowboy detail, Ventas.

Invitation to the next bullfight Ventas

Invitation to the next bullfight, Ventas.

“Santiago Bernabeu,” said Elaine. She, too, was a bit shaken by all of this. “Barry will like that, he collects pictures of football stadia, and there are few more famous than the Bernabeu.” She is a die-hard fan of David Beckham. “We could meet Vicky and Dave, you never know your luck.”
From Ventas we rode the Metro to Alonso Martinez and changed to line 10 for the trip to Santiago Bernabeu.
Bernabeu Stadium on Passeo de Castellana

Bernabeu Stadium on Passeo de Castellana

Naturally we took lots of pictures of the Bernabeu, thinking of Barry, and then walked along Passeo de Castellana towards two blue, glass towers that leaned across the road towards each other like schoolgirls sharing a secret. The green symbol of a bear on the left tower is for the Caja Madrid, a bank, while the right hand tower advertises a land agent.
Torres Kio

Torres Kio.

On the ground, in the middle of a traffic island in the Plaza de Castilla, is a fountain with someone breaking chains across his knees while two theatrical choruses in stone relief either side encourage him and laud his bravery. It is quite an inspiring work on a grand scale.
 Calco Sotelo breaking the chains Torres Kio

Calco Sotelo breaking the chains between the Torres Kio.

We thought we’d walk back to the Bernabeu Metro the better to enjoy the view and we saw this little tale in bronze on the wall of a café.
Bronze relief cafe sign near Bernabeu Stadium.

Bronze relief cafe sign near Bernabeu Stadium.

We pushed open the door and a middle-aged man in grey trousers and short-cut hair showed us to a table. We were the only ones there. I ordered Elaine’s favourite, a decaffeinated cappuccino.  “Cappuccino descafinado, por favor,” I ordered hopefully. “And a te.” My Spanish was now up to six words.
“Café descafinado,” said the owner, “espresso or milk?” I looked at him blankly; “Cappuccino,” I said. A cappuccino is a cappuccino, why did he ask me for black or white?
“No,” he said and turned away.
A girl wearing a floral pinafore came over and we had much the same conversation, except that she nodded. She followed me over to Elaine and put a little black espresso coffee on the table in front of Elaine and a cappuccino in the middle, between us. I cocked my finger over Elaine’s coffee as though pouring something and said, “Milk, please?”
“Leche caliente?”
I remembered agua caliente from our trip to Ronda, it means hot water. I actually had eight words of Spanish, but none of them was leche. I looked at Elaine.
“Leche?” She nodded.
“Yes, please.”
The waitress returned with a tiny white jug full of steaming frothed milk which she poured into Elaine’s cup
and left.
I looked at Elaine. “How come I didn’t get a tea? This is a café in a modern European country not a crack-house in some third world hell-hole in South America.” I looked around at the counter, “Why did he say no?” I stopped.
Elaine grinned and pushed my cappuccino towards me. “Live with it.”
The following day was Good Friday and it was raining and miserable, so it was a perfect day to be indoors and looking at paintings and arty things. We headed for the Metro station of Banco de Espania and the Museo del Prado just down the road, one of the most famous and prestigious art galleries in the world. Goya, Valesquez, Picasso. Why not?
Because it’s closed on Good Fridays. We wandered around the Jardin Botanico (the Royal Botanical Gardens) and then the rather grander Parque del Buen Retiro gardens. They are not far from each other and both are tucked in behind the Prado. We took pleasure in photographing the beautiful flowers in the garden. Why pay to see a Goya?
Rhododendran Royal Botanical Gardens

Rhododendran Royal Botanical Gardens

On the way back to the hotel, we came across a most remarkable sight. I cannot for a minute hope to explain it or any of its symbolism, but a procession was forming, centred on the Iglesia San Gines. Older women dressed in black, with lace scarves held off their hair by tall tortoise-shell combs, were making their way slowly towards a side street while they put the finishing touches to each other. Young girls in white cassocks and holding brass-topped canes flipped amongst street dancers and other processioners dressed in white, red or black with their face masks back off their faces until the procession started.
Easter procession near Church of San Gines

Organising the Easter procession near the Church of San Gines.

Two very small children, perhaps brother and sister, peeped out between the legs of their elders and a gorgeous little girl of about two years old, dressed in deep blue, sat on her father’s shoulder, the better to see what was going on. Two bands of drummers stood waiting, holding up their heavy drums with aching backs. Eventually the whole procession moved off and we, not wishing to disturb their devotions, did not follow them.
Members of Easter procession

Members of Easter procession.

That night in the hotel cafe I again asked for Elaine’s decaf cappuccino. The waiter gave me a cappuccino and asked if I wanted the coffee black or white. I took them back to Elaine. “I know the secret of the decaf cappuccino.” Elaine raised her eyebrows.  “There are two bean grinders; one with proper coffee beans in it and one with decaf beans. You do not use the decaf beans to make cappuccino. It’s not done here. That’s why you get two cups of coffee and no tea. Here’s your cappuccino,” I put it down in front of me, “and here is your descaffinado.” I put it down in front of her.

The following day, Saturday, and our last in Madrid, we went to Banco de Espania Metro again and walked to the Prado. The queue to the front door started at the Cibeles, and the queue to the back door had no end at all. Was it actually possible to visit the Prado? We certainly didn’t manage it.
Estacion de Atocha interior

Estacion de Atocha interior.

We visited the Atocha railway station. It’s not exactly compensation for a Goya, but you don’t very often see hundred-foot palm trees growing in a garden inside a railway station that looked like Kew. Opposite, is the Ministry of Agriculture in an ornamented building that is a symphony to European subsidies.

Ministry of Agriculture building

Ministry of Agriculture building.

“Welcome to the tropical island of Luton,” said the Easyjet pilot as we approached our landing. “It is a very pleasant 20 degrees Celsius outside and as you can see, quite sunny. It has been, all week.”
17Mar/15
Indian Cow

India, 24 Sept 2012

Good morning everyone from New Delhi where it is around 36 degrees and sunny.

Evenings are warm and gentle with the guards mostly quietly sitting around in their clusters all along our street happily playing cards and drinking cups of chai freshly made for them by the chai wala down the street.  As we pass they lift their heads, nod in recognition, smile, greet us and return to their game.  It is like this every day… the same smiling faces treating us with respect and watching that the inevitable stray dogs keep away from us as we pass by on foot, watching that they are safe from us and we are safe from all strangers.

As we walk all manner of bicycle adaptations pass by weaving through the parked cars and potholes calling “hare hare” to encourage sales of the products piled high behind them.  Others collect piles of recycling for sale.  By night many of the faces change, the numbers increase, dogs bark periodically including the two huge guard dogs at the base of our building and from time to time whistles sound as guards pass messages to one another about people who may venture on and off the gated estate.  On each of the balconies of the houses pigeons roost and coo. By evening the baby dragons, as Liam calls them (ghekko) crawl across the kitchen window, usually only one each evening.

As I type this I have just been to school with Barry and our chauffeur Anand, collected Liam, played with him in the school playground and eaten the chocolate crackle cake he made for me at nursery this morning. Last week I visited his class at The British School, met his teacher and the teaching assistants and had a lovely time with them looking at their classroom and discussing how they do things.  

They are studying food at the moment so each day I come his teacher calls “Mr Liam, Grandma is here,” then she hands me the special treat Liam has cooked for me. The British curriculum is followed in the school and in a beautiful way with an Indian twist. I enjoy our daily routine of school pick- up, something I did not get to do with my own children as they attended the school where I taught. Now home, as I type I hear the sounds of our maid Shamila turning our home into a palace for us and Liam calling me to once again play football.  In India this is how we live.

Now that the monsoon has mostly passed the trees are lush and green and a huge jacaranda tree shares its beautiful mauve flowers with me each time I glance from the balcony of my bedroom.  It never ceases to amaze me how huge and glossy the leaves are at this time of year; dark green and shining and some sporting enormous and exotic flowers.  

Having seen the same trees in winter covered in dust and straining for air and moisture one wonders how the monsoon could make such an extraordinary difference in such a short time.  But this is India, an India where when the torrential rain strikes as it did on our trip back from Rajasthan on Sunday. People come out in their hoards on foot and on motorcycles weaving through the traffic, drenched to the bone, no raincoats used, laughing and chatting as the rain continued to team down.

Sometimes two adults and up to 3  children on a small motorcycle out enjoying the monsoon together.  Everywhere the brightly coloured saris of the women on the back of the bikes brightens the brown muddied waters that flow quite deeply everywhere.  The road, broken up in many places, has huge barriers that drivers weave through in huge numbers tooting horns to vie for position. At many junctions it was like driving through fords of long ago NZ.

I so admired my daughter as she chose carefully the vehicles to follow to allow us to gauge the depth of those swiftly flowing waters to bring us safely home after all the hours of drivng needed to get us back to Delhi, using the all the Indian driving conventions to ensure we could take our rightful place in each queue.  That in itself is a real art!!! We were not to guess these conditions having driven down to Neemrana in Rajasthan in brilliant sunshine and traffic jams just the day before! Everywhere we travelled people glanced at us, then suddenly looked back, followed by long stares….  It appeared we were the only Europeans on that road and certainly the only vehicle with a white  woman driver!  People appeared to be fascinated with my skilful daughter!

Although very short, that trip was well worth it, allowing me to glimpse a variety of aspects of Indian rural life which I found fascinating, to drive through herds of horned cows and weave through roadside shanties, shops, dogs, children, beggars, camels, donkeys and carts to catch a glimpse of the most magnificent Fort Palace climbing a full hillside gleaming and brick red in the sunlight and oozing the wealth of the few from former generations.

Such a contrast of wealth and culture!  Down below in the valley the persistent call to prayer from muezzin hollered out from loudspeakers never ceasing day or night. That magnificent palace was to be our home for the weekend! A chance for us to experience, albeit for a short time, what it would be like to live as an ancient Indian prince or princess. If you would like to see it Google Neemrana Fort Palace Hotel Rajasthan.  

On our way back at the sides of the road camels trudged laden with their loads, mules, donkeys and thousands of brightly coloured trucks hooted to one another and to other motorists as they jammed the highway, dodging floodwaters and helping each other as inevitably people got stuck.  On an eight lane highway, with a central island at the four lane mark, often reduced to just part of one lane with floodwater or roadworks, in each direction we struck herders herding hundreds of Brahma cattle.  Women accompanied the herds carrying huge bundles of grass on their heads for the cattle, some cattle were decorated with coloured beads and each herd headed by a sole herder turbaned, sandalled feet and wearing a loose whitish cotton shirt and longhi.  Others followed behind chasing any erring stock with carefully placed hands or sticks.

Neemrana Fort Palace is what is known as a non-hotel hotel.  These are heritage buildings that have been converted  to hotels to preserve them. We stayed right at the top, with huge golden monkeys entertaining Liam from above when we woke in the morning.  Liam loved being here but was unwell for all of the visit. He had travelled well and enjoyed the trip but we had not long arrived when once again he relapsed. It didn’t  stop his fascination for all he saw or from enjoying the entertainers who charmed us with music, dance and their feats with fire.

He was less enthusiastic as a dancer stood behind us with a large tray covering us with hundreds of frangipani petals as we accompanied by traditional music instruments from his little band but later asked Genevieve to come up with him to join a chain of dancers who moved like a conga around the room. He was also fascinated with the male dancer who dressed as a peacock danced among us then posed for photographs. Throughout our visit we could hear real peacocks calling well into the night near the base of the fort, making it real for him.

As the entertainers performed I was grateful for and enjoyed the starter of chopped vegetables laced with fresh onion and covered in tiny spicy Indian crackers and sipped my lemon soda designed to rehydrate me after the long hot sunny day.  Some others around us were more reluctant to try the delicious Indian treats.  I loved it, but took care to eat within boundaries of common sense.  

We followed the other  guests into the magnificent dining room and enjoyed a dinner of Indian treats interspersed with supporting and tending to Liam as once again the sickness took hold of his little body, his frustration apparent to all.  Liam loved the palace and so badly wanted to explore it! We had to work within compromises to allow this to happen and to keep close to much needed toilets. For Genevieve especially this was a long and busy day…

The hotel had two beautiful pools.  Liam loves to swim but this was not to be for us this time as Liam’s stomach again and again reminded us of how precious this little man is to us all. Between his bouts of illness he played with his cars, football and trains and loved climbing all the marble steps to different levels within our hotel apartment. Later in the evening  we were about to climb down the hundreds of steps that took us down to the amphitheatre and beyond and nearby to the  car park to view the magnificence of the palace when lit up at night.  

Liam loved all the lights!  Genevieve and I set our cameras to catch the magic of the beautifully lit palace and capture the happiness we had as a family on that lovely balmy evening.  This was the week of Genevieve’s birthday so we had driven down to celebrate.

Liam, of course, has been the reason for my visit to India; a visit that has been hard to describe because his condition has fluctuated so much from day to day. During this time we have done all we can to show him love, keep him occupied and stimulated and to try to find any kind of food he will try and that will actually stay in his body!  An illness that has severely tested his stomach and been challenging for us all for several months.

During the time I have been here Liam has also had a battery of tests.  Together with the tests that have now arrived from Singapore everything has been sent to the doctor and Genevieve and Barry were planning to have a meeting with her this week to find out what it all means for them and for Liam.  It looks as though the original diagnoses of cholera may well have been wrong.  In the meantime we have tried some  dietary changes I have suggested, together with the foods  Liam is asking for himself and the diarrhoea, at least for the last two days has subsided. In the meantime Liam is back at school and is playing with us a lot. It is wonderful to once again hear his laughter echo through the marble of our home.   

I am getting quite good at a range of games and sports for an active three year old!!!  I have also been pleased to have had some recent nursery teaching experience as I have been able to follow up with him the work he is doing at school, compensating or the days we have been forced to keep him home, sometimes for health reasons and also when advised to do so when the strikes occurred in the area where his school is located and once when the school contacted us to say they were closing as a threat had been made against the US embassy nearby. So much happening in such a short time.

With my IPad, dinosaurs quickly bought from the local toy shop which Liam loves, games, balloons,  soft footballs, songs and general body strength building activities we have managed to keep this little man happy and less focussed on his stomach.   Barry and Gene teach him lots too and while this has been happening we have been seeing him apparently getting stronger. There is still some way to go as even minor change of routine so far has meant we start back at square one so we have had to be very careful about choices we make.  

In the meantime we have a little boy who loves to go out and be active so is asking to do lots of things. We have worked hard to find a balance and this seems to be paying off.  While writing this letter Barry has just come in to tell me that the doctor has just rung Genevieve to say the reason Liam used to get lots of colds etc in Amsterdam and why he caught this dreadful bug in Spain then Delhi and Singapore is that he has a weakened immune system.  

The bug has left him deficient in a range of vital nutrients including iron and potassium amongst others which will now need to be rebuilt. She has increased the frequency of his prebiotics and we are to continue with the wheat free and lactose free feeding we introduced to protect his stomach as this seems to help him make progress every day.  We are now seeing a more active child and certainly a much happier one!  

We were delighted to hear he is not celiac and less happy to hear it could take at least another four weeks before he is fully recovered.  In the meantime his laughter,enthusiasm and increased activity are like a piece of heaven. For me this trip has been well worth it and all too soon I shall be jetting my way back to the UK and my own usual routines.

Yesterday we went shopping in the malls of Gurgaon, a first for me and quite a change from the shanti style of shopping we usually do here in Delhi. There are over 25 different mall complexes side by side in central Gurgaon.  We visited just two on this occasion.  Liam played in a little soft play area in one of them for an hour  with Genevieve.  Barry and I became engrossed in a wonderful book shop while we waited for them.  For lunch  we had a selection selection of trays with South Indian treats.  Genevieve was keen for me to try this style of food as for two days this week this will be how she eats while on business at Chennai.

We were in a large Indian food hall at the time. Some I managed, others were a little too spicy but I particularly enjoyed  the rice with yoghurt and cardammon used to calm digestion after the meal and the interetsting selection of Indian breads and dips.  This week I have shopped at Indian supermarkets with a very good range of interesting foodstuffs on offer, many of which I have never seen before.  I saw huge barrels of rice, never realising how much variety there is for rice.  We see so little of this in the West. The spice, dried fruit and nut sections were also fascinating.  The more I see the more I love India!

For some it is a harsh existence, but as long as you have some money it is also a wonderful, varied, happy and colourful place. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to have experienced these wonderful things and to meet the wonderful people I have met. Today at school I sat on a little bench and talked to a woman whose husband is a diplomat at the Kuwait embassy about her experiences of living in Japan, then India while our children played happily in the sun. Each evening at bedtime I have buried myself in Dave Rager’s book Delirious Delhi which has helped me to appreciate so much more the opportunities around me here. Once finished Barry has bought me behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which is also recommends as being true of life here.  I do so love it when books come to life!

On Saturday, for Genevieve’s birthday we opened gifts at home then headed for lunch at the Leela Kempinsky Hotel in Delhi in the Qube restaurant.  It was the most magnificent smorgasbord I have ever seen and I have had some beautiful ones in a number of countries in the past.  We dropped off the car to the valets followed by a young woman who was delivered in her silks in a brand new shiny Rolls Royce.

The staff in clean fresh cream tunics and deep maroon turbans bowed and treated us as royalty as we were escorted through the various rooms and corridors with huge carved dressers made in solid silver and, magnificent chandeliers until we were delivered to The Qube which has floor to ceiling windows opening out onto a magnificent water lily garden.  The food was wonderful.  Liam was a little reluctant at first but soon joined us, selecting foods he would like to try and would be able to eat. Incredible lamps that rippled with subtle colour changes hung in clusters from the ceiling. We kept pinching ourselves that it was really us in this magnificent place!

In contrast, here every day brings new experiences and challenges.  The other day amongst our many power cuts followed by the generator kicking in there was a large explosion followed by smoke in the living room and Barry’s expensive amplifier blew up while workmen were testing power outside.  Today we have come home to a workman smashing down sections of wall and exposing the most horrific looking electrical cables I have seen in walls in every floor of the stairwell in the building. This crashing and banging is going on as I write and while he works all our electricity is still on!  Not sure what is protection he has as his hammer smashes down  each section of wall!!!!  This after all is India  and also what makes the place kind of magic, at least to me anyway.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Elaine

Xxxxx

17Mar/15
Indian Cow

India, 27 Sep 2012

Thanks so much for letting me come!  This little boy, Liam, has a wonderful sense of humour and is hilarious, his language is quite sophisticated now with tenses, conditional clauses, words like especially, actually etc all being correctly used.  He slips between Dutch and English very easily, talking to Barry, then turning to me and explaining in English what’s being spoken about in perfect English!

But his games have become really sophisticated too. Now that he is feeling healthier he is playing, talking and laughing flat out all day, runs a lot in the house, plays football skilfully with a range of indoor balls and regularly rides his bike up and down.

He has some puppets; his favourite being Fozzy bear from The Muppets.  I put Fozzy on my hand and he has great conversations with Fozzy  about all sorts of things! I have pretended that Fozzy is scared of his T Rex dinosaur I bought him.  When we were in the car especially he says ‘T Rex’ to Fozzy and I get Fozzy to hide behind his car seat.  He loves the game and really chuckles.  We now play it in lots of other places too..

At bedtime he likes me to read his story and put him to bed, especially when Gene is not here at bedtime.  His routine is that you read two books that he chooses, then he lies down, you give him a kiss and cuddle and his bottle, turn off the light and sit on a chair beside his bed.  He drinks his bottle, hands it to you, turns on his side, holds your hand and falls asleep pretty quickly.

Last night he held my hand in both his hands.  They are just like our kids’s hands and feel lovely.  Such a sweet little boy.  He has games for everything now.  Liam is really intelligent and creative. We have been talking lots about what he has been learning at school and I have been building on that in our games, especially phonics.

We have been playing little games with the letters on in the cupcake game too and he roars with laughter, falling about like Jas used to do. Once home from school and often later in the afternoon he likes to come into my room, get under my quilt, lie still and pretend he isn’t there, then jump out and surprise me.  He comes in  and watches little video clips and plays games on my IPad with me..

We have been learning lots about dinosaurs, even listening to little dinosaur songs.  He has his own IPad but loves to use mine so he can be with me.  If my battery is low I just bring his IPad into my room and he is perfectly happy.  Liam can concentrate for hours, a very good sign for his learning and is now really observant.  Every day we are playing together for hours.  He has lots if toys and has a lot of variety in a day now.

Every day after school Barry and I play with him in the playground, sometimes with other kids too. When we go out of the school main door, as soon as he sees Anand he runs flat out, throws up his arms, runs, jumps up and gives Anand a big cuddle.  So lovely to see and Anand clearly really loves him too..

We went to the National Science Museum yesterday after school because there are dinosaurs there.  Liam enjoyed it, although initially being a little scared of the huge moving dinosaur models, which are also in the dark in Delhi.  Barry was great with him and we went though the section several times talking to him about the dinosaurs he saw and especially the ones he knew. Dinosaur names jut trip off his tongue, even one pretty sophisticated names! He also enjoyed he hall of mirrors, mirror maze and some games where ball bearings are sent hurtling through big wire tracks in a variety of ways.

Since being here I have also treated the house fir cockroaches for Barry.

Gene has been in Chennai for the last 2 days.  All went well at home here.  She us now up so I will go and say hello.  She came home after I  went to sleep.  She wasn’t looking forward to going as it has all it pretty political.  Hope it went well.  She sounds happy and relaxed out talking to Liam at the moment in the lounge.

Love you.  See you soon.
Elaine
Xxxx

17Mar/15

Scotland

I took 10 days off work in the middle of Elaine’s summer holidays so we could have a tour of Scotland. Summer was the only time that seemed at all logical. Just 3 weeks before we had seen on TV all the golfers heavily wrapped in coats and jerseys for a tournament up there. If it’s that cold at the beginning of summer, it must be awfully cold the rest of the time and completely miserable in winter.

When you see the weather conditions in Scotland on the News and compare them every night to our own in St Albans, it gives you this resolute conviction not to go there, but Elaine was dead keen because that’s where the Campbells, Waughs and Maxwells of her family come from and she very much wanted to see her cousins in the Scottish Borders area. We had only just finished moving in to our new flat on the Saturday and we simply left all the mess behind and hit the road on Monday morning.

Moving in. Our new flat

Moving in. Our new flat

We took lots of warm clothes and weather-proof gear, our AA Road Atlas of Great Britain that Thelma and Sheila gave me on my 50th birthday, Genevieve’s Lonely Planet Britain, and my nice new Fuji Finepix S602z digital camera. I had purchased a 128MB memory card for it so I was hoping the card would store all the pictures from the whole holiday. It did, easily.
We thought we’d go up the east coast and come home down the west coast, so that meant dropping onto the M1 just north of Redbourn, about 10 miles out of St Albans, and heading for Leeds. The nominal speed limit on the motorways is 70mph, but if you stay on that speed, all the faster drivers – and that means almost everyone – flash their lights at you in your mirrors to get you out of their lane. The truck drivers are professional and very polite; they let you into their lane and they always signal in plenty of time before changing lanes. Driving on the motorway means covering distance quickly, but you don’t get much of a view. Long stretches of road are lined with big trees or artificial windbreaks to stop the trucks getting blown over, so you only see the changing landscapes of different counties in brief flashes.
I’d had a most amusing discussion on the Friday “Oh, where’s your depot located?” I had asked a chap while I was resetting his printer.
“‘ull,” he said.
“And what’s the weather like up in Hull?”
“Grey. Overcust.”
“It’s lovely here in London, you know. There’s sunshine and clear skies.”
“We’ve got grey. Lots of northern grim. We don’t go in for sunshoine oop ‘ere you know.”
“I’ll look out for it when I’m driving past.”
A taste of Northern Grim

A taste of Northern Grim

We didn’t have to; when Nottingham came up on our right, it started to rain and heavy black clouds rimmed the horizon to the east. The water from the trucks ahead showered over us and heavy winds buffeted our little Rover. “Looks like we’re getting into your friend’s Northern Grim,” said Elaine and all the way past Sheffield and almost to Leeds we fought the rain and the wind on the motorway. When you get to Leeds, the M1 simply disappears and it becomes the plain old A1. Sometimes it’s dual carriageway and sometimes it’s 4 lanes, but there’s been a bit of work done on some stretches and parts of it are quite classy with new grass banks and clear hard shoulders. I realised I could see clearly; there was even some weak sunshine.

“Is that it for northern grim?” said Elaine.
“It could be for the ‘ull version of it, but there’s plenty of North to go.”  There were large signs appearing with warnings about long delays ahead, but so far the A1 was clear. We stuck with it until we were almost at the A1(M), a stretch of the A1 improved to motorway standard and under motorway driving rules. There we stopped, along with thousands of other cars in two undulating rows ahead of us and a long tail beginning to grow behind us.
“Oh, nice. Anywhere to pull off?” Elaine groaned.
I looked down at the map on my knee and then up into the gentle glow of early evening sunshine on low, rolling English countryside.
“Harrogate sound ok?”
“Harrogate?”
I looked up the Lonely Planet. “19th Century spa town. Fashionable, affluent, elegant. Stately Victorian terraces.”
“Lovely. And it’s late enough for us to stay there overnight. Where do we turn off?” Harrogate was absolutely beautiful.
These are the Royal Baths, now part of the Information Centre. We called in to see what there was that drew people to Harrogate and found out it was a spa town in the manner of Cheltenham.
Beautiful domed buildings in delicately crafted stone lined many of the streets and small colourful gardens dotted the public lawns.  We found a very centrally located B&B right opposite the conference centre and then wandered around the middle of town looking for somewhere to eat.

This is it, on the right – behind the baskets of hanging flowers –  Betty’s Kitchen. What a treat! We actually felt out of place in our travelling clothes so we went back to the B&B and changed for dinner. It was worth it. There was a quiet elegance about Betty’s Kitchen, a piano player drifted his fingers through semi-jazz tunes and he played Waltzing Matilda for us because he had guessed we were Antipodean and probably thought Australian was a good bet.
The Royal Bath House, Harrogate

The Royal Bath House, Harrogate

We had leek soup and succulent lamb chops and a long chat with the waitress, a pretty, local girl who had a charming accent and said she was going to Sheffield University in the new term.
Betty’s Kitchen, Harrogate

Betty’s Kitchen, Harrogate

Tue 20th  In the morning we walked through the middle of this beautiful town until we found the Royal Pump House Museum. The Royal Pump House was where the very princes of society came. In late Victorian times and in the early 19th Century you came here to Take the Waters and the medicine was a shot glass of the foulest tasting sulphur water reputed to be the strongest in Europe. We had a glass, of course, but it took most of the rest of the day to get the furry feeling off our tongues and the sulphur out of our noses. The Victorian dose was eight of those glasses per day for three weeks and they bathed in the mineral waters, too, much as we do in Rotorua today. How they suffered drinking it eight times a day I cannot fathom.

The Royal Pump House, Harrogate

Our aim for today was Berwick-upon-Tweed. We discussed the road deep into the east along the coast through Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool. I would have loved to have gone to see Hartlepool because Chris Wheeler, a friend and workmate from London who’d helped us shift, was from there and a die-hard Hartlepool United supporter. It would have been nice to tell him we had been there. I reckoned if we took the detour, we’d be lucky to make Berwick at all today and this was a trip to Scotland. We’d have to put off exploring The North until we could come up for a week or so and do it justice. We stayed on the A1.
This is The Angel of the North. It’s a huge unpainted  steel structure whose size you can gauge by the looking at the people standing at its base. It’s a fair way off the road and yet it’s still an impressive size. This is the modern marker for Gateshead, on the road to Newcastle; you simply cannot miss it. The A1 hugs the coast nicely and gave us big bites of sea views through the deep valleys and a spectacular but distant view of Alnwick Castle.
Angel of the North, Gateshead

Angel of the North, Gateshead

We stopped at a pub for lunch and noticed there a sign for The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, just a few miles out of Berwick. After lunch we followed the road down to the sea and there we came across a most peculiar situation. As we came down a mild slope towards the sea, our road just kept on going and disappeared under water. A mile or so off shore the road came up again onto an island which had a castle perched on a high promontory. In the middle of the sea was a structure that looked like a bridge with thick wooden handrails. In the middle of the bridge, with one door open, was a bright red car, about the size of our Metro. There were cars parked along both sides of the road between us and the shore, with their occupants peering through binoculars at the red car on the bridge. A policeman walked back and forth from his 4×4 to the shore while his radio chortled and gargled in his vehicle.
On the causeway to Holy Island

On the causeway to Holy Island

“Does this happen every day?” I was standing in a sharp breeze close to the shore as he walked up. He looked at me speculatively, drawing his head back a little the better to see me. I guessed he was checking his mental database for the source of my accent.
“About once a week, anyway.”
“And do you always come down to check them out?”
“He could have made it if he’d got that far because the water between the bridge and here is not as deep as the water between the bridge and the island. But they see the water in front of them and they stop on the bridge. The water is very fast, you know. He can get washed off that bridge; he’s not necessarily as safe as he thinks he is.”

“Why did he get caught?” The policeman looked me over again.
“If I knew that, I’d answer some of the riddles of the universe.” He grinned. “You see the tide times? That white board over there?”
“You mean next clear causeway time is 1730 today?”
“Yup. The times on there give you a full hour of grace. If it says be off the island by 6:00pm tonight, you’re actually reasonably safe till 7:00pm. This idiot has missed even that.”

I put my camera on full zoom and peered intently at the little red car. “The water is up to the middle of his wheels. Does it get any higher than that?”
“You see the rails on the bridge? I’ve seen them disappear. With the water that high, it would wash away a big 4×4 like mine.” He looked at the car on the bridge, “He’s lucky it’s an exceptionally low tide.”
He looked steadily at me one last time. “Yeah, I come and check them out every single time.”
Tweed rail viaduct

Tweed rail viaduct

There was no point hanging around until 1730 so we drove into Berwick-upon-Tweed, crossing the river on a spectacularly high bridge next to an equally spectacular rail viaduct over the famous River Tweed.  We found a B&B in the middle of town called the Cobbled Yard.  It was a bit run-down with an odd musty smell and not enough yard for our car. The maid was a dumpy, middle-aged woman in a cotton floral frock with a blue smock. Her greying, curly hair was tousled from a full morning’s cleaning.  She took us up two flights of a tiny, steep, winding staircase.  “Is this ok?” she asked, wheezing slightly from the exertion of the stairs. “It’s very nice,” said Elaine and we dumped our gear, paid for our room in advance and went out to explore Berwick.

It’s a town that’s typical of the Borders area. It isn’t in Scotland now, but it has been many times. Berwickshire is in Scotland and Berwick is just outside its modern borders, but the Berwick football team

plays in the Scottish League. We were only able to get a brief look at the Elizabethan ramparts that surround the town but it seems they are the main reason the town stayed English after all those adventures while being Scottish.

Berwick Town Hall

Berwick Town Hall

Berwick stocks

Berwick stocks

Elizabethan ramparts, Berwick

Elizabethan ramparts, Berwick

They were built by Elizabeth 1st in the 1550’s and were a very effective town defensive system. In the very middle of the main street was the Town Hall. It was built and paid for by the mayor of Berwick in the late 1700’s. It’s a remarkable building, all the more so because a later mayor in the 1840s completely renovated it. The Victorians had a deep sense of civic duty.

The stocks above aren’t used any more, of course, and the original stocks taken from here are in the town museum but this is where they were sited. What an awful thought to be in there. It was a cold, wet, windy little hole – look at the vertigris on the blockwork – and the locals were allowed to taunt you and throw things at you as they went past. However there wasn’t a lot of Berwick to see; besides it was close to 5:30pm so it was time to go to Lindisfarne.

It was a short drive out of town along the A1 and then down the narrow road to the Lindisfarne causeway, this time fully exposed all the way to the island and completely dry from having been quietly toasted in the late afternoon sun. The most striking thing about the island on first glance is the steep crag with a small castle on top so built into its fabric as to appear to have grown there out of the living rock. We parked the car, paid the toll and walked a sealed road into the village. A sign announced Lindisfarne Village, population 160. There were two pubs and two stores. This is one of the wonders of the English way of life; the tide brings people to this island in a circular kind of pattern. When there’s water over the causeway no-one can come or go, so visitors arrive here in large clumps at regularly rotating times of day according to the tide tables. The shops, however, are open 9:00am to 5:30pm. It was 6:00pm so they were closed even though the tide had just brought in 300 or so people to explore.
Lindisfarne Priory

Lindisfarne Priory

St Cuthbert near Lindisfarne Priory

St Cuthbert near Lindisfarne Priory

We found one man had who a small place open and he was doing a roaring trade. We called in there briefly. Tradition has it that Lindisfarne Mead used to be made by the monks of the priory, and this chap was selling it but I noticed the label on the bottle said 14.5% alcohol by volume. Now that would put you on your ear in a hurry.  The afternoon had turned bright sunny and quite warm. We walked on through the village and explored the dramatic ruins of the Benedictine priory, in front of which stood a stone statue of St Cuthbert holding a torch and a shepherd’s crook, his head framed as with a halo by a Celtic cross.

Lindisfarne was one of the cradles of British Christianity. This priory wrote the Lindisfarne Gospels, so beautifully decorated and embellished as to be almost magical. Some of the detail on some of the pages is so intense you need a magnifying glass to appreciate its intricacies. St Mary’s Church right on the priory doorstep was

another of those beautiful little Norman churches not altogether enhanced by repairs and modernisation carried out by the Victorians. There is a wall that has a Saxon arch – this little church has deep roots. In front of the altar is a wonderful piece of carpetmaking by the local women wherein they have reproduced a page from the Lindisfarne Gospels, with large doses of brilliant red and shining gold.

I walked through the priory ruins, and watched the golden evening sunshine washing over the little harbour at the very door of the church and walked out onto a sealed road towards Lindisfarne Castle.

When Henry V111 dissolved the monastries in the 1550’s, he took the treasures from the inside of the priory and built this castle on the crag from its stones as one of his northern defences against the Scots.

It’s now owned by the National Trust after having been a coastguard station for a while and was a private residence from the 1880’s. When I got to the castle it was closed but I had caught up with Elaine and we stood on the highest step with a small group of people who had all missed the opening time of the castle and admired the commanding view we had of a very long stretch of coast.

Across the inlet to the harbour was a small stone building and more or less in front and behind it were two tall, tapering towers. “What are the obelisks for?”
The lady behind me had said exactly what I was thinking. “And I wonder how old they are?” I asked. As we walked back down the road I walked past a Coast Ranger in a bright yellow safety jacket. “Do you know what the obelisks are all about?” I asked him.
“When you are out at sea and you’re preparing to enter the harbour, you line those two towers up and head straight along that line. Now, about here somewhere,” and he pointed into the estuary directly in front us, “you’ll see the trig marker.”  He waved to his right at a land point we couldn’t see, “and the moment you can see it you change direction and head for it until you are in the sheltered harbour next to the priory. That way, you stay in the channel.”
“When did they go up?” I asked
“In the 1840’s, I think. They have been there quite a while.”
“What a beautiful afternoon,” I said. “And it’s nice and warm. I was expecting cold, rain and plenty of clouds.” I told him my story about Northern Grim in my rather poor best Northern accent. He grinned knowingly.

“We say up here,” he said, “that the Geordie celebrates only two days in the year: one’s his birthday and the other’s summer.”
He waited until I finished laughing and he said, “Are you going on to Scotland?” I nodded. “No traffic jams up there, you know. Not like here. As soon as you stop, someone’s on your tail beeping at you. Once you get up into the real rural Scotland you’ll hardly see any cars at all.” The last picture I took was this intriguing view. These are upside down fishing boats. They are pretty big, too. In the transom the villager has cut a door, inside is his workshop and thus he has made the Lindisfarne shed.
Lindisfarne boat-shed

Lindisfarne boat-shed

Back at the Cobbled Yard the menu was far too expensive, and not very exotic to command such prices, so we had fish’n’chips at a nearby pub.

Wed 21st We rang Edith Scott, Elaine’s grandmother’s cousin. “She is Grandma Maxwell’s first cousin,” Elaine said authoritatively, “and she lives in East Fishwick.” Edith was delighted to hear from us when we rang her from the car. We thought we’d be there about 10:30am. “I shall be able to take you to some of the places your family knew well in the Borders,” she said.  Then she told us how to get to her place – next road on your right after the maize maze. “The maze maze?” I asked Elaine.

“No, the maize maze. Someone out there has cut a maze into his maize crop. People are going there and paying a couple of quid each to walk through it. He’ll probably make more money out of the maze than out of the maize.” She grinned broadly and we drove through a beautiful sunny morning towards the Scottish Borders.
This is our first view of Scotland. I thought it was pretty evocative; the highland cattle in the foreground and the heather blooming on the hill in the background. What struck us really strongly, though, and never went away, was how similar this country was to New Zealand. Almost everywhere we went, we could see a piece of the North Island in the landscape. Look at this picture – except for the heather, this could be anywhere in the Waikato. There are few places in England where you say, “Here’s a piece of home in this view,” but in Scotland you hear yourself saying it all the time. It was one of the enduring themes of our visit, how a particular view looked like a stretch of the Desert Rd, or driving alongside the Waikato River, or the Western Access Rd, it was almost uncanny.
Highland cattle and heather-covered hills

Highland cattle and heather-covered hills

We called in at a stone cottage and asked the way. “Edith Scott? Keep on this road and she’s in the next house on your right.”
Of course we took several wrong turnings getting to Edith’s and when we got to the sign for the Maize Maze, we turned down the next road and ended up alongside the Tweed, with cars in front and cars behind, queueing up for the maze. It didn’t look possible to get to Edith’s from there so we carefully crawled back up the narrow dirt road, dodging the 4×4’s that now seem to be obligatory transport if you have a rural turn of mind.

Edith was welcoming and absolutely delighted to see us. We had been warned that she might be frail or easily tired and to be careful not to overtax her. She made us a cup of tea and wheeled it in on a little trolley. She was recently out of hospital from having her knee operated on so she moved slowly and with great care.  She sat with Elaine for an hour or more while she told family stories.
Edith Scott and Elaine

Edith Scott and Elaine

“This was all our farm,” she said. The man who told you how to get here lives in one of the farm cottages. We lived in that cottage when we’d sold the farm and we were building this house.”
I looked out the kitchen window. “Is that huge hay stack part of it?”
“It’s not hay,” she said. “It’s straw. It’s used for nesting and horse beds and cow barns during the winter. And yes, that field was part of our farm.”

“Do you mean oat straw or barley?”

“Oat straw.”

“What do they do with the oats?”

There was a pause. “Rolled oats. Porridge, Dear.”

I have put on this page a collection of the photos I took to show what Edith was like and her lovely house that she called Strathmore, set deep in the Scottish countryside. Who else would have curling stones at their front door?

Edith Scott in her living room

Strathmore

Strathmore

Front door with curling stones

Front door with curling stones

 
17Mar/15

Letters home, 2000, Christmas letter

Christmas Greetings from Elaine & Ewart

Greetings from St Albans where we have now been living for the last 18 months!  We’re still here and we still love it.

We had our first English Christmas with snow for a day mid week, and a little more a week later, lots of beautiful coloured lights in towns and on homes, carol singing and bands in the street playing Christmas songs and the most moving church services in Wing and Stanbridge.  The main highlight for us was being given tickets to attend the ‘carols by candlelight’ service in St Albans Cathedral – 2500 people each with a candle and surrounded by the most beautiful choral singing we have ever heard.  And we stood in the freezing cold one magical night and sang carols in St Brelades Place with our Jersey Farm neighbours. Genevieve came over for a month.  After her trip up to Edinburgh for Hogmannay and ours to the River Thames to celebrate the millennium New Year (we were right underneath all those fireworks in London you saw on TV) we all travelled to the Costa del Sol on the Spanish Mediterranean coast for a one-week holiday. We stayed in Torremolinos and visited Gibraltar, Seville, Ronda, Cordoba, the magnificent walled city of Alhambra near Granada and drove along the Mediterranean Coast.  Our main focus for this adventure was Moorish architecture.  We CAN be intellectual.  Since then Genevieve has studied for and passed two courses in Spanish language at Auckland University.

We celebrated our silver wedding anniversary in Paris, just the two of us and only for a weekend.  We enjoyed visiting many of the places we had studied as teenagers learning French in high school.  The architecture of central Paris is stunningly beautiful and we look forward to returning some day to continue our romantic walk along the banks of the Seine.  Lately we have been having other anniversaries – our second Garden City 10 and our second Guy Fawkes night in the frost on Jersey Farm Park.

In the UK Ewart has been kept busy with a range of IT contracts, beginning at first with the large banks in London City. This included West LB and several branches of Deutschebank, mostly as a hardware technician but also as a member of the migration team installing the new style managed desktops on company pc’s.  He also did spells at Maidenhead, Luton and Slough and while on this last job, he left Paddington Station just four minutes ahead of the trains in the Paddington rail disaster.  I had spent the day in blissful ignorance on a school trip with seventy 7 year olds in Suffolk visiting an Anglo Saxon reconstructed village and museum.  Later Ewart was to get a contract in Belgium for 8 weeks working for the Opel Belgium car manufacturing plant in Antwerp.  One week of this coincided with my school holidays so I flew to Belgium to meet Ewart, was put up at the Hilton in both Brussels and Antwerp by Ewart’s contracting company and spent a wonderful week exploring first Brussels, and then Antwerp, on foot.  The architecture was gorgeous and the churches and galleries wonderful – as was the shopping!  I gained a real love for Belgian lemon ice cream – and Belgian chocolates weren’t bad either…. The company paid for Ewart to fly back to England each weekend to spend time with me – home each Friday and back each Sunday night.  It was fun for a while but we were pleased it was not too long term – it is a bit difficult living in different countries from each other but we both managed to enjoy the sights of Belgium when we had time.  While at work Ewart was working long hours so he did not get about that much.  Ewart now has an IT contract with General Electric (GE) at Welwyn Garden City, not far from here, so we are managing to spend a lot more time together.  He is on contract to TESCO, the largest supermarket chain in Britain.

Before leaving NZ I signed up with a teacher supply agency.  I have since signed on with three additional agencies and they have together managed to keep me in full time teaching work.  I have now worked in about seventy different schools in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.  It has given us a regular income and plenty of holidays in which to go exploring.  I am currently working at a middle school in Barton-le-Clay (north of Luton) in Bedfordshire.  My contract is about to be renewed until July.  It takes me around 45 minutes each way to commute.  At times the traffic can be very congested but with a bit of local knowledge you learn when to be on the roads and when to avoid them.  It also helps to learn the direction that the traffic flows and then apply for jobs in the opposite direction.  After Christmas I will be training through DeMonteford University in Bedford to have my teaching qualifications recognised.  I have been hit by a new European ruling that means because I don’t have an EU passport my quals are not automatically recognised and some form of retraining is necessary.  The county is paying for it and it will take me 13 weeks instead of the usual year.  Because of this,  to date I have had to be paid at an unqualified teacher rate.

We  have enjoyed being in England and have made lots of new friends amongst family, neighbours and work colleagues.  We have made a point of taking up any offer made to us and we have had many wonderful adventures as a result.  We have really enjoyed visiting the historical features within our financial reach – this has included castles, museums, Roman ruins, roads, houses, buildings in London City, bridges, even the Shuttleworth museum where I got to sit in a Spitfire aircraft at the time of the Battle of Britain celebrations.  Because this was strictly against the rules they closed off a hangar to allow me to do it and send photos home to my dad.  His special friend flew Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.  St Albans is a lovely place to live – it has wonderful huge trees, which change colour with every season, daffodils, bluebell woods, lots of Roman and royal history.  We are less than 10mins from Hatfield House, where Elizabeth 1 grew up and where she was when she was told she would be queen.  Henry Viii still casts his shadow over here, right down to the nunnery ruins near the centre of town, the Queen Mother grew up not far from here in a little Hertfordshire village and the Spensers (Princess Diana’s family) still own a lot of land around St Albans.  We have a wonderful cathedral, one of the oldest in Britain and it takes just 35mins by train to get right into the middle of London if we want a night out or a day exploring.  We both love exploring London and although we have done lots of things there are still many more to do. In fact, we are going to Aldwych, right down by the Thames Embankment in London City, for a Christmas party with Ewart’s GE collegues as one of the last things we’ll do in England before we come home.  Any excuse to go to London …  During the year we have also had visits from several NZ friends who have come exploring with us and we have been out for meals with work colleagues and English friends we have made here.  Some have also invited us home and we have been able to see a truly English view of life.  At every school I have taught at I have asked the children where I should visit and what we should do. The suggestions they have made have given us some wonderful days out together; not to mention pancake day, the Advent calendar with a little present for every day for the last month before Christmas … so many charming, new things.  We have even managed a couple of good local theatre shows.

We have our own lovely little rented flat in a block of ten.  The neighbours are young and friendly professionals and regularly drop in for a chat or a coffee, especially in summer when we all feel more like sitting outdoors.  We have a pretty little enclosed garden of our own which we supplement with potted plants year round.  I have just potted up 18 pots of bulbs (tulips and daffodils) which should flower just after we get back from our Christmas trip to NZ, 14 Dec to 14 Jan. The lawns take 5 minutes to mow!! We have bought identical beige 1983 Austin Metro cars which we have labelled ET1 and ET2 with dayglow stickers.  They are nice and cheap to run and cost little to purchase in the first place.  Being hatchbacks they also come in handy for shopping and for going to the recycling plant.  Being highly populated, recycling is a big issue in the UK and we have got right behind it.

We have really enjoyed getting back to our roots in the UK and have spent a lot of time with our respective families.  They have been very loyal to us and contact us by phone on a regular basis and invite us to share meals and family celebrations with them.  Ivor and Iris have been a great support to us.  We lived with them for four months and now live just around the corner from them.  We are all the best of friends and see each other or phone most weeks.  They were wonderful in showing us the ropes initially also – especially how to find our way around English roads and how and where to get the best shopping deals.  Iris introduced us to shopping at the market in St Albans and that is now our Saturday morning task followed by a cappuccino at our favourite Italian restaurant, in French Row, which has an English folksinger playing traditional music outside.  We have go to know John (the singer) and have been to folk club at Redbourn with him.  Here in St Albans we are right in the centre of Tearle country.  We also travel up to Leicester on a regular basis to visit with my Scottish cousins who now live there.  In the New Year it is our intention to travel north to Galashiels in the Border Country where my great grandfather came from and where my grandmother visited by sailing ship when she was nine years old.  I still have family living there.  They are looking forward to meeting us and showing us how the family lived and still live in that area.  Others I have met here tell me the area is beautiful – so far I have only seen pictures but I have heard fascinating stories from Jack, Kate and Susan.  

While here we have both taken up fitness activities – Ewart has been running long distance and has competed in a number of ten-mile and ½ marathon races and done very well.  Just this week we are really delighted to learn that he has been accepted as a competitor in the 2001 London Marathon.  It is really hard to get into so we are very proud and delighted.  At the moment his training has him running about 45 miles per week.  My efforts are very recent and far more modest.  Ewart has devised a walk/run programme for me that we do every second night after work together, in the dark and cold, lit only by the street lamps.  I put in about 13 miles per week, and already I feel a lot better for it.  We are enjoying doing it together.

We have been delighted with all the letters, parcels, visits and emails we have had since coming to England.  Our wonderful family and friends have considerably enriched this wonderful holiday we are having.  We are united in saying this was a very good decision for us.  Each day we feel privileged to be here, to be able to explore such a beautiful place, which is so steeped in history going back thousands of years and in which there is so much to do.

We are returning to NZ for just a month at Christmas to attend my parents’ golden wedding and to catch up with family and friends.  All of our parents have been unwell at times during the last year and we are really looking forward to spending time with them, as well as with our precious Genevieve.  She has done so well while we have been away: studying, working, doing lots of sport and gaining a promotion at work.  She is now Assistant Production Manager Cultured for the NZ Dairy Group, based at the Takanini plant in Auckland.  She has bungy jumped, tandem parachuted from 12 thousand feet, run, skied the west ridge of Whakapapa, played for two netball teams which are doing well in the championships, surfed, go-carted, partied and travelled to Australia, England, Scotland and Spain – in other words, she has as usual filled every waking hour!!!! We intend spending some quality time in Auckland exploring her life with her.   Merry Christmas!

Ewart and Elaine

17Mar/15

Letters home, 2001, March 11

March 11 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

It’s Sunday and I’m just in from running 21 miles.  That is SUCH a long way – it’s more than 30km and everything on me that I try to move hurts.  My schedule wanted me to do 20 miles in 3 hours, but I was a bit quicker than that and I did the 21 miles in 2:58:06.  I didn’t intend to be quicker, but I had picked up a rhythm at the start and simply kept it up.  To run a marathon in under 3:30 hrs means I have to be able to do a 1:37 half-marathon and a 42 minute 10km.

Last weekend I did my half-marathon in the prescribed time, but I haven’t met the 10km speed requirement yet.  I’m sure it will come.  I have to do another half-marathon next weekend and I really want to attack that time.  The following Sunday I have to do 20 miles, the next Sunday, 22 miles and the Sunday after that 18 miles.  My schedule is following the theory of a very famous British coach, Bruce Tulloch, who says that in order to get the time you want in a marathon, you have to run 100 miles in the long runs (those Sunday runs) in the month or so before the start.  On Tuesdays I do speed training and on Wednesdays and Thursdays I do medium distance runs of 8 to 10 miles at just under or just over my marathon pace.  Fridays I always have off, Saturday morning is a funny little slow run of 5 miles and Monday night is a slow run of 4-6 miles to help recover from the Sunday exertion.

The trouble is I don’t know if the London Marathon is even going to be run this year.  I have entered 3 races so far and all of them have been cancelled because of the foot and mouth disease outbreak.  They kept my entry cheque, too.  I have had notice that the two other races I have entered are also cancelled, so I won’t get a race before the marathon and even that looks doubtful because the race starts in a big park in Greenwich and there is a lot of stock in that park.  There are movement restrictions on all farm animals so the stock can’t be moved out of the park unless it’s to slaughter – and then only under a special permit.  

In St Albans, all the local parks have been closed including Jersey Farm Woodland Park just up the road and Verulamium Park where we like to go sometimes in the weekend.  The area around us is large-scale commercial cropping, mostly for rapeseed oil (canola) and oats or barley and there are very few animals of any sort.  However, most of the farms have notices on the front gate asking people not to drive onto their properties and all the local walkways and bridle paths that go through farmland are closed.  

The road gates of all the farms are padlocked and the front gate of each farm has a bed of bright yellow straw soaked in antiseptic that a visitor would have to drive or walk over.  Some of the restrictions have been put in place by government and also by local bodies. However, some restrictions have been set up voluntarily by desperately worried farmers, who have also lobbied their local clubs and organizations to close events that encouraged large groups of people to go on or near rural roads or byways. All except one of the races that I have entered was closed by the organizer after approaches were made by their local farmers. The other one was closed by order of the local council.  Strangely, though, the football is unaffected.  I suppose that is because the football grounds that the big clubs own are all urban and the visitors are kept in town.  But I still think it’s odd.  The golf clubs are still well attended, too.

I’ve got a bit of a problem with other countries selecting the English to treat specially. Foot&Mouth isn’t carried in sandwiches, dairy products or handbags. It’s held in a pig’s throat and the pig breathes out millions of the virus onto the wind where it will waft for about 30 miles. It is also carried on feet and wheels and can live in the earth for 6 months. When an infected animal is killed, the virus dies with it. The virus is not in its meat, it’s in the throat, but of course it can also be in the soil attached to the animal’s coat.

So let’s say I walked along a country road and a Landrover from a farm drove past me and I stood on the dirt thrown up from its wheels and say that dirt had the virus in it. A week later I got on a plane and headed for Germany. Everyone on the plane should be disinfected, because anyone on the plane could have picked up the virus from the tracks left by my shoes, not just me and the other people from England. It’s silly just to sterilise only the English. If there’s one person from England on the plane, and they are going to disinfect that person then the entire crew, passengers and interior
of the plane should be disinfected as well. I still think they have absolutely slack border controls.

We were horrified when the government allowed doggy passports and the free passage of dogs with the passport … I mean, what border controls? If you mention such things as F&M you’re scare-mongering, aren’t you? They’ve just forgotten how incredibly expensive these things can be and how eternally vigilant your borders have to be to keep them out. Look at all the illegal immigrants that get in! As I said, what border controls? I have just seen on the BBC website that F&M is in France. Let’s see if they can do any better. They are blaming imported British animals. I wonder if countries are now going to sterilize all French people coming off planes?

It’s actually the tourism industry that is suffering the most. Farming gives the economy about 21BN pounds a year, but tourism injects about 200BN. Farming is small bikkies by comparison. All of rural Britain is shut down and farming is losing about 20M pounds a week … tourism, though, is losing about 10x that.

We are not in gaol, though. I can still run on the rural roads, we can still go to rural towns; it’s just that all the bridle paths and walkways are closed as well as most of the parks and common lands. It’s not as dramatic as the fuel blockade was, but it is going to last a lot longer. In 1967, the number of cases ended up at over 1200 and we are only at about 200. There’s a long way to go, I think.

And then there’s the weather.  After a month of absolutely beautiful weather in NZ, we came back to a very cold welcome in England.  We had heard about the snow near Christmas time and we were very disappointed we had missed it because till now, there had been only one snow in a year and last year it had been very light.  A couple of days after we returned, we had a 2-week visit from one of our best friends from Otorohanga, Elizabeth Marshall, and for her the weather turned on all the fireworks.

I was sitting at work on the first day and there was just the slightest flurry of little white flakes and I had to go to the window to have a look.  Gradually throughout the afternoon the snowfall became heavier and the bare trees on the other side of Shire Park became more indistinct.  I even drove home through the falling snow. It was pitch black, of course, because at that time of year night falls at 4:30pm and I was on the shift that finishes at 6:00pm.

It snowed on and off for the next three days and while it didn’t actually inconvenience anyone because it didn’t build up into drifts like you see in other cities, clearing the snow and frost off the car each morning was a pretty cold chore.  Elizabeth went off adventuring each day, mostly catching the bus to the station and then the train into London about 40min away.  In the evenings she would show us her treasures and tell us the stories of places she had been and people she had met.  She is a straight-forward, no-nonsense sort of person but someone who can also tell the funniest stories about her day of anyone I have ever met.  It didn’t matter how cold she felt or how lost she got, Elizabeth kept her cool and soaked up everything London and St Albans offered her.  She also managed to get home every day before dark.

Anyway, this is about the weather and I have digressed.  On the Sunday morning I went early for a long run through the country and I was very surprised to feel how cold it was and to see how much snow was lying about.  There was even snow on the footpath and my feet were crunching through it and sliding slightly as though it was sand or little glass pebbles.  We thought we’d take Elizabeth to Kingsbury Mill for a breakfast of waffles and a tour around Verulamium Park and St Albans’ beautiful cathedral.  For the first time, we saw snow on the ground around the cathedral deep enough to cover the grass and there was snow on its roof and hanging on the trees.  

We took photos of the graveyard with the snow sitting on the gravestones and helped people up who had slipped on the frozen path.  We walked down the hill past the Fighting Cocks pub, with deep snow on its shingled roof, and as we walked on into the park we saw that Verulamium Lake was almost completely frozen over and there were black-coated people walking and even skating on the ice.  Of course I went for a walk on the lake; gingerly, carefully, but I did it nonetheless. Later, Ivor said that the last time the lake was frozen was in the 1960’s.  We probably would not see it again in our lifetime.  

We walked right through the park marvelling at the hoare frost clinging to the bare branches of winter-bound trees and watched the geese splash-landing in the small patch of water left unfrozen on the whole lake.  We had wrapped up very warmly at home with long-johns, heavy winter trousers, jerseys, big coats and thermal gloves, but our feet were still really cold when we finally arrived at Kingsbury Mill on the far side of the park.  

The waffle house there has a big fire and a warm atmosphere and we ate our breakfast waffles of hot raspberries and maple syrup while our feet warmed up.  We now have three beautiful photos: one looking back over the River Ver to the Fighting Cocks pub, one of the Victorian brick bridge over the narrowest part of Verulamium Lake and the last is of Elizabeth and Elaine close to the edge of the iced-over lake with its island of frozen trees in the background.  Everything is white, dark green, black or grey; the photos are almost monochrome and the day you can see in the photos is overcast and foggy with a dead white sky.

Then it rained.  It’s only just stopped, really.  House Lane, the road from here to Sandridge, is closed because it’s flooded in two places between us and the village.  It’s also flooded between us and Smallford, on the road to work.  Fortunately, there’s a diversion so I can still get to work without too much trouble.  House Lane is about 60 feet below us, so there’s no possibility of our being flooded, although we do get quite a flow of water, from the football field near us, past our front step when it rains heavily.  

The locals say that the water is so high in House Lane and it won’t drain away because the level it is sitting at is the water table.  Also, it doesn’t have to rain very much here for the water table to stay high, because it is being replenished by rains on the Chiltern Hills.  People are reporting flooded cellars and garages, but it doesn’t seem as though their houses are flooded.  The storm-water pipes are so full of water that it is pouring out of the inspection covers.

Now, it’s nearly spring.  Here, spring starts officially on 22 March, when day and night are the same length, but the peach trees are getting pinker by the day and the cherry blossom is fat with expectation.  The daffodils are massing and the crocuses are already in full and glorious colour.  The English bush them up around the trees and they make a very colourful display while much else is still in its winter browns.  

We can see why the Europeans like spring so much – it is such a contrast to the winter and it comes on in such a burst of colour and activity.  Also, it’s considerably warmer.  Only a week ago, it was –2C in the mornings and barely above 8C all day long, now the frost is gone and the day temps are around 13C.  No wonder the plants get into such vigorous action because they are spurred on by the sudden change in temperature and the rapidly increasing daylight hours.

After lunch today Elaine wanted to try out a new route to her work so we hopped in her nice new (1993!) Rover Metro (aren’t we going up in the world?) and I navigated while Elaine drove up the M1 until we got to junction 12 and I had to wake up and pay attention to the map. Normally she has to drive through much of Luton in 8:00am rush-hour(s) traffic and this new route is designed to keep her out of Luton.

Well, it was a very pleasant trip through a bit of rural Bedfordshire to Barton-le-Clay. Did I tell you that Barton was where William the Conqueror and a few of the kings after him got bricks made? It’s a very cosy and tightly packed little village with an old heart of Tudor houses with their bricked in wattle and daub walls surrounded by a substantial new housing estate in very late 20th Century brick.

Elaine was quite pleased with the new route and thought it might save her a bit of time, but more importantly would give her a much quieter, more rural and more scenic road to work. We went along the road a little more to have coffee and lemonade at The Raven, a majestic older-style pub in Hexton where Elaine and some of the staff have lunch on a Friday. We thought we’d see if there was anything interesting going on in Milton Keyenes, but got waylaid by the sight of a most beautiful church in Toddington.

Opposite it was a Greene King pub called The Sow and Pigs. Greene King pubs are always interesting because they are always in an old building and serve real ale, so they are keen to keep up English traditions. Alongside, and possibly part of the inn history of the pub is a Tudor building in all sorts of angles with white-washed walls, blackened timbers and a deeply hollowed tiled roof. Inside, there was a crackling fire and all the jokes in the world about pigs and sows, in frames on the walls. The tables were blackened oak, but the benches had comfortable padding. I pinched a Greene King cardboard coaster to put in the treasure chest because they are an unusual shape and design.

We had coffee and a pint of lemonade (I have to drink a fair bit after a run) and because it was after 4:00pm we decided that Milton Keynes could wait and we would go home. I’d had a long look at the church opposite from the warmth of the pub and I’ve decided we must go back to Toddington to have a much closer look, but wandering around the outsides of buildings in winter in England is not good sport. We drove home through flurries of what is called snow showers. A snow shower has a bit of snow, a bit of rain and sometimes a bit of hail. They don’t all come at once, they are interspersed, but now when they warn us of snow showers on the weather forecast, I know what they are referring to.

ET1 has gone. I am very unhappy about it because I loved that little car, but it refused to start a couple of mornings in a row so I took it to the Metro Centre. They pointed out all the things that would have to be done to it and I reluctantly gave it up to be scrapped. I now run around in Elaine’s former car, ET2, and Elaine has the nice new, white Rover Metro I referred to above. ET1 was only supposed to last us a few months and she would still have saved us a lot of money in car hire and a lot of time in missed bus trips, but she lasted for over a year, so I can’t complain, but she was a little sweety.

About three weeks ago, Elaine and I went to Eastleach. It’s not easy to find because it’s a bit off the Oxford road, down some country lanes and hidden deep in the Cotswolds. Elaine was trying to find traces of her grandmother’s father’s family, the Whitings. Joe Whiting had a huge fight with his blacksmith father, went to Durham at only 14 and then left for NZ. He never returned. We didn’t find the Whitings or any sign of them and none of the locals we stopped and asked could remember the name, but we did find two beautiful Norman churches, built around 1100AD, and a little Cotswold village of substantial wealth.

We looked through both churches and tried to read many of the gravestones, but the name just didn’t seem to be there. The Cotswold cottages are made of quarried limestone blocks, not much bigger than a brick, but enough bigger that you can easily see the difference. We were invited to visit the house of Mary and Ray Jenkinson, one of the longest-standing families in the Eastleach area and they were in a 16th century house. You could see that the blocks were cut with a saw, because of the vertical saw-cuts on the outside face.

These people knew a lot about the Saxon and even the Celtic history of Eastleach, but they couldn’t remember ever having heard the name Whiting. Still, the 1880’s were a fair while ago. We also found out that the early wealth of Eastleach (apart from farming) came from water cress. The Leach River is absolutely the clearest water we have seen anywhere. It reminded me of standing watching trout in Ngongotaha, but the river is not that deep. I looked for trout, though.

The water cress used to be laden onto wagons and sold in Covent Garden in London. I forgot to ask him if was still harvested, but he showed us his orchard, the river running through it and the fountain by the river that used to supply the locals with their house water. The villagers would come to this very ornate fountain with their buckets and be uplifted by the religious figures carved into it while they filled up before lugging the heavy burden home. We had lunch in the Victoria pub, which was also made mostly of Cotswold limestone blocks, and was quite self-consciously Victorian in its décor, as well as having a few pictures of the great queen herself. We debated going the extra 50 miles to Gloucester, but we decided that one town well explored on one day was a good day out.

I looked up my stats at work on Friday and compared them to the others on the team. My stats are so far ahead of anyone else, it’s a crime. I have logged 889 jobs in the month and the nearest other is 720. I have recorded 47% contact time with the customer and the nearest other is 36%, I have an average talk time of 284 secs, which is within acceptable limits, though the ideal is 240, so although I have a high number of jobs and a high amount of customer contact time, my talk time is not too high nor too low. I still had time to train two new analysts. So now not only am I the most senior person on the Online side of the helpdesk, I am also the best. That’s a nice thought.

Lots of love

Ewart and Elaine

 

17Mar/15

Letters home, 2001, March 26

26 March 2001

Dear Mum and Dad

Did another 22 miler yesterday, Sunday. I’ve got a sore right knee, but the archilles and knee problem I had in my left leg has gone! That’s funny medicine, all right.

Daylight saving started this weekend so we got up in the almost dark this morning, but I’ll be running in the light, after work, for the first time since we came back from NZ. I forgot that when I was signing on for the London Marathon I was also signing on to train all through winter. Tell you what, though, these long runs are the business, all right. Every single time I have done one, things have improved by a big leap. I have so far done 4 runs of 18 miles or more.

They don’t consider 15 miles to be a long run and they think 16 miles is the lowest limit, but 18-22 miles is the band. Each alternate weekend has been a 1/2 marathon as fast as I can go. That time hasn’t changed (1:36-ish) but my 6ml time is down to 41:30-ish and my 3 mile time is 19:51 When I input my 6-mile time, the calculator said I could was capable of a 3:12:00hr marathon. Not this year, mate. Also, my pulse is down to 39/min. I checked it at lunchtime today – how sad, no-one to talk to so he took his own pulse.

We went to Waddesdon a couple of weekends ago. Normally one goes to Waddesdon to see Waddesdon Manor, built by the Rosthchilds in about 1880 in lavish 1800 French style, then dumped on the taxpayer for the National Trust to run. Well, sort of, anyway. It’s a fabulous place with stone towers and Louis XIV wall panelling, a huge fountain of plunging horses and mermaids near the front gate and large, ornate gardens. It was closed, but we weren’t going there, anyway. We wanted to see the garden centre and to wander around the little village, which has two beautiful Victorian buildings, one a pub and the other the town hall, as well as a building that was very similar to the alms houses in Wing.

On close inspection, we could see that it did use to be an almshouse and is now 5 privately owned cottages. Lovely. Opposite is one of the local antique shops, calling itself Junk and Disorderly and right outside it was a quite magnificent Victorian bed warmer. What caught our attention, apart from the long handle, was the brass lid. Normally these bed warmers are made completely from copper and Elaine doesn’t think the colour is right, but brass is the perfect colour and with a brass lid and that long dark handle, it looks really good hanging in our living room. We had a coffee in the pub (very nice) and a wander around the garden centre (very ordinary) but it was a nice sunny day, made particularly beautiful by having lots of snow lying about.

When Elaine paid for the bed warmer with a cheque, the storeowner said, “Now there’s an old Waddesdon name,” and handed us the telephone book to see for ourselves. There were three Tearles in the book.  Two of them lived in Waddesdon, one a plumber the other a builder, while the third had a Wing address and of course, that was Millie Tearle, Thelma’s mother.  He’s the first person we have met in England who knew a Tearle.

Then last weekend, while Elaine went to the market, I took a short drive up to Woburn to have a closer look at a most peculiar church there.  I had lunch at a Greene King pub, the Royal Oak, which is quite a large and unique looking thatched building with huge beetling brows scowling over thin, hoop-topped windows. I had a very passable cottage pie.  The day was cold for wandering about in and his fire was very comfortable but St Mary’s Church, right in the middle of Woburn, has this most odd gothic steeple stuck on top of its Norman tower and I didn’t want to go back home without having had a closer look at it.  

Now a Norman tower is massive, square and has those battlements along the top.  Imagine a short steeple from the Notre Dame stuck on top.  It’s very dramatic against a dark sky, but it just looks odd.  St Mary’s church is decommissioned and now belongs to a group of guardians.  It’s a very small church with a detached tower – I haven’t seen that before – and there used to be a bell in the gothic steeple.  It is now a museum for the local district and won’t open till May. I’ll go back and have another look then.

That reminds me – this last 12 months has been the wettest ever recorded and the records started in 1765.  The water table in the Sandridge and Jersey Farm district has risen by 16 feet!  In Kimpton, not far from here, the River Kym is flowing again and that hasn’t been seen for 50 years.  The springs that used to bubble up around here when it was a marsh are flowing again and lifting the seal off the roads.

The foot and mouth outbreak is almost a complete disaster.  So far there are 612 cases, with forecasts of up to 4000.  That’s 612 farms and tonight the disease is in the Lake District.  We are very lucky that it isn’t here yet, but no one is thinking that it won’t come.  We are much less likely to get it because all our stock are housed, but it takes only one careless person to bring back something that is carrying the disease from the Lake District or the Cotswolds (and we were there only a short while ago) to spread it to our local farms.  You can feel the sense of dread.

I hope you are well and that you are prepared for your next winter.  We’ll be in touch soon.

Lots of love, Ewart and Elaine.