Sunday, August 27, 2006


Brighton. Volks Railway. Birthday Part 1.

The first part of my birthday treat was a ride on Volk's Railway at Brighton.
This electric train has been running along the beach from palace Pier to Black Rock (now the Marina) for over 120 years.
It now runs on rails on the ground, but when it was first built it was an elaborate and strange construction. The carriage was on stilts and the stilts ran along the rails - some of which were placed actually in the sea.
It was always popular with visitors to the town and is still so today.

There are some exceedingly good web sites about the railway and its history - just put Volks into Google and you will find them.

The trains now run only in the summer season.

Here is our train, crowded with holiday makers pulling into the station close to the Marina.
The driver, a woman of about my age I would guess, sorts out the passengers and then goes to sit at the other end of the train to drive back to Palace Pier.
It seemed like a lovely summer job.
The other train on the line was driven by a man of about the same age. I wonder if they were husband and wife.

When the driver had moved to the other end, we climbed aboard the seats at the rear to watch the world glide gently by.

The letters VR obviously stand for Volk's Railway, but they also echo back to the Victorian age when the railway first started.

I enjoyed the ride, with a smile on my face and waving to people we passed.

Here is a view from the train across the beach to The Palace Pier as we neared the Pier station.

And here is the view across the road - Madeira Drive it is called.
I love those arches.
This long straight road has been used for motor speed trials in the past.


Brighton. Beach, Pier. Marina. Birthday Part 2.

Brighton is brash and noisy and full of fun.
It has been so since The Prince Regent discovered the town and built himself a palace.
And once the railway had reached the town he was followed by hordes of visitors from London.
It became the playground of the working man.
The Royal Pavilion stands in a sort of oriental splendour close to the sea front. It is a wondrous sight and we have promised ourselves that one day we would go inside. But, as with many attractions on one's own doorstep, we tend to keep putting it off.
And so it was on my birthday; there had been a thought to go to the Palace - but the sunshine and the sea proved to be greater attractions.

I see that the pier is now called Brighton Pier.
I think we shall always call it the Palace Pier, the name it had to distinguish it from the West Pier.
The Palace Pier was always the more popular of the two and boasted many attractions ever since Victorian times.

The West Pier is no more - other than a crumpled pile of twisted metal stuck out to sea. It had fallen into disrepair and money was slowly being raised for renovation.
It was damaged first by storm and then finally by fire.

Now I am older I can see the attraction of the seaside deck chair.
The pebbly beach is not so comfortable to sit on and is a long way down!
Sandy beaches are nice and good to play on, but I love the pebbles for their varied shapes and colours.

We bought fish and chips from one of the beach side shops and sat almost on the beach, watching the world go by.

After my birthday lunch, we walked on the pier.
This is the view looking West.
The beach is crowded.
In the distance can be seen some of the supports for the lost West Pier.
The Brighton Corporation has invested money in the pier of late. It is cleaner and seems less run down than I remember.
There was a history trail round the pier, with small boards showing pictures and explaining facts from the pier's past.
We also noticed that deck chairs could be used for free on the pier.

It was also free to stick your head in a number of funny Brighton Pier pictures for a photograph.
In Victorian and Edwardian times and into the 1920s, people paid a photographer to produce an amusing holiday snap to take home for friends to see.
Nowadays we ask strangers to take a snap using our digital cameras to be shown to friends on a web site.
Our ancestors just could never have conceived of these modern times.

I wish I had thought to sweep my dark hair out of sight for this mermaid snapshot.

This is the view looking East towards the Marina and the white chalk cliffs beyond.

The Marina is a fairly new facility. It is a lively modern (and expensive place) to live.
There are shops and bars and cafes - and above all there are boats.
There are boats to buy of many types, from little yachts to huge luxury cruisers - the most expensive we saw was nearly half a million pounds.

People have their boats berthed here and spend their days just mucking around in boats.
But, as you see from the picture above, it is not just leisure boats that are tied up in the Marina; there are fishing boats too, keeping the old Brighton fishing traditions alive.
After our stroll round the Marina in the sunshine, we stopped at one of the many waterside cafes for some refreshment.
The atmosphere felt very south of France, so it was apt that we were at the Cafe Rouge.


Brighton Sand Sculptures. Birthday Part 3.

Some days we just don't know where the day will lead us.
My birthday was just such a day.
We had some plans; but fate and a lovely stranger added to the delights of the day.
We hesitated outside the sand sculpture exhibition, unsure what would be inside and wondering if we wouldn't be better to save our money.
Suddenly a pair of women, complete strangers, were talking with us about how wonderful the exhibition is.
And then they offered us 2 tickets that they had not used.
We are so grateful and can only recommend that we all continue this trend of contributing random acts of kindness to people we meet.

The sand sculptures depicted scenes from the Ancient Roman Empire.
Every sculpture is made from sand alone - with some water of course.
It is hard to imagine that an artist can spend so long creating a fantastic structure that is destined to have such a short life span.
In September all the sculptures will be destroyed.

This is a random selection of pictures that we took.
I may put some more on later - I would like to give some permanence both to our experience and also the artist's work.

Well, we all know the legend!
Rome was created by Romulus and Remus, who had been reared by a wolf.

We saw scenes of glory - Caesars, centurions, soldiers of the Roman legions.
There were gods and goddesses surrounded by their symbolic animals.
There were scenes of rural life.

But here we have a less happy side of life at the prison.
This was close by the part that showed crowds at the colliseum watching the slaves and the Christians being thrown to the lions.
This must have been a hell - but was not a depiction of hell, as I first thought.
We really should have bought a programme, then we would have known exactly what we were seeing.

Bill and I were fascinated by the crowd scenes.
Every face was different and revealed some strong emotions.
We were amazed that a sculpture could achieve so much with just sand and water - our efforts at making sand castles seem paltry in comparison.

The kitchen was so full of detail.
I thought the floor tiles were wonderful - so simple, yet so effective.
The roof tiles beyond match exactly rooves that we saw at Pompeii.
And the kitchen had a wonderful touch of humour....
just outside was a dog....

..... and in his mouth was a sausage, the end of a long string of sausages which he had clearly dragged from the kitchen table.

Life in ancient Rome was free and easy for those with power and money and the orgies are infamous.
What a great fat brute of a man that is who has the beautiful maiden in his arms!

I can only admire the skill of the sculptor here.
The man is clearly North African and his facial details and espression are so well depicted.

And after the orgies, the Romans would have gathered in the baths.
There were scenes at the bath house and this amazing massage scene.
Just look how the rolls of fat flesh have been captured in sand.

The Roman Empire crumbled long ago and yet it still fascinates and draws people to learn and contemplate on the lives so long ago.
Here we have a 21st century family amongst the ruins of ancient Rome.
I love the way that child is looking at something completely different!

The sculptures were all the same colour - it is just that Bill and I have created finished pictures which show different shades.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


A voice in need of an illustrator.

Since Ekatarina and Ashley went home I have enjoyed delightful conversations - with both of them of course, but it is Ekatarina who weaves such magical ideas through our chats.
Suddenly she will say that my voice has gone flying round the world, but it will get back to me. We have talked a lot about the magic of voices getting from one place to another by phone.
Today she invented the word "boinging" - voices were boinging along the telephone wires as we talked.

So today I wrote a little story for her and I would like to share it with you.
Most of the ideas come from Ekatarina of course.

Grandma was quietly sitting in her room and suddenly she was surprised because a voice was flying by her in a great hurry.
It was a lovely voice with a tinkling sort of laugh.
“Out of my way” sang the voice, “I must get all round the world and back to Ekatarina before she notices that I have gone travelling.”
And so Grandma knew then that Ekatarina’s voice went on exciting adventures.
It went slipping and sliding along the wires.
It went boing boing along the telephone lines and even sometimes went up into space and bounced back down to earth again.
Suddenly Ekatarina’s voice suggested that Grandma’s voice could go travelling round the world too and so they went together.
Their voices hurried and scurried until they got to Sydney in Australia.
The voices told each other how much they liked the bridge in Sydney.
Then they did a huge leap and landed at Alice Springs and saw Ayres Rock at sunset time.
They even went to see the mountains called The Bungle Bungles!
Their voices went springing on and on, sometimes the voices sounded high and sometimes they went low – and sometimes they sounded all bubbly. That was when they went under the sea to see the mermaids and the corals and the fish.
After a few times going round the world, Ekatarina’s voice said in her lovely happy way that it was time to get back to Ekatarina, who was wondering where her voice had gone.
Grandma’s voice also decided that Grandma would be unhappy without her own voice to talk to Grandad with.
So the voices went dancing back to their homes.

The End.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Ekatarina and the Wiltshire relations. Part 1.

On Friday August 11th we drove the 100 miles to Wiltshire. The journey takes about 2 hours.
Ekatarina and I were busy with our list of things to look out for and she ticked them off and we worked out together how many points we had scored.

The first thing Ekatarina wanted to do on arrival in Wiltshire was to run around the garden.
Well, no - the first thing was to put on her bride's head dress and dancing skirt.
After the 2 hour journey a run in the fresh air was just the thing.
She ran down to the fence to see the sheep in Roger's field.

Then it was time for a sit down with the family, who enjoyed a cup of tea.
In this picture Ashley is across the lawn with Sue's Uncle Gordon.

But soon, Ashley came over and enjoyed a chat with his Uncle Roger.

Ekatarina enjoyed a chat with her Great Aunt Sue.
They are looking at Ekatarina's diary.
The diary is now a holiday tradition.
I have always done it - then I encouraged Jamie and Ashley when we had holidays.
In those days the text was illustrated with their own drawings, postcards, tickets etc.
Ekatarina's diary is full of the digital photos we have taken.
Each evening Bill is busy printing them whilst Ekatarina and I put them in the diary, with lots of interesting writing.

"Look!" says Ekatarina proudly, "That's me in London."

This picture was taken a little later in the day.
It shows the trackway along to Locksands Farm, which is Roger and Sue's home - on the left hand side at the end of the track.

And now I will leave you to scroll on to Part 2.
Sometimes I have to create 2 parts because I try to put too many pictures in - I think.
I am not very good at learning the full potential of computer things - I find a method that works for me, which I am sure could be improved upon, and I continue to do things in my own sweet way.


Ekatarina in Wiltshire. Part 2.

Here we all are, after lunch, enjoying the sunshine in Roger and Sue's garden.

Ekatarina sits under the apple tree, which was laden with fruit.

There are always games to play in a Wiltshire garden.
Clock golf was set up for our amusement.
I was certainly amused, but not very successful. I played a game with Ashley and I won only 3 of the holes.

Roger also had a game with Ashley - and once again it seems that Ashley came out on top.

So, here is a picture of the champion golfer of the afternoon.

We took some food to the field for the sheep. They quite like the apples from the tree, although they are not ripe yet. They really loved the cabbage leaves that Sue had saved for them.
Ekatarina is watched by Sue's Uncle Gordon.
Once the sheep in the field belonged to Roger and Sue. But they no longer keep sheep. So, Adrian who has been both a pupil of Roger's and a next door neighbour now uses the field for his sheep.

Then we walked along the footpaths to The Elisha Field, which has a good chldren's playground.
I assumed that the name of this local amenity was of biblical origin; but in fact is named after Mr and Mrs Elisha who once did a lot for the village.

Ekatarina overcame some fears to walk across this balancing beam.
"I did it!" she called out after the first time and then enjoyed it again and again.

Ekatarina also enjoyed the experience of running through the tunnels.

After tea we went to see the calf in the barn.
This calf belongs to the young son of Adrian (who owns the sheep). The lad went to market and made the instant decision to get into the rearing of cattle.

We enjoyed a lovely day with Roger and Sue in Wiltshire. The sun shone and we were able to enjoy the wide open spaces of the garden. We enjoyed good meals too.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Ekatarina's London relations

I'll start with some pictures of Ekatarina taken during the day.

Here she is outside Westminster Cathedral, looking forward to her lunch in MacDonalds, which is close by.

The next 2 pictures were taken very close to Buckingham Palace.
There is a children's playground in St James's Park.
Ekatarina enjoyed playing in the sand pit.

There are huge boulders and bridges to climb on in the sand pit.

After our walk to look at things we went on the underground to The Natural History Museum, which has a good dinosaur section.
The huge diplodocus skeleton in the main hall, which I remember from childhood is still there. Strange how it seemed so much bigger 50 years ago, when I would pace the length of it with my brothers.
We met the London relations in the museum - Matt. Suzie, Joel and Anna.
For those friends who are not familiar with my wider family I will explain.
Matt is my half brother. We have the same father. I was a child of Dad's first marriage and Matt was born to Jenny and my Dad after my mother died.
He is 34 years old - about 6 months younger than Ashley.
Matt is married to Suzie.
Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of Matt, who was busy with the barbecue.

Anna is 4, nearly 5, and as soon as she saw Ekatarina's dancing clothes that I had carried round London, she went and found her Snow White outfit.
The 2 girls played very well together.

Here is Joel tucking into the good food with Suzie.
Joel is nearly 7.

Ekatarina also enjoyed a good meal - cold sweetcorn, orange pepper and bread and butter.

After our meal, Ekatarina and Anna slipped away to watch a DVD - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
By the time I took this photo, Anna was slowly getting ready for bed.
It was way past Ekatarina's bedtime when we got home.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Walking with Ekatarina in London. Part 1

We went by train to Victoria Station with Ekatarina and Ashley.
Almost immediately one is struck by the vibrancy of life in the big city.
But amongst all the rushing and bustling there is always time to seek out the details of the interesting people and the buildings.
London is just full of interesting details - all you have to do is use your eyes. Often I turn my head upwards to see the features on buildings that are not normally seen.
The first of those buildings which entranced Ekatarina and me was The Victoria Theatre. It is a lovely building, which at the moment is staging Billy Elliott; this is the tale of a young boy with his heart set on becoming a ballet dancer despite objections from home that dancing is not manly.
I assume that the statue right at the top of the theatre was created for this production - but maybe it is there permanently. I certainly hadn't noticed it before.

The statue shows a dancer as Ekatarina sees a ballerina - pirouetting like a fairy princess.
She was quite surprised to learn that boys could be ballet dancers!
You can see what I mean about looking up to see interesting features. Look at that little dome and the statues high above the London street.

The next building we saw was Westminster Cathedral.
You can see more pictures of our visit to the cathedral on another posting on this blog site.

It isn't just the old buildings that we notice.
This collection of large new buildings are interesting and make a pattern against the blue sky.
This was taken as we walked from Westminster Cathedral to Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace - one of the most familiar buildings in London.
It is possible now to visit some of the state rooms and there were long queues of tourists waiting to do this, looking forward to telling the folks back home that they had been inside the Queen's house.

A soldier on guard.
Not a very interesting job. He stands to attention and then every quarter of an hour marches up and down.

Here is another view of Buckingham Palace taken from just inside St James's Park.
The flag flying was the Union Jack. When the Queen is at home in London the Royal Standard is flying; but in August she is on her holidays - probably at Balmoral in Scotland.

I love walking in London. There is so much to see. And I really loved sharing the experience with Ekatarina. I don't expect a 5 year old to remember very many of the details, though she has a diary full of photos just for herself. But just maybe, our trip will add to her understanding of what a pleasure it is to use your eyes wherever you are.
Now I suggest you carry on the journey in Part 2.
I didn't intend to make 2 parts, but I found suddenly hit a stumbling block so I decided to publish one part and then sort out the problem.

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