Blossom in Windsor Great Park

After a long, cold winter I took my camera and went to see what had come out in the Valley Gardens in Windsor Great Park. It was sunny when I arrived but I was caught in a sudden, heavy shower and got soaked as well as cold. However, the sun soon came out again and I dried off as I continued to criss-cross the tracks around the Punchbowl, finding these amazing, blossom-covered trees and bushes.

 

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Christmas Decorations In London

Regent Street decoarations are a lovely blend of silver and gold this year, although they weren’t shown to their best advantage on the day I visited.

I used the Burlington Arcade to go and look at Fornum and Masons’ Christmas window displays. The shops in the arcade had decorated both the inside and the outside of their windows. I was attacted to a window full of unusual boxes and went in for a better look. The assistant was most helpful and showed me a number of beautifully made boxes. Some of them contained games compendiums while other had lots of partitions inside for all sorts of different uses. My favourite was an artists box with many hidden features and an exquisite marquetry pattern on the outer cover. As I left the shop I noticed a shoe-shine stall – with a queue.

Last stop was Borough Market where I bought some delicious olives and feta from one of the festively decorated stalls.

Dubai Creek

A year ago today I flew back to Dubai after a break of more than forty years. I’d seen many images of it’s development so the changes I encountered weren’t surprising, but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy modern Dubai so only booked a few days stay. In retrospect I wish I’d stayed longer because I enjoyed myself so much, even relishing the heat that I found soothing and relaxing after years of miserable British weather.

In contrast to today’s Dubai which is a world famous tourist destination, it was barely known in the 1970’s when I lived there. My husband was a civil engineer and first arrived in 1969. The airport was tiny with few flights, there wasn’t a port nor any roads outside the immediate town. Tracks across the desert were used by intrepid travellers who wished to go to Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. The first road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was completed while I lived there and any trips we made to the East Coast or Al Ain were long and arduous adventures across hot desert tracks or through dry wadi beds.

Before Port Rashid was completed in 1974 boats had to moor offshore and transfer their loads onto smaller vessels that could negotiate the silty opening of Dubai creek. Although the twenty first century has transformed the creek, it was still recognisable to me and the dhow wharfage is still in use in Deira.

We stayed at the Carlton Towers Hotel overlooking the creek and despite the late hour of our arrival, as soon as we’d finished checking in, we took advantage of the beautifully warm night to stretch our legs with a walk up the creek. There are many more buildings and the creekside has been developed with a block paved promenade and lots of trees but it didn’t take any time to get my bearings and feel at home.

The dhows were moored several deep and the wharf stacked with towering piles of produce from boxed white goods to TV’s, vehicles to tyres. The fact that this valuable cargo was left virtually unattended with only a couple of watchman laid asleep on top of the goods seemed unbelievable to my companions.

Hardly any tourists visited Dubai in the 1970’s and despite the fact that most ex-pats had large houses and could accommodate guests, parents were the most frequent visitors. One of the expeditions we almost always treated them to was a trip along the creek. I was amused to see that this has developed into a bigger money spinner and was eager to try it again.

Abras were much cheaper in the past but the trips between Dubai and Deira are still great value and just as much fun. From my numerous journeys in the past I have quite a lot of photographs but nowhere near as many as we took on our hour long trip in 2016. I hope you enjoy seeing a selection of past and present views of Dubai Creek.

Inner Temple, London

Last week I walked round part of the Inner Temple of the Inns of Court in London. It covers a fairly small area and I expected to see it all during the time allotted, but it was so interesting that I will have to make a return journey to see even half of it.

It was a dull, late October day with a hint of moisture in the air but that didn’t detract from the architectural splendours to be found. This area with it’s four Inns of Court date back to the twelfth century. As I entered Middle Temple Lane through the gates off the Embankment, I noticed a winged horse – Pegasus –  decoration that I saw repeated throughout my walk, and discovered it was from the coat of arms of Inner Temple. The other three Temples have a sheep, a lion and a griffin and they can be spotted above doors or even on the guttering of the buildings.

On either side of the lanes are doorways leading into the various chambers with a list of the barristers who form that particular chamber. Narrow lanes lead off into an array of courts, squares and gardens.

I was disappointed that Middle Temple Hall was covered in scaffolding and not open to the public because it is reputedly one of the finest Elizabethan halls in the country. Temple Church was open and I spent a fascinating time exploring the interior. It is one of the oldest buildings, having survived both the Great Fire of London and the Blitz during WWII.

Thorpe Green, Surrey

After a stormy night this morning dawned bright and breezey and I walked to nearby Thorpe Green. It always brings to mind Enid Blyton summer holiday reading from childhood and rightly or not is how I imagined the south of England.

The Rose and Crown is a popular pub, especially on weekends during the summer when it’s difficult to book a table and the garden is overflowing.

Cricket isn’t played on the green, which is a pity because it looks a perfect setting although the land is quite wet.

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Behind the bank of trees marking the boundary of the green is this hidden gem. Although it all looks tranquil the peace is disturbed by the passage of planes overhead and the sound of the M25 that runs alongside the resevoir.

 

Borough Market

I visited Borough Market last week. It’s the first time I’ve been this year and although some of the photographs I took didn’t have many people visible,  it was very busy with the usual vibrant atmosphere.

As the London Bridge attacks began on the 3rd June 2017, I was walking south across Waterloo Bridge on my way home with my family after seeing the musical, 42nd Street. We were all happy and still buzzing from the spectacle of the previous few hours but were alerted to danger by the sight of hundreds of emergency vehicles with their blue lights causing the night sky to take on a different hue, pouring south across the Thames. The sound of sirens filled the air as we picked up speed to escape our very vulnerable position mid-way across the bridge. Not only were the vehicles pouring south over Waterloo Bridge, but looking up and down stream, we could see the same thing happening on the bridges in both directions. Looking over our shoulders we saw that the Embankment also had a stream of blue-lighted vehicles progressing rapidly towards the danger.

It was too early for news to have broken in the media but we sensed danger and got off the bridge as quickly as possible, opting to avoid crowds by crossing the roof of the Hayward Gallery. From this vantage point we could see nothing, but the sound of the sirens being deflected off taller buildings, became deafening.

Until we reached ground level we had no idea whether we were walking into danger or not as we were unable to pinpoint the direction the vehicles were heading. Once we descended the steps we realised we were probably safe as we met no crowds of people fleeing.

As we approached Waterloo Station we walked past several restaurants full of people enjoying a Saturday night out and everything in the station appeared normal. As we waited for a train we looked on Twitter and found early reports of the horrors that had been happening a short distance away. At that time it was thought that a third attack was happening at Vauxhall, a station we pass through on our way to and from London. This was later reported to be unconnected but at the time it added to our sense of unease and anxiety. Being unable to settle once we reached home, we sat and watched as the media began to broadcast reports from the multiple scenes.

As hours and days passed I was able to put my experience into some sort of cohesive order. Despite the horror everyone feels upon hearing of these atrocities, certain things stand out. The thing that I was most struck by was the bravery of the first responders who, in these situations, run into danger. I know they train for this and are better equipped to deal with it than members of the public but it runs against every natural instinct of a human being.

My family and I found ourselves on the fringes of this particular attack but we weren’t in any danger. We went to a show, walked to the station and boarded a train home, but our proximity to the danger emphasizes how much a part chance plays in these things. If we’d been to a different theatre we may have been walking over London Bridge or if the attackers had chosen Waterloo Bridge we’d have been caught up in events. Although I am more alert, I intend to continue visiting London regularly and applaud the crowds of people I saw this week doing exactly the same thing.

Flora and Fauna

I read this week that the temperatures this August have been below average. This is the only month this year to be cooler than average. It has also been wet, as have eight of the past thirteen Augusts. As I have noted before this has resulted in very early signs of autumn.

Some of the photo’s I took this week reflect this but in others the bright green grass makes it look more like spring.

 

Walking along this valley a movement caught my eye and I stopped when this small deer came in sight. My stillness was rewarded when another one followed and I was able to take photo’s as they crossed to the trees on the other side, grazing as they went. As I was about to move on a bigger deer appeared. This one seemed more wary and after checking all around, it quickly galloped across the grass to join the others before disappearing into the trees.

London

One of the things that sets London apart from other major cities is the amount of green space. There are several well-know parks such as Hyde Park as well as a multitude of squares. Walking through London you often come across one of these beautiful tranquil squares within a stones throw of the bustle of the city.

I often cross the river and from the Embankment cut through Lincoln’s Inn and am always amazed at the contrast between the area containing the Inns of Court and the busy roads that intersect it.

Narrow paths and alleys criss cross the area, some still having cobbles to walk on. The architecture is fascinating with many different styles and various decorations that signify the wealth of the companies that built them.

Traversing these walkways you come across many small squares, usually containing some type of garden whether formal or informal and the sound of birdsong is easily heard above the muted roar of the city in the background.

Osterley Park

I visited Osterley Park on a very cool June day that was in marked contrast to the high temperatures of the previous and succeeding weeks. Although it isn’t a huge self contained estate it has an impressively large house and extensive grounds.

Having driven along suburban streets and past Heathrow, with planes skimming the top of the car as they came in to land, entering the grounds seemed like stepping into the past. A drive threaded it’s way through verdant parkland with animals grazing and a range of old farm buildings.

Walking from the car park I passed a lake with lots of wildfowl and birds calling, but their songs were drowned out every few minutes by the roar of aeroplanes flying low overhead. Through the trees I caught a glimpse of the mansion, which looked blank and cold and contrasted sharply with the stables, part of which had been converted into a gift shop and restaurant. I was able to look round the ground floor of the house but found the insistance of the volunteer guides to explain every detail to everyone passing through, somewhat irritating. The highlight was a room without a guide but with a spinning top game that visitors were encouraged to use.

Osterley Park has often been used as a location for film and television including an early episode of Dr Who and films such as The Young Victoria and The Dark Knight Rises.

As it was such a chilly day I decided to have a warm drink before wandering through the gardens and thought that it would be a lovely tranquil place exept for the planes seemingly endless flight above.

 

 

Flowers and Views North Yorkshire

I visited North Yorkshire last weekend and was invited for breakfast at a ‘hidden gem’ near Crayke. The breakfast was delicious and included pancakes cooked in the way I remember from childhood.

The owner used to look after the Museum Gardens in York, and has created a beautiful natural garden around the cafe.

Here are some of the things I saw that day.

Dreaming in Arabic

Adventures in the United Arab Emirates & Beyond

Seanic

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed