I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Tuesday
Sep302014

Loving Liverpool

 

Our feet haven’t touched the ground since we got back from Switzerland.  We’ve enjoyed a houseful of friends who have come and gone and had a number of fun and thoughtful conversations around tables at home and elsewhere.  We’ve welcomed more friends and put on our party clothes, staying out till the wee small hours celebrating our friend’s birthday and then piling into the car the following morning to make our way up the M5 and M6 to Liverpool.

Now we are home. Just the two of us. It seems awfully quiet.

 

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We must learn to consult the tide tables before we go to Crosby next time, however.  Once again, the tide was right up when we arrived and all we could see of the figures was a head and shoulders in most cases.

 

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Never mind, we walked further up the beach and saw what we needed to see before returning to the car without a cobweb left in our heads!  A good remedy for a late night previously, that’s for sure.

 

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It was on the way back that we spotted this chap wearing a dress of some kind.  Hmm.

 

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First stop in Liverpool was the Library.  Well, we did have our Los Angeles Public Library Docent with us and of course, it’s always interesting to get a professional view of these things.

 

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The vast new atrium is spectacularly light and airy and was well populated even late on a Sunday afternoon.  Lucky Liverpudlians having such a resource available to them.

 

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Good to see the old hasn’t been completely overlooked though.  The traditional, round library building remains and offers a rather more elegant and peaceful place to read or study.

 

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We enjoyed a small exhibition of wartime ephemera including this ticket.  I am sure we’d have been there, given the chance!

 

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Outside, on the street, we enjoyed a shortish walk around the city centre, appreciating the grand buildings, a quick look inside the Walker Art Gallery before it closed for the day and of course, did our best to explain to Mary and Diana just what we think makes Liverpool such a unique city.

 

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The following morning, we were up with the larks and made our way to The Moose Cafe for breakfast.  Well, though the French Toast wasn’t quite up to our favourite Red Flame Diner standards, the artwork and friendly service made up for all of that and we were well set up for the day!

 

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On such a beautiful morning, the city was looking at its best.  We tried to explain about the Liver Birds but didn’t know until later that those clock faces are the largest in Europe.

 

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We watched the Mersey Ferry arrive and wandered around the Pierhead, discovering a wealth of interesting things to see – memorials to a variety of people, a huge urban landscape both new and old and of course, the inevitable people watching.  In our case, listening as well, because the authentic Liverpudlian accent just had to be heard!

 

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As the ferry came in, of course, we sang.

 

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We sang again in the little Karaoke booth in the Museum of Liverpool, this time at the tops of our voices, with full accompaniment and to the great amusement of other visitors peering through the windows.  The thought passed through my mind that the joke would have been on us had the booth had a secret camera with the footage being shown live in the museum entrance but hey, we were having FUN!

 

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Needless to say, for every small corner or media clip that made us smile, there was another one which made us cry.   As an introduction to the city we couldn’t really have done any better than come here and the various displays and themed exhibitions left us all on an absolute high for the rest of the day.

 

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We stepped briefly inside the Maritime Museum to take a peek at the International Slavery exhibit – look who we found here!  You might recall that we came across Frederick Douglass on several occasions during our road trip earlier this year and here he was yet again, remembered for the part he played in the Underground Railroad.

 

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By now it was mid afternoon and a little footsore, the bright lights of Liverpool One beckoned.  Who could resist the attractions of a large John Lewis and a huge Waterstones bookshop nearby?  Not one of us.

It was weary footsteps then, that took us back to the hotel and which later influenced our choice of restaurant for dinner.  That we could see ASK from the window was all that was needed to convince us that eating Italian was an excellent idea!

And now we are home.  We took Diana to Manchester airport so she could catch her flight to Chicago and on to LA and then waved to her later as her plane took off over Knutsford services where we stopped for a late breakfast.  Mary collected a hire car from John Lennon Airport and is continuing her adventure (without us!) She’ll drive eastwards towards some of our favourite Yorkshire haunts before returning south later in the week.

Me?  I have a new earworm.  Well, of course, there was no question about what to watch on TV last night, was there?

Sunday
Sep282014

Hello from Liverpool 

Oh dear, long time  no blog. No laptop here either so sorry that this is the best I can do with a phone.

We are back into the Downton routine though.

Tuesday
Sep232014

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

 

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Rather than come straight home last night, we decided to stay over and go to the Tower of London this morning.  We weren’t intending to go inside but were eager to see the poppy installation for ourselves.  I know that several friends who have bought poppies won’t necessarily be able to visit the Tower, so I’ll try to share what it was like this morning.

 

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Walking from Tower Hill tube station, the first sight of the poppies in the moat is pretty spectacular.  We’d seen photographs of course and heard people tell of how moving the whole scene is.  But really, nothing prepared us for seeing it first hand.

We walked around the whole moat, though try as I might, it’s impossible to capture the spectacle fully.

 

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Each poppy is different.  Most are of similar height but there are tall ones and I guess, there are shorter ones too.  Or perhaps the stems are simply “planted” at different levels?  Whatever, the effect is of hundreds of thousands of individual flowers rather than one massive group.

 

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Walking anti-clockwise, the sea continues around the corner with the same broad sweep of red.  That was when we first grasped the enormity of the whole thing.

 

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We enjoyed how the flowers flowed out of the window but also around the moat in gentle curves.

 

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Now and again, there was an information panel on the fence with a single poppy to see close up.  I don’t know if they will be sent without the stem – I hadn’t thought of it until now, but suspect that might be so?

 

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Around the next corner, walking parallel to the river now, towards Tower Bridge, there was another “gush” of red, forming an arch over the visitors pouring in through the entrance gate.  That was most effective.

 

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Then, along this quieter side of the Tower, the river of red narrowed to more of a small stream.  Perhaps this part of the moat will be filled as we get closer to November 11th?  In particular, we both wondered what those few poppies were doing in that little roped off area under the wall?

 

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In this less densely “planted” area, it was easier to appreciate the single poppies, I thought.

 

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Then, turning the corner again, having crossed under Tower Bridge and turned left back towards the Tube station, the dense red sea appeared once more.  This side seemed to be more heavily planted than anywhere, though those sweeps and shapes which appear in the mass are so well thought through.  Clearly things are set out to a plan and this is not some random arrangement.

 

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Another tumble of flowers from the top of the wall on this side, too.  At this point, we were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers – even though there’s still over a month to go and there will be many more poppies to come.

 

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Almost back to where we began, we marvelled at the spectacle. 

 

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Such an extraordinary concept and yet so brilliant.  How clever to create a memorial that can be freely visited by so many, understood by children and adults alike and provoke so much interest, too.  As we returned to the tube, people were streaming from the station in their hundreds, many, like us, coming simply to take a look for themselves.

And to remember, of course.

Monday
Sep222014

Unterwegs

 

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Sadly, it was time to leave Rapperswil this morning and to make our way home.  We passed the little cart with the pumpkins for sale one last time and with no traffic behind us, we could slow down long enough for me to snap a photo.

 

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The Swiss Army was on the move as well, but as they peeled off and gathered for some kind of manoeuvre in what looked like a supermarket car park, we headed on towards the airport.

 

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Though we left the hire car and our luggage there, we were not quite ready to leave yet and hopped on a train down into the city centre for a few hours.

 

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We’ve made this journey so many times, since the very first time we travelled together to Switzerland when we were first married.  34 years ago, we stayed with some friends who worked at the airport and lived nearby, so this was our daily route into the city.  We’ve been lucky enough to come here rather a lot since then too and it all feels very familiar indeed.

 

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We didn’t mind that it was a bit overcast when we stepped out onto Bahnhofstrasse, as long as it stayed dry, we’d be happy.  Didn’t fancy mooching around in pouring rain though!

 

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We had a short shopping list of mostly foodstuffs and though it was tempting to bring home these heavy ready mixed fondues, we had of course been to a book launch, so our luggage was already groaning under the strain!

 

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So we settled for lighter, airier things Winking smile

 

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The last time we sat watching the ships at Burkliplatz, it was a deal warmer and sunnier than it was today, but no matter, it’s still fun to sit and watch the world go by.

 

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Around the corner on the Limmat river, by the Rathausbrucke, was a controversial piece of artwork.  My hero had read about it earlier today, so it was interesting to see it for real.

 

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The commentary on the board told the story.

 

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The graffiti on each leg said it all.  (“Separate this hateful object from the base here”)

 

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I normally find such brave and controversial objects interesting, as much for the chatter they provoke as for the things themselves, but on this occasion, I think I’m with the crowd.  I can’t see that the crane has a place here – but perhaps I’ll read a little more about it and maybe Ill understand it a bit better.

 

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I wasn’t really on a quest for anything special today, though I had it in mind that, if I came across a likely source of the fabric the farmers’ shirts are made from, then I wouldn’t mind bringing a bit home with me.  I asked in the Heimatwerk shop where the shirts are sold and heard the magic answer: “Maybe in the Bernina shop?”  

Can you believe I had never found the Bernina shop in Zurich?  We have now! 

The Bernina shop assistant sent us one street further, to a large fabric shop where sure enough, my request was answered with a “Ja!”  A little bundle of fabric in hand, we went back to Bernina to say “thanks” and to take a closer look at that little bag, which i recognise as being made from one of the very first patterns I came across when I bought my new machine.

 

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It was almost 1.30pm by now and someone’s patience needed reward in the form of some lunch.  As we headed for our favourite Zeughauskeller, we passed a young woman taking an unusual pet for a walk: a vacuum cleaner!  Fans of Gifford’s Circus will see the comparison with Tweedy the clown’s pet iron, Keef Smile

 

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Anyway, after a hearty lunch, we felt we ought to be making tracks to the airport.

 

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A last journey by train: Should we take the 3.01, the 3.07, the 3.09 or the 3.15?  Oh for a public transport system like this at home!  We retrieved our luggage, checked in and enjoyed a trouble free flight home.

I wonder, how long will it be before the sewing machine is switched on?

Sunday
Sep212014

A day full of culture

Art, literature, music – what more could we ask for?

 

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The weather wasn’t so clear when we set out this morning, with real Alpine skies overhead.  We were in for a changeable day’s weather it seemed.

 

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From time to time, patches of sunshine broke through, though the clouds were never far away.  We were driving south east, towards Vaduz, and over the border into Liechtenstein, where our friends had recommended a visit to the Kunsthaus: the art gallery.

 

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Travelling fast on the motorway, the traffic wasn’t so bad and we hoped we were right in thinking it was brightening up rather.

 

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Though much of the journey was within tunnels and each time we entered one, we could never guess what the weather was going to be like when we came out the other end, several kilometres beyond.

 

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We left that motorway behind, turned left and travelled towards the border.

 

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Not that there was much to see.  Liechtenstein is more of an extension to Switzerland than a different country, from a visitor’s point of view, at least.

 

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We parked the car for free and headed along the modern, pedestrianised main street, finding the Kunsthaus right there in front of us.  As we bought our entrance tickets, the desk clerk felt the need to warn us not to expect paintings in here, for this was a gallery of modern, conceptual art.  Did we really look that conservative (with a small c!) ?  We reassured him that it was fine, we’d be ok…

 

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There was a small permanent exhibition, including a couple of Warhol prints, a small Liechtenstein work (of course!) and one or two works in neon by an artist I didn’t recognise.  But the main exhibition currently was Gary Kuehn’s “Between Sex and Geometry”.  To begin with, it took some understanding.  Reading the background to such abstract concepts auf Deutsch was a challenge, but gradually, we got to grips with what the artist was exploring and really enjoyed the chance to challenge our own preconceptions by chatting further with a couple of the museum staff.  We left inspired to find out more about the artist and his work, though we were ready for a stiff drink!

 

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First, though, we thought we’d walk the length of the main street, as far as the parliament buildings here.  The sun was shining now and it was really warm: such a pleasure to be out and enjoying the fine morning.

 

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The new entrance to the parliament wasn’t exactly a fine example of exciting architecture, I thought, though it sat alongside the older building and perhaps needed to conform.  The royal Family live in the castle/palace up there on the hill, looking down on their realm from above.

 

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I seem to have taken the photograph of the old parliament building at a most peculiar angle.  My apologies!

 

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We returned to the car to find several busloads of Korean visitors still there in the car park, all taking the same photograph – sometimes, it’s interesting seeing places through the eyes of others, isn’t it?

 

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So that was it for Liechtenstein – the border on the road southwards into Switzerland was even less of an event than the other one: a couple of flagpoles and a small stone marker.

 

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Our destination for lunchtime was Maienfeld, a pretty old town with unmissable connections with Johanna Spyri’s character, Heidi.  Though we had no intention of making a pilgrimage, when we’d identified the town as a possible destination this morning, I’d downloaded a copy of the book to my Kindle and was curious to see what was what.

 

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But first, some lunch: a platter of Bunderfleisch and Alpkäse, washed down with a beer, of course.

 

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We made our way through the town following the signs to “Heididorf”, admiring the sunflower heads floating in the water trough as we went.  Maienfeld is a wine growing town, too, and we passed several vineyards on the way – I think those are a relatively recent development, since I couldn’t remember Heidi and Peter snacking on the odd bunch of grapes in the story!

 

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It looks as though it could be a good harvest this year.

 

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Soon, we were in open fields and leaving our car in a well filled car park, we didn’t have far to walk to a wooden bench in the pasture, overlooking the mountains.

 

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Here we were in Heidi’s flower meadow and though there were, of course, other people here, it was quiet and sunny.  What better thing to do than to get out the Kindle and read?

 

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It’s an easy read and in an hour or so, I was already almost half way through.  We could have stayed longer but we were invited to a performance in Glarus, a few miles down the road and we didn’t want to be late!

 

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So leaving Heidi’s meadow over there under the wooded mountain, we joined the motorway again and headed for Glarus.  We left the blue skies behind on one side of the mountain, though, for coming out of the tunnel, the first spots of rain appeared.  By the time we reached Glarus itself, it was torrential and set in for the rest of the day.  Just as well we managed to park right outside the concert venue, then!

 

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So, a day of art, music and literature, though whether Heidi counts in the last group is open for discussion, I think.  Maybe that box was ticked by the readings of Dumas and Tolstoy which were interspersed with the Raff piano duets, then?  No matter, we’d enjoyed every bit of our day again, and saying a last goodbye to our friends for this time round, we returned to Rapperswil tired but happy.

Maybe I’ll manage to stay awake long enough to finish Heidi?!