Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Berlin - first visit

Between the 11th and 18th of December we were staying in Berlin.
We saw many reminders of Berlin's turbulent recent history. The facade of the Anhalter Bahnhof  (railway station) has been left as it was after the WWII bombing. The rest of the building has been demolished. From here 9,600 Jews were transported from 1941 to 1945.
A Holocaust Memorial has been created on land near the old Berlin wall. The memorial is made up of a grid of concrete blocks of different heights. In the centre they tower over you and are probably intended to be disorienting.
Most of the Berlin Wall, constructed by East Germany to stop citizens going to the west, has been removed. The East Side Gallery, painted by many invited international artists, is the largest section of Berlin Wall still standing. This picture depicts Leonid Brezhnev (USSR Leader) and Erich Honecker (East German Leader) greeting each other with a fraternal kiss. It reads 'Mein Gott, hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben', which in English means 'My God, help me survive this deadly love'.
One side of the wall holds the East Side gallery. The west side has more standard graffiti.
The East Berlin red and green men at pedestrian crossing are featured on tourist gifts. There are also bits of the wall to be purchased in various sizes. That these have become tourist gifts does nothing to remove from some people's memory how threatening it felt at one time with the border guards and spies everywhere. People were shot trying to cross the wall or swim the River Spree.
The most famous Berlin landmark is the Brandenburg Gate. The wall ran down there too cutting it off in no man's land.
Even the Reichstag was off limits until reunification, when by a small majority it was decided to move parliament back from Bonn to Berlin. The Reichstag interior was rebuilt and a dome added. The dome has a spiral walkway that gives views down into the chamber and out across the city. This is now the place were the German Government meet.
We also visited Charlottenburg Palace (porcelain room above) and learned about the first King of  Prussia, and his wife Charlotte, who died before this and others rooms she had helped design were completed. We learned how a later King of Prussia became the Emperor of Germany in 1871, after the different German lands were united. The royal family had the name Hohenzollern. They had fairly humble origins but big military ambitions.
Berlin Zoo is a peaceful place for tourists to visit in the former western sector. On a cold day there are many indoor animal enclosures to help keep visitors and animals warm. It was the first time we ever saw a real Panda. The Male Panda (Jiao Qing) sat behind bamboo, eating the stalks. The female panda did some climbing on a rock, and ate bamboo as we watched. East Berlin made their own zoo, which still exists, and the two zoos now work together.
We also saw a lot of interesting art on our trip, both in the Gemaldegalerie,  part of the new culture centre, and in the old National Gallery on museum island. We had hoped to visit the New National Gallery shown in our 2019 guide, but it is still being built. There is a lot of building work in Berlin.
During the visit I was reading Leaving Berlin, a novel which tells of the start of the cold war and the competing Russian, American and fledgling East German agents and informers.  I finished the book on the return trip from Berlin Tegel to Gatwick Airport. In the book were place names, we had visited. That made the exciting story even more engaging.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Death of a South Nutfield Lad

On the war memorial in top Nutfield are many familiar village names and the words "Lest we Forget" our men of Nutfield.

On the 1st of November 1918 (one hundred years ago) the Surrey Mirror carried this piece... 'Death of a South Nutfield Lad'

"It is with much .sorrow we record the death of Pte. Albert Edward Joiner (“Bert”), aged 19 years, late East Yorks Regt., second and dearly loved son of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Joiner, 29, Trindles Road. South Nutfield, who was killed in action in France on the night of Sept. 3rd, by a machine gun bullet. It was a relief to know he did not suffer any pain, as was killed instantaneously.

Showing a keen interest in gardening he entered the gardens at Nutfield Priory shortly after leaving school, and stayed there until the time of joining the Colours.

Pte. A. E. Joiner was a member of the Nutfield C.L.B., a very persevering boy, possessed of a very cheerful disposition, refined, and was greatly beloved by all who knew him.
On joining in May, 1917. he was placed at Dover in training battalion, from there he went to Bridlington, in Yorkshire, at that time being the East Riding Yeomanry. In February he was sent to Ireland, where he remained until July, and was then drafted to France, and afterwards transferred to the East Yorks Regt.

Mr. and Mrs. Joiner have received many letters of condolence and sympathy, for which they and all members of the family are deeply grateful. The Chaplain from the deceased’s battalion wrote: “Bv the time this letter gets to you you will have heard the sad news of your boy. Pte. A. E. Joiner. He was killed by a machine gun bullet on the night Sept. 3rd. and the next day we buried him in a British cemetery. We put flowers on his grave, and intend to erect a cross. The news will have come as a cruel blow to you. May God help you to bear it. You must always be proud of your boy. He died bravely doing his duty. Now he is away from the hardship and horror of war, and, I know, would not have you grieve too much for him. His comrades join with me in this sincere expression of sympathy with you."
Thanks to the https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk and Surrey Mirror for this tribute. All Rights reserved

Sunday, September 16, 2018

St Lawrence's Hospital / Caterham Mental Hospital

Not much of the former hospital of St Lawrence's now remains. A plaque has been put up recently by  The Bourne Society on what was the main gate post.
Beyond that is the new housing that replaced the hospital. The road names off St Lawrence Way do apparently remember people associated with the hospital: Deacon, Straw, Danvers, Gwynne, Bunce, Drew, Pye, Marcuse. Joey Deacon was very well known.

Beyond the houses the land dips away to an open area, and a tree covered walk in the valley - Green Lane, and beyond that is Surrey National Golf Club.
Old postcards (like this one) show how the front entrance looked when the building was big enough to house 1500 residents from the Metropolitan area of London, and when it was a large employer of people from Caterham.
What has been kept is the screen of high trees, the fence and gate posts.
The admin block was attractive as shown in this 1923 picture by, I think, G Aschinger.

Beyond that there was the male side and the female side with the utility corridor connecting them, off which came the kitchen, the pharmacy, the laundry, the swimming pool, recreation hall, tailors shop, dentist, and everything needed to keep a hospital community going.

It was a large hospital built to keep the cost per patient down and probably had no great architectural merit. The grounds were extensive. So it was bulldozed rather than converted, when the era of Victorian Mental Hospitals ended in the 1990s. The residents had been rehoused in smaller units by the 1990s Lifecare NHS Trust. Much better for them than living in groups of up to 40.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Loft - 46 Westway, Caterham

In 1982 Noel and Maureen moved to Caterham in Surrey and set up an antique business called the Loft at 46 Westway. (picture slightly distorted as taken from their album).
Noel also used his photographic talents in the business and that became the main money earner. He still has a Instant Passport Pictures sign in the window. He took passport photos of many of the residents of St Lawrences Hospital at the far end of the Westway. The snowy picture by Noel is one of the many on his walls in his shop.
Noel was once an adventurer and rally driver who started life in New South Wales, and spent time in Papua New Guinea, and other antipodean locations until coming to Caterham with Maureen (pictured behind him), and his growing family.

Next week Noel and Maureen close up shop in Caterham after 36 years  to move to somewhere new, and a time to enjoy full retirement.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cardington R101 Memorial

The last time I walked through Cardington was in November, and I was suprised to see, near the two big hangers, one of the prototype airships outside. Development of the prototype Airlander 10 continues inside the hangers.
The village sign has an airship, and inside the church is a memorial, and a stall with airship memorabilia and newspaper cuttings about the R101 disaster, and back numbers of The Dirigible - a magazine for airship enthusiasts.
In the village cemetery is the mass grave and memorial to those who died when His Majesty's Airship R101 came down in bad weather in France on 5th october 1930, during a maiden flight. It caught fire on a hillside. Of the 48 crew and 6 passengers, there were 6 survivors. The airship had been built in Cardington. The newspaper cuttings show that the bodies, of those killed, lay side by side beneath the soil under the memorial.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

St Andrews - Headington - An Epiphany

In Old Headington, a village within the city of Oxford, you will find St Andrew's Church. It flies the Saltire or Saint Andrew's Cross, the Scottish flag in the heart of England.
The church was open, and warm and welcoming. One chapel was decorated with white cyclamen with the three Maji kneeling,  bringing their gifts after a long pilgrimage: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The camel was also kneeling at the Station of the Epiphany.
On the other side of the entrance was a window, the lead-work forming tree branches, and the glass delicately painted with leaves.
The church had a new organ. Next to the organ were music books. One older looking book had a marker at Epiphany.

"OH WORSHIP the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him the Lord is his name!"

(Post dedicated to John Clapp whose stone I saw by chance in the memorial garden behind the church. He had been the organist in this church from 1993 - 2009, and my boss at work from 1984 for quite a few years.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Annie's Tea Rooms - Walk - Thrupp

On Christmas Eve in 1874 there was a great railway disaster near Thrupp. Heavy snow lay on the ground, and a Great Western Train from London Paddington had added an extra coach at Oxford and left at 11:40 AM. The carriage was needed to deal with the crowds of people wanting to get to the Midlands for Christmas.

On passing Thrupp a wheel tyre on the additional coach broke and the carriage left the rails. The rest of the train plunged down an embankment beside the Oxford Canal. 31 passengers died in the crash, and over 60 were seriously injured.
We parked the car at Thrupp near Annie's Tea Room.
We crossed the Oxford Canal and then went under the railway. The line was busy with freight and passenger trains.
The path went through a plantation for a mile or so until emerging beside the meandering River Cherwell. The slim spire of the church in Kidlington could be seen across the fields and was visible for most of the walk. We crossed open meadows with horses, and after the village of Hampton Poyle, saw sheep and cows.
The route then took us to what remained of Hampton Gay. The 16th Century Manor House had burned down in 1887. There is still a farm with a number of cottages nearby.

By mistake, we went off the designated footpath at this point and ended up going under the railway through water and coming to a field with a notice saying 'Bull in this Field.' So we turned back and found the way we should have gone, by the church at Hampton Gay. The church is still used but is surrounded by fields with no driveway or road access. The path took us under the railway, alongside the River Cherwell.
The last part of the walk was along the canal towpath ending at the canal maintenance yard, and Annie's Tea Room  where we went in and enjoyed Sweet Potato Soup with bread and butter.

There were no boards or memorial to the 1874 railway disaster we could see anywhere.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Westgate Library Re-opens

A few weeks ago, the new Westgate shopping centre opened. And today the Westgate Library re-opened. There had been a much smaller library during the twenty months it was closed.

There was no great radical change in the structure of the building. The staircases and view from the upper balcony looked much the same.
Different community groups were performing music, and that will be a feature in future. We met George Haslam, and he told us he will performing there on 6th January at 7pm. There was a string quartet when we arrived, and a choir singing carols when we left. The music section has now moved upstairs, as have poetry and computing. If anything the Local History section upstairs has shrunk.
What was the music library is now a multi-purpose education and community space. There were educational electronic kits, and ozobots - little robots that obey commands given as a sequence of colours. The space can be used by people wanting to pass on their knowledge on any subject.
The windows facing Castle Street look new with the colourful stained glass books.
Some of the furniture also looked new. The shelves are not so regimented but have different configurations. The different book sections now have a picture with their name.

It is good to have the Westgate Library open again. The library in Oxford is a bigger draw for me than the shopping centre.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Elstow - John Bunyan's birthplace

I am working in Bedford this week. It gave me the chance to visit John Bunyan's birthplace, a village called Elstow - not far from Bedford.
The village has a green where there used to be monthly fairs with all kinds of entertainment from jousting to maypole dancing. The green was the inspiration for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim's Progress ... "at this fair there are at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.... Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red colour"

The stump of a Market Cross remains as testament, and the fine Moot House from the 15th Century.

Nearby is the Abbey Church of St Mary and St Helena. It was once the 7th richest Abbey in the Kingdom with a very extensive building. A reduced sized church still remains, and some ruined walls.

Inside the church is the original Wicket gate that John Bunyan immortalised in Pilgrim's Progress. A Wicket Gate is a pedestrian door or gate, particularly one built into a larger door.
In the church is a fine window showing scenes from Pilgrim's Progress, and an even finer window, shown above, showing scenes from John Bunyan's third book, 'The Holy War – The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Man-soul.' It shows the evil forces to the left, in green, and the good forces to the right, both trying to take the town of a man's mind - the evil forces by force, and the good forces by invitation.
Pilgrims come in coaches and cars these days to visit the church and other places linked to John Bunyan. There are more from China and Japan than England. His allegorical book, Pilgrim's Progress, and his being jailed for what he believed, are greatly admired in those countries.

Over the church door is a seal from the time the Abbey was handed over to King Henry VIII's forces. It shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Saint Helena, who discovered the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
Elstow itself also has a fine row of houses, some dating back before John Bunyan. The village is also cut across by the very busy A421 Bedford Bypass, but you would hardly know it as the bridge over the road has such high walls.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Penny Lane and other roads we visited in Liverpool

In Penny Lane there is a sign with autographs
Of every person who's had the pleasure to have been
And somebody even left a picture of them self
it wasn't just a dream...

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes ...   
Down some steps to the Cavern beneath Matthew Street
tourists go and visit, drink a beer
watch a live band play or an old one filmed
love and atmosphere ...

in my ears and in my eyes ...
On the Town Hall balcony Sergeant Pepper's Band
photo holes for  people to play the part.
The children and the old men too, take a turn
in the pouring rain, very strange ...

in my ears and in my eyes ...