Saturday, 12 December 2009

Put a sock in it!

On our recent walk Matt and I had occasion to cross close to the runway of  little Fairoaks Airport. We happened upon this wind sock which at the base had a memorial to someone recently departed. I took a photo because I was drawn by the array of colours in the picture. Pity I captured our shadows as well!

Crossing the edge of the runway you have to duck to avoid the landing aircraft.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

H G Wells (again) and unusual trees.

Last Sunday me and my eldest son Matt went for a lazy five mile walk part of which was over Horsell Common, which if you have read my previous post on H. G. Wells and his book War of the Worlds, was where the Martians first landed with their intention to take over the world. During our walk we came across an area called the sand pit. This was the exact spot depicted by Wells as the first landing area of the Martian spacecraft.

Horsell Common is an amazing place with plenty of different species of trees, scrubland and heath. There is also an abundance of native wildlife.

The Sand Pit as depicted in The War of the Worlds.
(picture from War of the Worlds music website)

The Sand Pit, Horsell Common.

Part of the sandy soil had been washed away and eroded over the years to expose the root system of several of the trees. This did not seem to affect their growth because they all appeared healthy and flourising. They obviously have a tremendous survival instinct.

One of the glorious trees.

The intricate partly exposed root system.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday.

Last Sunday I had the priviledge to attend the Remembrance Day memorial service and parade in my home town of Woking. The service was conducted in the open air in the town square in front of the war memorial for the fallen of the First World War.

There was an amazing turnout with attendance from all branches of the military, the police, the fire service and local civic dignatries as well as the public. I was particularly impressed that there were many young people there to show their respects and wearing their poppies with pride.

I suppose that the death of our soldiers in Afghanistan keeps reminding people of the futility of war. At 11 am there was a minutes silence for reflection followed by the playing of the last post on a solitary bugle. I found the whole experience very moving.

The impressively attended Remembrance Day service in Woking Town Square in front of the First World War Memorial.

The Lady Mayor in full regalia arrives for the service.

The poignant inscription on the War Memorial in Woking town square.

The various wreaths of poppies laid at the foot of the memorial. My son Josh in air cadet uniform is in the background immediately to the left of the memorial.

Woking and H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds.

My home town of Woking has long been associated with H G Wells. Wells lived in Woking for several years, during which time he wrote his classic novel of alien invasion, The War of the Worlds (1898), much of which is set in and around the town. For the 1998 centenary of the publication of The War of the Worlds, the Borough Council chose to mark Woking's connection with both author and book by commissioning a sculpture representing the book's most striking image: the Martian Fighting Machine.

The Martian Fighting Machine - The Tripod.

The Woking Martian sculpture was created by artist Michael Condron and unveiled in April 1998. It consists of three elements: the Martian Fighting Machine, the Martian Cylinder and the Bacteria.
The Martian Fighting Machine sculpture represents one of the vast metal tripods from which the invading Martians wreaked havoc with their deadly Heat Ray. The chrome-plated stainless-steel sculpture is 7 metres (23 feet) tall with legs 17 centimetres (7 inches) in diameter. It is depicted advancing from the direction of Horsell Common, the landing site of the first Martian Cylinder. As you can see, the detail on the underside of the tripod is amazing.

The underside of the Martian Fighting Machine.

The detail is extraordinary.

The Martian Cylinder.

The Martian Cylinder represents the first of the projectiles that carried the Martians to Earth, landing on Horsell Common which is just outside Woking town centre. The cylinder element of the Woking Martian depicts the cylinder embedded in the Common, with multi-coloured bricks representing layers of soil thrown up by the impact.

In The War of the Worlds the Earth's bacteria proved the downfall of the Martians. The concourse between the FIghting Machine and the Cylinder features a number of inlaid mosaics depicting the bacteria. The final one, fittingly, shows a microbe slithering up a leg of the Fighting Machine. I think overall that this is a superb sculpture telling in detail the story of the Martian landings. However, i'm sure that many people who have never read the book or seen the film (not the Tom Cruise Hollywood version) walk by and have no idea what they are seeing. Anyway, if you have cause to visit Woking and come across this, you now know the story behind the sculpture.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Wanted. Another collective noun.

The aftermath of a triathlon at Porthcawl.

My obsession with collective nouns continues apace! We came across these athletes after they had finished a Triathlon. My question is what is the collective noun for a large group of bicycles? My humble offer is a "spoke" of bikes or bicycles. If you can come up with a better expression leave a comment. I am still looking for additional collective nouns for lifeguards and blondes.

Nature's architecture.

Concluding my visit to South Wales (honest) we came across this tree in the grounds of Margham Country Park. It had the most unusual trunk that I have ever seen.

Over time it had, for some reason, divided itself into five separate smaller trunks (trunkets?) to form a beautiful dramatic natural wooden sculpture that for me conveyed movement and the fight for light, space and survival. What do you think?

I just love the natuaral curves of this tree.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Architecture for all.

Following on from my previous ramblings concerning our visit to South Wales, I always try to take photographs of anything that takes my fancy. I particularly like buildings (see previous post), trees, colours and texture. Below are a few of my photos that I would like to share with you.
Plenty of colour. Cottages at The Mumbles.

The spire cought my eye. A lovely house in The Mumbles.

The pier at The Mumbles.

I loved the intricate ironwork on the pier.

Bathing huts overlooking the beach at Langland.

Much more traditional. The picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian Mansion House at Margam Country Park.

Part of the 12th century Chapter House at Margham Country Park.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Memorial to the few.

My youngest son Josh is a cadet in the Air Training Corps (ATC) and his squadron was asked to participate in a memorial parade to remember the Battle of Britain as part of the nationwide commemorations. The parade was held at the RAF shelter in the Commonwealth war graves section of Brookwood Military Cemetery, one of my favourite places as told in a couple of my previous blogs (here and here).

The flags in front of the RAF shelter.

For those who are not familiar with the Battle of Britain, this was the air battle over southern England in the summer of 1940 that helped to deter the threat of a German invasion of Britain following the fall of France and the Dunkirk evacuation earlier that year. Their great deed was summed up admiradly by Sir Winston Churchill in his famous rousing speech when he said that "so much was owed by so many to so few".

The service was attended by veterans of the Aircrew and Royal Air Force associations, ranking RAF officers, members of the Air Training Corps and the Lady Mayor of Woking together with members of the public. The Salvation Army band provided the music for the service, hymns and formal march past.

The top brass prepare for the march past.

The march past by the Air Training Corps.

I was quite moved by the occasion. It was good to see the old veterans proudly bearing their campaign medals mixing with the young ATC cadets. It hopefully means that their sacrifice will not be forgotten and the young appreciate what they did for their country.

As part of the commemoration the cadets had to lay small crosses at the graves of the RAF personnel killed during the second World War. Josh was given the task of laying crosses at the graves of two brothers buried side by side. I think he found the experience quite moving and hopefully was proud to be taking part. I certainly found the whole episode quite poignant.

Laying the crosses at the graves. Note the headstones together denoting the two brothers killed in action.

The brother's headstones with memorial crosses.

The cadets show their respects. Josh is middle front.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Goodbye Kenzo.

It is with regret that I report the death of one of one of our beloved cats. It happened three weeks ago but it's only now that I can share this post. The death of a pet is always difficult to deal with, but in Kenzo's case it felt worse for me as I found his body in the road on my way to work. He had gone out late the previous evening but didn't come to our calls as he usually did. We weren't unduly worried as he occasionally did stay out at night and sometimes jumped in through the bedroom window in the early hours.

Kenzo in relaxed mode.

When he didn't appear the next morning I was uneasy, but thought maybe he had got locked in a neighbour's garage or shed and would turn up eventually as if nothing had happened. I left for work and saw him laying at the side of the road. I was in instant denial, trying to convince myself that it was someone else's cat, but it was him. I lifted him up, gently put him in the car boot and drove home to tell the dreadful news to the family. That evening we put him to rest in our garden close to one of his favourite dozing places.

We miss him terribly. He was only two years old. Such a short life, but he had such an effect on us. He was handsome to the eye and had such an infectious miaow. He just talked and talked to you! It was so disarming. We had him as a kitten at just a few weeks old together with his brother Bailey. They adored each other and played and slept together. Bailey, we can tell misses Kenzo. He went very quiet the day after. He is a bit better now, but not back to his normal self. He must feel very lonely. Why do pets do this to us? It really hurts when something like this happens. We will never forget you Kenzo.

Kenzo sleeping with his brother Bailey.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Tacky or cool?

I love architecture. I love unusual buildings both modern and old. I'm no expert, I just like what I like. I also like diversity. When in Porthcawl I noticed two buildings only a few yards from each other. Both possessed character but in quite different ways.
The first building is a block of apartments called Esplanade House which is right on the promenade by the seafront. It's architects won a major Welsh housing award in 2006. The judges praised it's mix of "humour, charm, intellegence, populism and solid architectural pragmatism". The locals hate it and have dubbed it "the bottle bank!

The "bottle bank" in Porthcawl - tacky or cool?

I personally haven't made up my mind yet. It's prominent port hole openings and bulging facade seem to completely ignore the cream coloured facade of Porthcawl's promenade, but I don't quite hate it. It has something about it. The building is attention grabbing and prominent and has created alot of debate and discussion since it was built. Maybe that is what the architects intended and Porthcawl needed.

The other building is more traditional. It is The Grand Pavillion. Built in 1932 it dominates the seafront and boasts a classic thirties facade and distinctive octagonal dome. Originally a dance and concert hall in the war years, it is now a theatre and plays an important part in the town's social life. I adore art deco buildings like this, but maybe this too caused dismay to the traditionalists when it was first built.

The imposing facade of The Grand Pavillion.

The octagonal dome and galleon weather vane.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Porthcawl - a Welsh seaside town.

During my recent trip to South Wales we stayed with friends just outside Porthcawl and visited the town several times. Porthcawl developed as a port for coal exports during the 19th century, but it's trade was taken over by the more rapidly developing ports of nearby Barry and Port Talbot. However, despite this decline Porthcawl re-emerged as a very popular sea-side resort particularly favoured by the coal miners and their families from the Welsh coalfields. However, as with many resorts Porthcawl has suffered a decline in its holiday trade over recent years, especially since most of the south Wales Valleys coal pits have now closed. So Porthcawl is having to adapt to survive.

Today the town boasts a lovely promenade with views over the Bristol Channel and several nice beaches one of which we sampled, being encouraged by our friends to do a bit of body boarding in the surf. This was something I had never tried before, but thoroughly enjoyed, even if the sea was a might cold!

I just adore the subtle light in this image of my wife in the surf.

Catching the waves. Three of us in the sea at Porthcawl.

Boats of many colours. The small harbour.

Friday, 28 August 2009

An embarrassing condition!

During our South Wales weekend we visited the lovely seaside village of Mumbles near Swansea. Whilst walking with our friends along the promenade I came upon a small sailing dingy with a very unusual name. I would love to know the story behind the naming of this craft! Something to do with sand, salt or dare I say it, a case of crabs perhaps!

I couldn't resist taking this photo!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A "Lush" of Lifeguards?

We have just been visiting South Wales (more in another blog) seeing old friends and whilst walking along the beach at Langland I took this picture of a group of young lifeguards.

Lifeguards on Langland Bay beach.

Following on from my search for the perfect collective noun for a group of blondes,I wandered what a group of lifeguards would be called. My friend's teenage daughter, finding the group of men very attractive and "hunky" came up with the term "Lush" which in modern young English speak I am reliably informed means good looking and desireable. So a group of young lifeguards is henceforth known as a Lush of Lifeguards! Unless, you blog reader can come up with anything better.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Test cricket at Lords

Queuing to get into the ground. The match was a sell out as always.

As previously mentioned I went on my annual visit to Lords cricket ground to watch the first days play of the Test match between England and Australia. To the uninitiated a Test Match is an international cricket match which lasts five days. The Test series of matches (usually five or sometimes six matches) between England and Australia are collectively known as "The Ashes" and are passionately fought for.

The term "Ashes" was first used after England lost to Australia - for the first time on home soil - at The Oval (another London cricket ground) on 29th August 1882. A day later, the Sporting Times carried a mock obituary to English cricket which concluded that: "The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia".

The concept caught the imagination of the sporting public. A few weeks later, an English team, captained by Ivo Bligh [later Lord Darnley], set off to tour Australia, with Bligh vowing to return with "the ashes"; his Australian counterpart, E. Murdock, similarly vowed to defend them. During that tour a small terrecotta urn was presented to the England captain by a group of Melbourne women. The contents of the urn are reputed to be the ashes of an item of cricket equipment, possibly a bail, ball or stump. Whichever side holds the Ashes, the urn normally remains in the Museum at Lords.

The packed stands eagerly await proceedings.

Lord's in my opinion is a truly magical place and has long been seen as the 'Home of Cricket' and the game's spiritual 'headquarters'. Cricket has been played here since 1814. But its importance is not merely historical. In practice it remains, to this day, perhaps the most important single place in world cricket. Lord's is the setting for some of the best cricket in the world. It hosts npower Test matches and NatWest-sponsored one-day internationals plus most of Middlesex's home games, some historic fixtures (such as Oxford v Cambridge universities) and the village and club finals.

The hallowed earth that is Lords cricket ground.

The slip fielders hoping for a catch.

This is the media centre at Lords-known as "the Cherie" a reference to Cherie Blair's unflattering smile! Very unfair.....not!

The imposing pavillion.

Andrew Strauss celebrates his century.

The postscript to this post is that England defeated Australia in this Test to take a 1-0 lead in the Ashes series. It was the first time that England had beaten Australia at Lords since 1934!