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.