Coventry, City of Culture 2021

I went to Coventry again today. It was fab. I knew it would be. I went there for the first time in February. I fully intend to return before long and explore some more.

It’s going to be the City of Culture in 2021. It’s going to be brilliant.

It’s been twinned with more cities than I can remember, mainly I think because its mission to promote peace and reconciliation.

I think it should be twinned with the Elephant and Castle, SE1. The clue is in the coat of arms.

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Walking the Dogs

The nights were pretty cold when I was away and I was glad of a hot water bottle. Two dogs snuggling beside me in the evening, plus the heat from the stove kept me warm in the sitting room.

Two dogs

Westie Boy was probably feeling the cold as his coat has been clipped very short in preparation for Cousin’s upcoming trip to Australia to see daughter Number One in Sydney, while her husband, who’s staying at home, will be promoted to Dog Carer in Charge. The one who looks like a walking hearth rug is Westie Pup, who belongs to Daughter Number Two and with whom I was delighted to be reunited over the weekend. Rather more delighted than Westie Boy was to have her there I’m sorry to say.

The mornings were chilly and bright, frost evident on the fields and verges.

Frosted

Blue skies, green fields

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The Elephant in the Room

Well, not really a room, more a district and a city. Let me explain.

When I visited Coventry last week I was surprised and intrigued to find representations of elephants.

A Line of Balancing Elephants

I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London. I’m used to references to elephants hereabouts. We have a magnificent one with a howdah on his back that adorns the delapidated shopping centre; there’s Elephant Cars based in Elephant Road; the Electric Elephant Café here in Walworth, offices in Hannibal House; Elefest, once our annual beano celebrating all things Elephant connected. But I was unaware of any pachyderm associations with Coventry, usually a city more renowned for its connections with Lady Godiva’s naked horse riding event. However, elephants there definitely were.

 

An Elephant in the Wall

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Under the Same Sun

Westie Puppy is back in her Belfast home and thriving. MasterB has not been outside for two days. The birds are emptying one of the four feeders in the garden and ignoring the others.

Half past five tonight and it was still light. It is spring. The evidence is all around us in the shape of daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses. New shoots pierce the earth. Trees are in blossom. Neighbours are turning the earth in their gardens and planting small purchases made at flower nurseries. I went out without my gloves.

Today is St David’s Day, 1st March, just over two weeks to go before Ersatz Paddies take to the streets wearing dubious hats and swearing allegiance to Guinness. When I was a child being Irish was unfashionable. Actually, it was more than unfashionable, it was social leprosy. I remained largely ignorant of this due to Mother’s relentless programming. My sister and I were brought up to believe our half-Irishness was a miraculous bonus, something of pride and joy. Similarly being the daughters of a working mother when girls we knew at school had mothers who mainly stayed at home. How I looked down on them. I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

I was around twelve when the penny finally dropped that I was doubly socially inferior as far as many of my classmates and their parents were concerned. At Mother’s funeral one of my cousins, the one who the rest of us see as being fantastically and unaccountably right wing, queried my description of Mother as Irish. It’s how she described herself, I replied. Another cousin said Mother would have called Derry Londonderry. No she didn’t, I said, hearing Mother’s voice in my head saying she came from Co Derry.

A few years ago Cousin and I deposited our grandmother’s autograph book at the Linenhall Library in Belfast. Much as we valued it, it seemed to have a significance beyond our family. It’s clear that my grandmother and her friends all considered themselves uncomplicatedly and proudly Irish. There are many patriotic entries for St Patrick’s Day; verses, pressed shamrocks, pen and ink drawings of harps. My grandmother signed the Ulster Covenant. Look online and you can find her name. I am guessing that post Partition she may have called herself British, but I don’t know. By then she was married and trapped in a cycle of pregnancy and increasing hardship, leading to her premature death in 1927. Continue reading

Westie Pup

I should hate to disappoint a newly ennobled Octavia by refusing to comply with her request. So here are some pictures of Her Puppyness with all her dishevelled charm.

She may grow into her ears one day.

Getting photos of her awake and still is a challenge in itself. She is full of life, loves being with people and has a Miss Marple like interest in everything around her.

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Saturday

Day five of my holiday (or four if you don’t count Tuesday which was when I travelled) and this is my first post. I am sitting on a warm bus heading into Belfast and just beyond to visit Uncle Bill and his wife, and to go out to lunch with them and their elder son. I’m armed with a book for my uncle, chocolates for my aunt, and nothing for my cousin.

I have my ‘phone and its charger as since Monday the battery has starting running down very rapidly. I hope there is a power point on the bus home, or I may not be able to tell Cousin I am back at Toomebridge, and the walk to her house in the dark is not something I should like to attempt.

In contrast with my journey from London to Belfast n the summer, this time the ‘plane was half empty and we arrived twenty minutes ahead of schedule. It was still early afternoon, so we reached Cousin’s in daylight where I was greeted by Westie Boy and made Westie Puppy’s acquaintance. She belongs to one of Cousin’s daughters, and is a temporary resident while her toilet training is completed. She’s a rough and tumble scruff at the minute, and it’s hard to imagine her as a townie sophisticate in Belfast, sitting primly by her owners while they enjoy a cup of coffee in the city. Though she does love to sit beside you, to lie on your feet, so that bit will be fine, but I think we’ll have to get her used to the brush before her first public appearances. Continue reading

The Penultimate Leg part 1

I was going to call this the last leg, but that will be Heathrow to Home, and even this penultimate leg divides in separate parts however you look at it.

I was early to bed and earlyish to rise. With only five Singaporean dollars to my name this morning, the hotel blow out buffet was never an option. But I had a very good vegetarian selection at a nearby Indian café last night for a princely almost five dollars, and had the sense to ask if they did breakfasts. The answer being in the affirmative, once washed and my bags rearranged for the nth time, I set off.

It was obviously a breakfast venue popular with locals too.

You may not find Dynamic Dining in any of the eating guides to Singapore, but I recommend it for good food and friendly service. There was a slight hiccough with my coffee which was served already sweetened, but my food was great from the word go. It turns out one of the cooks used to work for P&O as a chef. The before and after pictures of my meal tell their own story.

 

This chap arrived by motorbike just as I was paying.

Then back to the hotel and a quick trip to the eighth floor for some last views of Singapore.

 

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A Hit With a Pig

Closing the car door, I realised I was giving off a fairly strong smell of pig. It's not a bad smell, but it is fairly distinctive; earthy with an overtone of muddy straw. Fortunately Vicki was probably similarly aromatic. Anyway, she didn't seem to mind, and after all it was she who had organised our trip to Edgar's Mission and a spot of pig cuddling.

Not only cuddlesome pigs, but a gorgeous dog called Ruby who was sent to be shot because she was a failure as a farm dog, hopeless at herding stock, and far keener to interact with humans.

Do you feel a bit of a theme developing here? Last week Gem/Jem, now Ruby. Though the first would be my childhood's black Labrador Tessa, the gun dog who wouldn't retrieve, whose days were at one point similarly numbered.

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