In Which Celia and Isobel Go for a Walk in Search of Bluebells

I have so many posts half composed in my head, but unwritten and unposted: stray cats, blogging v WhatsApp, Brexit (again), amazing books, homelessness, climate crisis, MasterB. You get the picture. Maybe in time. But tonight, as we come to the end of Easter weekend, and the sun is shining, the blossom is still blossoming, the air has a gentle, mellow air, quite at odds with the political climate, I want to write about yesterday’s walk in Surrey.

Above the town

Above the town

Farm building

Farm building

Lush

Lush

I was born in Surrey and grew up there. I took its hills, its green fields, its bluebell woods for granted. You still get to enjoy these things in Surrey when your parents aren’t stockbrokers.

Bluebells

Bluebells

In leaf

In leaf

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Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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In Which Celia and Isobel Visit Woolwich, Part Two

I realise I need to reel back to the barrier bit of our our afternoon.

You can see the barrier from the station platform at Pontoon Dock. There are worse views. We were a bit puzzled by the hedges which at first sight suggested a maze, then waves, and provided some children with great hide and seek opportunities. It also made it feel quite private as we walked the length of it.

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It turns out the waves are to remind us of the docks, but they also provide a micro climate which encourages a variety of plants and wildlife.

Now I’ll skip back to Woolwich. Beyond the market square there’s a busy road with vehicles of all types roaring along it, and an estate agent branch of a well known swanky firm. We were about to find out why. We had reached the Arsenal, the original home of the football team, now associated with north London, but born down in se18.

The football team

The military used to be in these buildings, but now they have been, as the increasingly heard phrase goes, repurposed. I should say it was shortly after entering this repurposed area that we met Ben for the first time. Or rather Celia did. I missed the moment but turned around from studying the statue of Nike to see she was playing a game of catch with a small boy with curly dark hair, a winning smile and a very inaccurate grasp of how catch is played. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, one person throws an object, often a ball, sometimes a bean bag, in this case a small plastic toy, to another person who catches it. When the thrower throws the object in an entirely different direction from the person who is in the catching role, the game loses some of its flow. I made a lucky catch when by some miracle Ben launched the toy in my direction, returned the toy to him, and we moved on.

Nike

As with the barrier park, what was striking was the feeling of space. The buildings are low, the ground between them well tended. Military space has become residential and leisure space. Work is going on for Crossrail, the Elizabeth Line making Woolwich to central London journey times impressively quick.

New Railway

Elizabeth Line

Our experience of being on the edge of a regeneration zone where Berkeley Homes is involved made us a tad cynical. For all Berkeley and the other developers trumpet the mantra of creating community, their goal is to make money. The communities they want to build are not the people already living in the area, but newcomers with money.

Military History Rended Nostalgic

History as a marketing

Community

An area’s history is sanitised and repackaged in a golden nostalgic vision of the past. I can’t say it’s not seductive. But in our local area I have seen history boards that play fast and loose with neighbourhood boundaries, and where uncomfortable parts of the history are edited out. I imagine it’s the same in Woolwich.

Still, I began to think that MasterB and I could quite happily relocate, and Celia very generously said she’d allow me to live in Woolwich.

Among the older buildings are new blocks of flats. But it was this building which inspired our first real surge of property envy.

Property Envy

Nice Front Door

Later we learned the service charges are £5,500 pa. I currently pay £1,000 in service charges.

The museum has closed and is to relocate. It occupied an enviably large space, no doubt now destined to become flats. This underlines one f the conflicts of regeneration, where conservation and archives collide with profit. It’s the ideal place to have a museum telling the story of the area’s past, but the economic argument wins each time because we place a higher value on money than we do on education.

This was Woolwich

I am very doubtful about giving the responsibility for telling history into the hands of people whose prime motivation is to make money from it. Inconvenient truths can be lost very quickly.

To be relocated

Once the museum

We peered through the windows into the empty spaces beyond. It reminds both of us of the naval dockyard at Chatham. Who knows if that might yet be turned into desirable homes.
Naturally there is some public art, and a fair amount of ordinance lying about, now less defensive than ornamental. Children climbed on cannons.

Engine Mount (don’t ask me, I don’t know)

Assembly, Peter Burke Assembly, Peter Burke

Cannon Balls

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In Which Celia and Isobel Visit Woolwich, Part One

Brexit has sapped me of energy so completely I thought I might be coming down with some ghastly lurgy. Not even the birth of a new baby in the family on Friday was enough to revitalise me.
However, a trip to SE18 was wonderfully restorative.
We set out after lunch for the Thames Barrier. There’s a great deal of redevelopment by the park on the north side of the Thames next to the barrier, but even so, what struck us was how quiet it was, how calm. Compared to our patch of inner city, this was spacious and unpopulated. I felt I could live with views like these of the river.

Thames Barrier

Rays of God

Exposed Foreshore

A tug bringing empty containers came up the river to the barrier, passed through and beyond, making for the City. This containers are filled with London’s rubbish and towed away to be burned, buried or composted.

Tug and Containers

Nearing the Barrier


There was one block of flats we both agreed was very stylish, the design owing something to an ocean going liner of the Queen Mary type. Oddly I didn’t photograph it. I made friends with a young cockapoo called Dobey who was finding his first spring immensely exciting, and Celia sat and listened to the birds and the quiet. A pair of magpies were carrying on a conversation with each other, one bird in a tree, the other perched on a balcony. Continue reading

Cuba Street

According to my guide book this is Wellington’s alternative quarter, a great people watching place. I realised I was right by it and spent an enjoyable afternoon walking up and down, exploring some of the shops and the side


Havana it ain’t, though some of the colours are reminiscent, but fortunately the buildings look in much better shape than those I saw when I went to Cuba over twenty years ago.

This one is my favourite.

 

There were a pleasing number of vegetarian and vegan eateries I noted for possible future reference.

 

 

 

It’s not just a home to businesses, there are houses and flats too.
I think I’ll Let the photos do the talking. Continue reading

Hello Hilda

My lovely Catsitter Birgit sent me a photo of MasterB. It was the first email I opened this morning. My boy looked content and relaxed which is wonderful. The downside was the picture made me immediately homesick. Gosh I am missing my boy.
Over the last two days we have been up and down in Wellington. Yesterday we started at ground level, walking along the harbour. It was Armistice Day, and there was a certain military presence among the shorts and ice creams.

Military presence


We resisted the kayaks and paddle boards, but stopped to look at sculptures and buildings.

Kayaks

Into the wind


There was evidence of yarn bombing.

Yarn bombed clawed foot


Our meanderings meant we were still in the harbour area at lunchtime, so we sat in the shade near the boathouses and ate our packed lunches.

Boathouses


Boat

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Awesome

Some rare things merit the very overused adjective, awesome.
Tane Mahuta is such a one. This tree, dating back some 1200 years, reminds you how insignificant we humans are. The trunk is some six metres across, has a girth of 13.8 metres, and the lowest branches are 18 metres above the ground. You might expect a huge canopy of branches and leaves, but there isn’t one. Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, wants plants at its base, but under the ground its shallow roots spread out in a wide circle.

Tane Mahuta


It stands in the Waipoua Kauri Forest. The Forest is threatened by Kauri dieback, so strict footwear hygiene must be observed.

Hygiene precautions

Tane Mahuta


We drove from Doubtless Bay, Mangonui to take the ferry from Narrows to Rawene, where I spotted avocados being sold outside someone’s house for a dollar each.

Waiting for the ferry at Narrows

Malcolm bought two. I took pictures of two boathouses now being used for other purposes.

Boathouse turned café

Then it was onwards and upwards, mainly upwards, to the Waipoura Kauri Forest.

Forest

Lyn was at the wheel. We had a couple of stops where I climbed out of the car to take photos.

Breathtaking


Open air

Stunning

New Zealand was not behind the door when scenery was handed out. Breathtaking, green, magnificent; awesome. On our coach trip on Wednesday we went to Cape Reinga. It was a long way from home.

A long way from home

Lighthouse Cape Reinga

However hard I found the long flight from London, it was much easier than Kupe’s journey here to Aotearoa from Hawaiki. We watched as waves from the Pacific met waves from the Tasman Sea, causing frothing circles.

Where the seas meet

Reaching the lighthouse we passed several information boards. It was very well done, and I felt surprisingly moved. It felt a fitting place for spirits to be leaping to their homes in an ever afterlife. Continue reading

Around Auckland

I have far too many pictures to post them all, but these should give you a flavour of some of our ambles on Monday after I had bought my new shoes, of which more later.
Two notable things about this arch of obvious Maori influence: the lower stones are real stones, the higher ones are made of fibreglass for health and safety reasons; the gate stands at the top of the street which, it’s planned, will eventually be pedestrianised. Nice.

Arch of stones and fibreglass


Like many towns and cities today, Auckland abounds in pieces of public art. Some are obvious, some easy to miss. Here are some I photographed.

Women’s suffrage

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First Impressions

Progress through the airport was remarkably smooth which gave me a good first impression of New Zealand. When I emerged I saw Lyn holding this sign:

Isobel and Cat


I have never before been met at an airport with someone holding a sign with my name on so it’s now my first souvenir. I took the photo back at the house where Lyn and Malcolm offered me a choice of two cameras. This was my first shot:

First photo


But that of course was taken after we had arrived at the house. It is reached by a vertiginous drive as, I realise today, are many houses here.

Going down


I’m not sure which direction makes it look most impressive.

Going up


You really wouldn’t want a slipping clutch in this neighbourhood. At the bottom of the drive stands the house, and in front of the house a hollow tree.

Hollow tree


I looked into it, but there was no sign of wildlife, just something that looked rather like a discarded camping kettle.

No wildlife here


The trees that had immediately caught my attention when we left the airport were the Norfolk Pines. They are stunning, and Lyn and Malcolm tell me there is a whole road of them in Napier.

Norfolk Pine

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