Was Handel fishing for inspiration?

Local anglers, when fishing in our nearby canals and River Trent, usually have nothing more than a fisherman’s stool or folding picnic chair and very occasionally a windshield, umbrella or small tent. Compare that with this fishing ’temple’, yes that’s the official description, in the grounds of Calwich Estate, Ellastone, on the River Dove which forms the county boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

084 (2) with shadowDuring a walk in the area, we were fortunate enough to in be able to look inside and see the large fireplace. We could imagine the log fire burning there, warming the guests as they sat around the large wooden dining table enjoying a fine meal, possibly freshly caught trout, prepared for them by the servants from the house.  In addition to the river at the front there is a fishing lake at the rear of the building. 

All we like sheep
All we like sheep have gone astray…

Even more interesting to we music lovers was that the composer Handel was one of the abbey’s frequent guests and it has been suggested that his visits here may have inspired some of his most important works such as ‘Messiah’ and ‘The Water Music’.

Handel’s most famous work is arguably The Messiah, and many believe he had the inspiration and ideas whilst here in the summer of 1741 and when he returned to London he put it all on paper in 24 days beginning on 24th August. Hallelujah!

Handel back

Fisherman's seat

In search of Another Place


16x9 Another Place 2A recent postcard – from last week actually. We decided to spend a couple of nights away, one in Chester and one in Southport. For a long time we had wanted to see Antony Gormley’s iron men on the beach at Crosby, a few miles south of Southport. A little bit of research to pinpoint the location informed us that they are actually called ‘Another Place’. We followed the first brown tourist attraction board to ‘Antony Gormley’s Another Place’ but ended up in a fairly deserted area which just didn’t seem right. There were no further directions, no sign of iron, or real men on a beach, and the water nearby was a lake, not the sea. It was cold, windy and showery; not the sort of weather for exploring unknown territory  looking for iron men so we drove away. However, just down the road we saw a local resident repairing his car.

‘Excuse me’, Sue, obviously keen to use the correct title, asked with a big friendly smile on her face, ‘Could you direct us to Another Place please?’ There was a long silence, a puzzled look on the man’s face and definitely no return of the smile. After a long pause he queried,
‘You want me to direct you to another place?’
‘Yes, it can’t be far from here’
After another lengthy pause he suddenly said ‘Oh, you mean the iron men on the beach!’, and proceeded to direct us to the very place we had just left. We gave it another go, still no iron men but this time another couple in search of them. They had just enquired at a nearby building and had been advised to go to Hall Road car park. We decided to forget it for that day, check in at the hotel and ask there. They also recommended Hall Road car park. We decided we would call on the way home the next day.
We found Hall Road very easily and the car park overlooked the first few of the 100 iron men. At least the tide was out and we could see the men, spread out over a large area. It was still cold and windy but we walked on the beach for about 30 minutes, just enough time to take a few photographs.

16x9 Another Place 2 back

Death of the phone box

DSCF0979 ed
A picture that tells a story.

In the ‘About’ page I suggest that the mobile phone, and its ability to send emails, pictures and texts, must accept some responsibility for the demise of the postcard. If that is so, then it must be even more accountable for the gradual disappearance of the good old phone box. These bright red icons of Britain are disappearing in large numbers. In my childhood these were the only way to make a phone call. Few families had a phone at home but one of these boxes was never far away. Now, and understandably, people prefer to carry a mobile, complete with all the contact numbers and a whole range of other information and capabilities they could ever wish for.

Many people in picturesque villages have been saddened by threats to remove their phone box, even though they probably didn’t use it. The phone box was part of the overall scene. However, rather than the boxes being removed, some people and parish councils are now ‘adopting’ an old red phone box and they are now being used to house ATM machines or defibrillators, mini art galleries, libraries or book exchange stations.

The good thing about digital photography is that it gives a record of exactly when the photo was taken and I was surprised to see that I took the one above at Sandringham Estate way back in July 2005. This must have been the time when more and more people were owning mobile phones and consequently turning their backs (as in the photograph) on the traditional phone box. You can imagine this couple had just purchased their first mobile and were enjoying the novelty of ringing family and friends from a holiday or day out.

Sandringham postcardphone box Sandringham

In like a lion, out like a lamb

‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’.  Weather lore goes back centuries and even today many of these sayings have some degree of accuracy.  The trouble with March is that it doesn’t follow the transition from lion to lamb, or winter to spring, in a gradual, measured way.  Each of its 31 days could be a fraction of a degree warmer, and the wind that little bit calmer, perhaps with a slightly more noticeable change on 21st as a token gesture to mark the first day of spring.  But no, March keeps us guessing.  A few days of fine weather followed by days of cold wind, frost, and, like today, a sprinkling of snow.  If she’s feeling particularity mischievous, March will give all those things, and more, in a single hour.

Charles Dickens describes it particularly well in his quote on the back of today’s postcard.

St Giles', CauldwellSt. Giles’ Church, Caldwell, South Derbyshire

St Giles', Cauldwell, back

Lent Lilies and Dove Cottage, Grasmere

The first day of Lent, so it is appropriate to mention Lent lilies. Until recently I didn’t know that’s what daffodils are also called (thank you BBC Gardeners World). The native or wild daffodil is also known as the Lent lily because it generally comes into bloom and dies away between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

High on the list of places to visit in the Lake District is Dove Cottage, near Grasmere.

Dove Cottage 6x4

Dove Cottage

Dove Cottage was the home of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy from 1799 to 1808. He married Mary in 1802 and she and her sister moved into the cottage. Wordsworth’s intention was to have a time of ‘plain living but high thinking’. Three children arrived in four years so in a small cottage with four adults and three babies how ‘much plain living and high thinking’ was possible is anyone’s guess. He did however write much of his poetry during that period.

A tenuous link to ‘postcards’ is that in 1813 Wordsworth became postmaster and distributor of stamps for Westmorland at a salary of £400 a year. Postcards didn’t come along until many years after that but had they been around in Wordsworth’s time this is what he may have sent…Daffodils backDaffodils by Wordsworth

Little did he know that it would become one of the nation’s favourite poems.


Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits…

The first of the month. Did you remember to say rabbits as soon as you got up?  No neither did I.  In fact, in over 800 firsts of the month in my lifetime I don’t think I ever said it!  I recall being told about this strange superstition as a child, and it cropping up in the odd conversations, but that’s all.  Anyway, enough rabbiting on.  It is just a way of introducing this post about Hilltop Farm, the home of Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit.

Hilltop Farm 2

stamp 3We visited the farm in October 2016 and we could see why this provided so much inspiration for her tales of Peter Rabbit and friends, still enjoyed around the world today.  When she died in 1943, she left Hill Top Farm to the National Trust, and it is now open to the public as a museum. However, for us her greatest legacy is the gift of 15 other farms to the National Trust which cover large areas of the Lake District which can be accessed and enjoyed by all.

Hilltop Farm 3

In the garden it was easy to imaging Peter Rabbit enjoying a tasty snack of carrots until the sudden appearance of Mr McGregor.

Hilltop Farm 4

National Trust Hill Top Farm