Beautiful Places – Lincoln’s Inn, London

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Lincoln’s Inn  is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn. Lincoln’s Inn is able to trace its official records to 1422.   T he Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn is said to take its name from Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln who died in 1311. His own great house was nearby and he is credited with being the Society’s patron. However, the origins of the name may as easily be derived from Robert de Chesney Bishop of Lincoln who acquired the ‘old Temple’ on the site in 1161. The present character of Lincoln’s Inn owes much to the fact that its precincts and buildings – the medieval Hall and Gateway abutting onto Chancery Lane, the late seventeenth century New Square in the centre, and the magnificent Victorian gothic Great Hall and Library beside Lincoln’s Inn Fields – survived nearly unscathed the devastations of the Blitz. Striking as they are, these buildings however are not merely architectural and historical tourist attractions but provide the professional home for the practicing bar and many of the educational facilities for the training of students. It is to meet those needs that the Inn exists and on which it expends the bulk of its resources.

Fifteen English Prime Ministers, from William Pitt to Tony Blair, have studied law here. The names of the novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard and John Galsworthy are all found in the membership records. The poet and preacher John Donne was Preacher to the Society and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Thomas More, the author, humanist scholar and statesman, was admitted as a student in 1496 and went on to become a bencher of the Inn.

I just love its soft, old, stones and visit when I can just to wander quietly among its courts.  If you come to London – don’t miss its gentle peace and spirit of its gentle ghosts

Beautiful Symbols – the Coventry Crosses

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The wooden cross and the cross of nails were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II.  My father was there that night as a fireman and his stories of the experience lived on as sad legends in our family.  My mother could see the fire glowing on the horizon from 30 miles away!  The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross in the ruins and tied them together. A replica of the wooden cross built in 1964, has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept in St. Michael’s Hall below the new cathedral.

Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it rests on its altar. The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one.

One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bomb attacks and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A copy of the Stalingrad Madonna by Kurt Reuber that was drawn in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is shown in the cathedrals of all three cities (Berlin, Coventry and Volgograd) as a sign of the reconciliation of the three countries that were once enemies.

A medieval cross of nails has also been carried on board all British warships to subsequently bear the name HMS Coventry. The cross of nails was on board HMS Coventry when she was sunk by enemy action in the Falklands War. The cross was salvaged by Royal Navy divers, and presented to Coventry Cathedral by the ship’s Captain and colleagues. (One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward.)

The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael. as you might guess, and he stands guard on the wall of the cathedral!  You can find out more at the Coventry Cathedral Website

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Beautiful Places – Whittington and its Castle

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An extract from the National Gazetteer 1868

“WHITTINGTON, a parish in the upper division of Oswestry hundred, county Salop, 2½ miles N.E. of Oswestry, and 5 W. of Ellesmere. It has stations on the Cambrian and on the Shrewsbury and Chester branch of the Great Western railways. There is likewise a branch line from Gobowen, in this parish, to Oswestry. The river Perry and the Ellesmere canal traverse the parish from N. to S.

It has the ruins of an ancient moated border castle, supposed to have been built in the 9th century by a British chieftain, whose descendants held it till the Norman conquest, when it was given to Peverel, the founder of the family of the Peverels of the Peak, but afterwards passed into the hands of Fulk Fitz-Guarine, or Warine, whose family kept it till 1419. The castle, before its demolition, was strongly fortified with five round towers, each 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height, and the walls were 12 feet in thickness.

The towers of the gatehouse are still entire, with some portions of the walls and towers of the castle. The parish includes the townships of Berghill, Daywell, Ebnall, Fernhill, Frankton, Henlle, Hindford, Old Marton, and Whittington, with the hamlets of Babies’ Wood and Gobowen, and contains at present a population of about 1,500. The village was once a market town, and now contains about 500 inhabitants. In the parish are Belmont, Ebnall Lodge, Fernhill, and Park Hall, the last of the time of Henry VIII., with a private chapel, said to have been consecrated by Archbishop Parker.

The Hulston estate also lies in the centre of the parish, but is now a separate parish. A portion of the eastern side of the parish was in 1865 formed into a separate district, embracing also a part of Ellesmere parish. The district church is called St. Andrew’s, and the new district Welsh Frankton. Another portion of the township of Daywell, to the N.W. of the parish, has also been severed, having been assigned to the Hengoed district, the church of which was built in, and the chief part of the district taken from, the parish of Selattyn.

The subsoil is principally gravel with traces of coal. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £965, with 50 acres of glebe. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt in 1806. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National schools built at a cost of £1,000, which are partly supported by an endowment of £42 per annum. Mrs. Lloyd, of Aston Hall, is lady of the manor.”

Well worth a vist – my mother grew up here and my parents were married in the village church.  The castle is the only one in England to be owned and run by the local community.

Beautiful Creatures – Flying Fish

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In order to glide out of the water, a flying fish (Latin name “exocoetus”) swishes its tail to up to 50-70 times per second,which “vibrates” to produce enough speed to burst through the surface. It then spreads its pectorial fins and tilts them slightly upwards to lift itself to glide through the air. This permits it to sail above the ocean’s surface where it can at travel at 70km per mile. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by travelling against or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of aircurrents in which the “wings” flutter due to the wind with a maximum glide time recorded to be 30 seconds. At the end of a glide, a flying fish folds up its pectoral fins which have been acting as “wings” to re-enter the sea or drops the lower end its tail into the water where it “vibrates” the lower part of its tail to allow its body to reaccelerate and change direction, providing the thrust to lift itself for another glide.

In 1900 to 1930s flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.  There are about 50 species grouped in seven to nine genera. Flying fish are found in all of the major oceans, particularly in the warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.  Historically the country of Barbados was nicknamed as “The land of the Flying fish”. Today it remains the official national fish for the country and it was in the Caribbean that I first saw them.  I looked down from a deck  above the bridge of a cruise ship and for a moment wondered why the captain was playing with paper airplanes! Then I realized who they were and spent a wonderful afternoon watching them ride and play enjoying the updrafts caused by the ship as we sailed passed Dominica!

Beautiful Trees – The Gingko

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Buddhist monks in the mountains of south-east China have long cultivated gingko trees in the courtyards of their monasteries. Some trees planted at temples are believed to be over 1,500 years old. The gingko trees were valued for their medicinal uses, edible seeds, and perhaps their beauty.  In about 800 AD, the monks brought the gingko with them to Japan where many years later the tree was first seen by a European, the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer.

Also known as maidenhair tree, the Gingko is the oldest species of tree on earth today; it’s been around since the days of the dinosaur. The Gingko is immune to the effects of most diseases and parasites

For thousands of years the Chinese have used ginkgo leaves to treat disorders associated with aging. Today numerous scientific studies appear to have shown that Ginkgo does indeed help to slow memory loss in those suffering from Alzheimer’s, multi-infarct dementia (MID), and age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). Some studies suggest that ginkgo may even help reverse the effects of these illnesses to some extent.

Beautiful Places – Zen Garden of Kyoto

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Zen Garden of Kyoto

Zen rock gardens, or karesansui (translated as “dry-mountain-water”), originated in medieval Japan and are renowned for their simplicity and serenity. The most famous of these can be found in Kyoto at the 15th-century Ryoan-ji, the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon. “While there are other similar gardens of great beauty,” says James Ulak, curator of Japanese art at Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, “Ryoan-ji remains the ur-site of the type—powerful, abstract, Zen Buddhist landscapes designed to invoke deep meditation.”

Measuring 98 by 32 feet, the Ryoan-ji garden is about the size of a tennis court and is composed solely of 15 large and small rocks, some encircled by moss, grouped in five clusters on a bed of carefully raked white sand. From a distance, the rocks resemble islands, the sand a tranquil sea.

In 2002, a research team at Kyoto University claimed to have cracked the Zen code. Relying on computer models, they found that the garden’s rocks—when viewed from the proper angle—subconsciously evoke the tranquil outline of a branching tree. Over the centuries, however, visitors have discerned images as diverse as a tigress escorting her cubs across water and the Chinese character for “heart” or “mind.” Since the anonymous designer left no explanation, the garden’s exact meaning remains a mystery, which no doubt contributes to its enduring allure.

What will you see?

Beautiful Paintings – The White Water Lilies by Claude Monet

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In 1893 Monet had bought a strip of marshland across the road from his house and flower garden, through which flowed a tributary of the River Epte. By diverting this stream, he began to construct a waterlily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. By 1900 this unique product of Monet’s imagination (for his Impressionism had become more subjective) was in itself a major work of environmental art—an exotic lotusland within which he was to meditate and paint for almost 30 years. The first canvases he created depicting lilies, water, and the Japanese bridge were only about one square yard, but their unprecedented opeads and blossoms floating on the quiet water, and the Japanese bridge closing the composition at one end,  have an almost hypnotic effect.  This picture and the others depicting his garden go on to inspire the imagination of artists and gardeners as well as those of us who just enjoy the fruit of their labours

The picture is in Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow






Beautiful Places – Guernsey

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A heady mix of stunning scenery and contemporary living make Guernsey an ideal place to relax. Inspiring walks along the cliff paths, rambles through the rural interior can be combined with lazy days on the island’s beautiful beaches. St Peter Port, the island’s capital, is a bustling harbor town with a tapestry of architectural styles that tell the story of the region’s changing fortunes. Here bistros, restaurants and boutiques jostle, while the harbor ferries make travel to the other Channel Islands (Jersey, Alderney, Sark etc) simple. Although Guernsey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, it is loyal to the British crown. This loyalty, can be traced back to Norman times when the Channel Islands first became part of the English realm, and forms the basis of the island’s constitution.

Beautiful Phenomenon – The Jet Stream

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Most of us think rarely about the jet stream and the impact it has on our lives but it has a huge influence on weather and climate and certainly on air travel. As the picture shows, from space it looks quite beautiful.   Here the Northern Hemisphere Jet Stream can be seen crossing Cape Breton Island in the Maritime Provinces of Eastern Canada. The Jet Stream is a narrow zone of high-speed winds typically found at altitudes of 4 to 8 miles (8-12 km) above the earth. They result from temperature contrasts between polar and tropical regions. The strongest Jet Stream winds are found in the winter when the contrast between polar and tropical regions is the greatest. Wind speeds can reach 90 to over 180 miles per hour (145 to over 290 km/h) from west to east. Jet Streams are found between latitudes 20? to near 55? north and south. During the winter months over the United States and southern Canada, the path taken by the Jet Stream can have a large influence on the weather conditions of this region. (Courtesy NASA)

May Facts, Customs and Traditions

Gemstone: Emerald
Flower: Lilly of the Valley

May is named after the Greek goddess, Maia. The month is a time of great celebrations in the northern hemisphere. It is the time when flowers emerge and crops begin to sprout.

The Anglo-Saxon name for May was Tri-Milchi, in recognition of the fact that with the lush new grass cows could be milked three times a day. It was first called May in about 1430. Before then it was called Maius, Mayes, or Mai.

May Day (Garland Day)

In Britain, as in most parts of Western Europe, May day marked the end of the harsh winter months, welcomed the beginning of Summer, and optimistically looked forward to the bright and productive months. For our ancestors, largely in rural areas, it was a major annual festival and was celebrated through out the country, especially on the first of May with music, dancing and games.

Traditional May Day celebrations included dancing around maypoles and the appearance of ‘hobby horses’ and characters such as ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Jack in Green’.

Find out more about May Day in England

In some parts of Britain, May 1st is called Garland Day.

The first of May is Garland Day
So please remember the garland.
We don’t come here but once a year,
So please remember the garland.

Greenery was collected by primary school children to make garlands. In many English villages children would parade with garlands of flowers, sometimes fastened to sticks or in the shape of a cross, or fixed to hoops. This was done in the hope of collecting money. Sometimes this was known as May Dolling because often placed in the centre of the garland was a small doll.

There are still garland ceremonies today.

At Charlton-on-Otmore, Oxfordshire, a large wooden cross covered with yew and box leaves stands above the rood screen in the church. On May Day this is taken down and redecorated with fresh greenery and flowers and the children carry small decorated crosses around the village and bring them to a special service. Also in Oxfordshire at Brampton, the Spring Bank Holiday marks the beginning of the traditional Morris Dance Season. In the morning children bring out a selection of garlands which are judged in a competition at lunch time. May dolls are sometimes used in these.

May Day Superstition

First thing in the morning on May 1st, young girls used to rush out into the garden to wash their faces in the May dew.

Why?
There is an old tale that says that May dew has magic properties and that anyone who has washed their face in it will have a beautiful complexion all through the year. This dew was supposed to be able to remove freckles and also spots and pimples.

Other Superstition for May

The month of may was considered an unlucky month particularly for getting married.

‘Marry in May and you’ll rue the day’

Being born in May was thought to produce a sickly child.

Never buy a broom in May or wash blankets.

Wash a blanket in May.
Wash a dear one away.

Cats born this month will not be good rodent catchers and even worse, will bring snakes into the home.

Unlucky days are 3rd, 6th, 7th, 13th, 15th and 20th.

Weather-lore, beliefs and sayings

“A wet May makes a big load of hay. A cold May is kindly and fills the barn finely. “

“A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay.”

“Mist in May, Heat in June
Makes harvest come right soon”

“If you wash a blanket in May;
You will wash one of the family away.”

“Those who bathe in May
Will soon be laid in clay”

Oak Apple Day

This is the day that traditionally people wear oak apples or oak leaves pinned to them to remember that on May 29th King Charles ll returned triumphantly to London after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The reason for the wearing of oak apples or oak leaves was to celebrate the King’s narrow escape from capture by Cromwell’s soldiers by hiding in an oak tree.

Until well into the twentieth century, anyone caught not wearing an oak leaf or oak apple on May 29th could be pinched, kicked, or otherwise abused. Whipping with nettles was a favourite punishment, hence the name ‘Nettle Day‘ in some areas.

Arbor Tree Day

Arbor Day, on the last Sunday in May, is the Sunday nearest to Oakapple Day.

In Aston-on-Clun in Shropshire, a large tree standing in the centre of the village is decorated with flags on the last Sunday in May. The flags stay on the tree until the following May. Aston-on-Clun is the only place in the UK that still marks this ancient tradition.

People say that in 1786 the local landowner John Marston married on May 29th and, when passing through the village, saw the villagers celebrating Arbor Day. The bride thought that the tree looked so beautiful covered in flags, that she gave money to the village to allow the custom to continue.
Find out more about this interesting custom…..

Unusual Customs

Anniversaries

1st May -Labour Day

1st May- May Day.

5th May – 1930 Amy Johnson was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

6th May- 1840 The world’s first postage stamp, the ‘Penny Black’ stamp, became valid for use in the UK.
6th May – 1954 Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes.

8th May – 1945 VE (Victory in Europe) Day.

9th May Captain Blood attempted to steal the crown jewels in 1671

10th May- 1994 Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa.

12th May- 1820 Florence Nightingale was born.

15th May The Romans believed this was the birthday of Mercury, the messenger and son of Zeus who could travel with the speed of thought.

18th May – 1955 The first Wimpy Bar opened in London. Have a treat and visit your local Wimpy, or have a burger night.
18th May – 1991 Helen Sharman became the first British woman in space.

21st May – 1946 Bread rationing introduced in the UK.

28th May – 1908 Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, was born.

29th May – 1953 Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest.

29th May Oak Apple Day.

30th May 1431 Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
30th May Death of King Arthur in 542