Friday, 7 September 2012

Home and Away

Hi there! After a pre-clearing adventure in Dorset last month, we opted for a mid-clearing break in Norfolk over the August bank holiday weekend. We almost didn’t go at all though, because I had booked our Norfolk expedition as a camping holiday back in early February before a certain medical condition of mine became apparent (nothing to worry about blog readers, I will tell you about it when I am good and ready).

As went the months by, I became less and less mobile. I also became increasingly worried both about firstly; how I would manage the camping and secondly that I had promised ‘Mini S’ an adventure. That was until ‘Knight in Shining Armour P’ came to the rescue and found us a caravan to rent for the weekend, with proper beds, plumbing and a little kitchen! I’m usually the one grumbling about caravans holding up the traffic on the motorway, but I promise here and now, never ever to say a bad word about them ever again!

We set off early-ish on Saturday morning, and decided to stop at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk for lunch and a look around. We last went there about five years ago, and since then not much has changed at the Saxon burial site (obviously!), but the National Trust have built a very swanky café with a nice terrace overlooking the valley.

We had a guided tour of the mounds, which was great as it really helped make sense of the site, where there were Saxon burials, medieval gibbets & burials and World War 2 antiaircraft earthworks. I felt sorry for our poor embarrassed guide who, when mentioning the 1930’s Sutton Hoo archaeologist, kept referring to him as ‘Basil Brush’ instead of Basil Brown. It rather reminded me of an embarrassing time for myself, demonstrating for a micropalaeontology lab session… When instead of describing a diatom as a living organism, I described it as something rather more intimate!

We were very lucky that on the day of our visit there was a Saxon ‘living history village’ set up. ‘Mini S’ seemed to enjoy this part most, as there were examples of Saxon cooking going on, a slave market, weaponry demonstrations and the opportunity to construct your own clay bead necklace. There was also a second hand book sale, which ‘Knight in Shining Armour P’ immersed himself in for quite a while and an acoustic folk band, playing on the lawn which I really enjoyed.

After a further hour’s drive to Norfolk, we arrived at our campsite at six o’ clock. Just in time to settle in, have dinner at the pub then snuggle down in those comfy caravan beds – we were exhausted!

On Sunday we got up nice and early to have a swim in the campsite pool, then after a pancake breakfast back at the caravan, headed off to Happisburgh (pronounced ‘Haysborough’). It was a beautiful drive across the broads – we counted 32 old windmills along the way, including the rather amusingly named ‘Horsey Wind Pump.’

At Happisburgh, we found an atmospheric sandy beach with huge rolling waves, and a beautiful lighthouse. We all spent a pleasant afternoon building sandcastles, paddling and admiring the view, plus I was very happy to find a belemnite (see Dorset blog) fossil.

I won’t go into too much detail about the signs of coastal erosion we noticed (this Geographer was on holiday after all!), but a seawater corroded domestic door catch was a poignant reminder of some of the houses that had previously slipped into the sea.
In the evening, we decided to head into Great Yarmouth for dinner and a few fairground rides for ‘Mini S.’ All I can say is it was like the Las Vegas of Norfolk… I don’t think I had ever seen so much neon!

Packing up on Monday morning, we all felt quite sad that the weekend was nearly over. To cheer ourselves up, we made time for a round of mini golf before we set off (I came last, but not least), followed by a picnic at Dunwich Heath on the way home.

Garden update:
Do you remember those pictures of my containerised veggie from earlier in the year? I was amazed at how well the plants grew in such a small space…

A day or two after arriving home, we decided to have a veggie harvest and cook up all the lovely things that had been growing. Those Ikea bag potatoes were especially yummy!

J’s record of the week:
Blue moon
Richard Rodgers &
Lorenz Hart

Last week, ‘Mini S’ came over to me with a regretful look on her face and announced that she had ‘missed the blue moon,’ going on to tell me how much she had wanted to see the moon turn blue. When I explained that the phrase ‘blue moon’ means to have two full moons in a month, she was quite relieved that she hadn’t missed a chance to see the moon turn blue! I told ‘Knight in Shining Armour P’ this story, and his immediate response was to burst into song… Although the song was originally written by Rodgers & Hart, so many have recorded it over the years (Mel Torme, Cliff Richard and Billie Holiday to name but a few), that it has been absorbed into popular culture.

As I quite like a bit of ‘Doo Wop’ now and again though, I thought I would choose the 1961 version by ‘The Marcels’ for my record of the week. Enjoy ! Jerushah X

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Adventures in Dorset!

Not long ago myself and mini ‘S’ headed off on our annual summer holiday.
This year we decided on Dorset, and amazingly managed to get a B&B type hotel in Weymouth for five nights at only £146 for the two of us! I was a bit mystified, about the low price, but after a year of hard work plus some ups and downs we so needed a holiday I wasn’t going to question it.
So, what do you think the reason was blog readers? Non-existent hotel? Half built hotel? Flea infestation? Seagull swarm? Luckily it was none of the above… The hotel was lovely (gorgeous room, friendly staff, heavenly breakfasts), and right on the sea front in Weymouth.  Actually it was because of the Olympics! Diana, the lovely hotel manager explained that many of their regular guests had cancelled because of the Olympics so we were the beneficiaries of a special offer as a result of low booking numbers… not that we were complaining about this at all J.

Swanning around:

I had been hearing about the Abbottsbury Swannery for years and we were quite excited about seeing so many swans and cygnets in one place…

Fortunately for us we arrived just in time for feeding, so mini ‘S’ took great delight in joining in to throw corn for the swans.

The Jurassic Coast:
Well, we certainly couldn’t go to Dorset without enjoying some fossil hunting.

In order to let the sea do the work (plus avoiding digging in soft cliffs is essential for safety), we chose to visit Charmouth on a low tide after a stormy night.

We were certainly luckily and found this beautiful selection of ammonites and belemnites

Very sadly, the week after we returned home from Dorset, we heard the news that a 22 year old woman had lost her life while walking along under the cliffs at Burton Bradstock. So just for your safety, keep these tips from the fossil collecting safety code in mind when close to the coast:

 J’s record of the week:
‘Echo Beach’
Martha and the

Although this song was released in 1979, most of my memories attached to it come from 1992, when our A-Level geology group came to Dorset on a field trip. Someone had  a ‘Martha and the Muffins’ tape, and we remarked how much the map of Chesil Beach looked like the tape cover. I expect our mini bus driving tutor – Mr Adrian Marks, got fed up with the group of us singing ‘On Chesil Beach, we watch the sun go down etc. etc…’ all week!

So, coming back to Dorset again twenty years later, I really did need to make this my record of the week – Enjoy! Jerushah X

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cloud watching & Storm chasing!

Parakeet fashion:
In preparation for Clearing (you can check out our Clearing Diary at, we’ve magically transported our whole office to the Mansion Site at Avery Hill…

As far as I’m concerned, there are many benefits of this (apart from the obvious). For example: A lovely spacious office; a semi-permanent desk for the duration (no more hot desking!); lunch delivered (great for lazy peeps like me); but best of all: the lovely surroundings! 

Each lunch time I go for a walk in the grounds (Mansion site was a private house belonging to the North family in Victorian times, lucky them!) amongst the rare tree specimens and well-kept lawns. There are not many people around at this time of the year, so the place is usually tranquil except for the colony of green parakeets. These cheeky birds love flying around in large flocks above the campus or hopping (with accompanying squawks) from tree to tree!

I’m looking forward to exploring the glass houses of the famous Avery Hill Winter Garden soon…

Lookout for that tornado:
Not long ago I made a trip to Avebury in Wiltshire for some meteorology based activities, but didn’t anticipate on witnessing a tornado into the bargain!

Avebury is famous for the stone circle, and while my companion and I had walked around admiring it, we noticed a big column of black smoke. So, rather than enjoying the ambience of peaceful skies we watched more billowing clouds of smoke coming from 100 cars on fire at a scrapyard in Thornhill (a few miles away). On our way home, we still had half an eye on the plume of smoke, which meant we also noticed dark storm clouds gathering and the formation of a ‘funnel cloud.’ 

Of course we got very excited, as seeing a funnel cloud in this country is a once in a lifetime event… We watched for about fifteen minutes as the funnel formed, disappeared then reformed. 

We took an even better photo than this of the funnel cloud virtually ‘touching down’ to become a tornado, but as we are planning to enter a Weather Club competition with the photo I can’t share it on the blog just yet – sorry guys!

Their website is worth a look if you like things meteorological:

J’s record of the week:

‘Uncloudy day’
The Staple Singers 

As you know, The Staple Singers have appeared on my ‘record of the week’ slot before, with the very catchy ‘Let’s do it again.’  This song is from 1956, a little bit earlier in their career when they were with the Vee-Jay record label and had just emerged as an up and coming gospel/folk band.

I like The Staple Singers so much that any excuse seems like a good excuse to have them on the my blog again, and a bit of cloud watching gave me the perfect opportunity! Jerushah X

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Jazzy time

Jazzy time:
Not long ago, friend ‘L’ told me that her former classmate Kaori Nakajima, the renowned Japanese jazz saxophonist would be coming to tour the UK in May. For a music enthusiast like me this was good news enough, but I was even more excited when ‘L’ informed me that Kaori would be performing a special concert at their old school, Cobham Hall.
As I was happy to drive to Cobham Hall, I was also happy to take a few friends along too... In attendance were friends ‘S’ and ‘P’ together with ‘Mini S’ and her friend ‘G.’

Kaori and her band were amazing, even more so when she told us that they had only recently formed when she arrived in the UK for her tour. She was a very engaging performer, with lots of interesting anecdotes about her time at the school. Funnily enough, she had taken all her piano grades using the same piano (and creaky stool!) at which her piano accompanist was sitting... 

They performed a host of traditional jazz tunes, like ‘Take Five’ and ‘The Girl from Iapenema,’ mixed in with less well known Japanese jazz numbers.
Mini ‘S’ and friend ‘G’ had no trouble enjoying the music, before long they had improvised by filling an empty Pringles tin with cocktail sticks for a shaker and drawing out a marimba board on a scrap of paper so they could pretend to play along – On with the recycling! I have a feeling they enjoyed doing cartwheels in amongst the topiary and running barefooted on the cool grass in the interval just as much though...

You can read more about Kaori and her music here:

Getting our hands dirty:
After all of our refinement of the night before, I thought it was time to be a bit more earthy and get out in the garden the following day. As our garden is mostly concrete and balcony/deck, I had to think of some cunning ways to grow more plants. As luck would have it the local garden centre were selling little self assembly raised beds which we filled with (peat free) compost... to be planted with courgettes, cucumbers, pumpkins, tomatoes and climbing beans.

Friend ‘K,’ (who was tempted over to our place with the offer of Sunday lunch) told me about a ‘potato grower’ she had bought in Wilkinson’s for £2.99. When I asked her to describe it, she told me it was ‘made of tarpauliny type material with handles on the sides.’ This reminded me strangely of an IKEA bag (costing all of 50p!). Being the hoarder that I am, I have several of these tucked in the hallway cupboard for no good reason, so, we were able to recycle the oldest IKEA bag (and some old potatoes that had started to sprout in the fridge) as a potato grower!

J’s record of the week:
‘I’m a Gummy Bear
(the gummy bear song)’

For some reason ‘Mini S’ and her friends seem to be slightly (rather an understatement!) obsessed with this song... I’ll have to admit it’s just a tiny bit catchy! It was written by German composer Christian Schneider in 2007, but has ‘gone viral’ via YouTube and other social media in the last little while. While we rewarded friend ‘K’ with lunch for all her hard work in the garden on Sunday, ‘Mini S’ discovered that ‘K’s’ mobile had the song stored... so it was the soundtrack to our lunch, and the journey home! Enjoy? It’s up to you! Jerushah X 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Croatian Capers

Last week I had a little bit of time off, to travel to Croatia with three old school and university friends. I think it was well deserved as I hadn’t had a holiday (field trips don’t count!) abroad in over four years!
I have to confess that even taking my geography subject knowledge (i.e. I’m sure Croatia is just east of Italy?) into account, I didn’t have many preconceptions about Croatia. Rather lazily I just went along with the general consensus of where everyone else wanted to go, but was very pleasantly surprised when we arrived!
The whole place is a little sub tropical paradise. From the airport taxi on the way to our B&B we could see lush palm trees, bougainvillea, orange & lemon trees and tall cypress tree spires everywhere. There was also sunshine sparkling on bright blue seas and little islands all along the coast... Sounds like it was just out of a travel brochure doesn’t it? Truthfully though, that’s just how it was!
In the photo below, you can see how green everything is by looking at the back drop.

On the first day we arrived mid morning, and were able to do a little bit of exploring to orientate ourselves around Dubrovnik, but not without a few wrong turns first...

On the second day we very bravely decided to circumnavigate the Dubrovnik old city walls, all 1,940 metres of them! There were lots of steps and we each got through at least a litre of water, plus I acquired an enormous blister (due to lack of sensible footwear!)
Here we are looking fabulous at the beginning of the walk...

We look slightly more dishevelled 1 kilometre in...

Collapsed, having refreshing drinks at the harbour cafe afterwards!

On the third day, the weather was even more beautiful than the previous day, so we decided to catch a boat across to the mysterious Lokrum Island...

The island had botanical gardens, a salt water lagoon, ruined monastery, hill top fort and dozens of beautiful peacocks!
Lokrum has a very interesting history, concerning ownership. In a nutshell, the legend goes that when the original Bendictine monks were asked to leave the island in 1808, they were so unhappy that on their final night on the island, they put a curse on Lokrum by walking around it three times chanting the words "Whosoever claims Lokrum for his own personal pleasure shall be damned!"   
Sadly, their words turned out to be true starting with the three local aristocrats who initially took on the ownership island. All three died in mysterious circumstances. The island was owned by further unfortunates, notably Austrian Archduke Maximillian, who introduced the peacocks from the Canary Islands, but had an unpleasant end when he was shot in Mexico. The very last owner of the island was Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who was assassinated in Sarajevo... and we all know how that turned out! Since that time no one has wanted to commit to owning the island, and in fact, the locals are unwilling to even spend the night there. Perhaps a benefit of there being no owner of Lokrum is that everyone can enjoy it? We certainly had a lovely day...

Here are some of the only official, full time inhabitants of Lokrum. They are probably descendants of the original peacocks which arrived in the 19th Century with Archduke Maximillian.

On our final day, we decided to brave the cable car... Both friend ‘N’ and friend ‘A’ are not so keen on heights, but when we got to the top; we were rewarded with wonderful coffee and the most amazing view of the old city.

J’s record of the week:

Unfortunately we all forgot to bring our iPods on the journey, so there is no official ‘record of the week,’ this week. However, Dubrovnik old town seemed to have amazing musicians around every corner, from the street busker at the Pila Gate every day to the dynamic jazz trio playing on the Placa Stradun every night, the choral music streaming from the cathedral door and the candle lit classical concerts given in the city every Friday! With all that music surrounding us we didn’t really need to bring anything extra J. Jerushah X

Friday, 27 April 2012

Titanic connections

Last week the name of the Titanic was on everyone’s lips, as the 100th anniversary of the sinking was marked on April 15th. There were many poignant radio and TV shows to pay tribute to those who were lost, and even an exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Last Friday I was at Greenwich Maritime campus and made a quick visit to the Titanic exhibition. There were a few really well known artefacts there, for example; Elizabeth Mellenger’s cloak (which was used to save the soaking wet Officer Lightoller from hypothermia); Edith Russell’s ‘lucky’ toy pig and a whistle used to attract the attention of rescuers from the Carpathia.

The exhibition is free and worth a visit if you get the chance:

In my home, in the extreme south of Cornwall, much attention has been focussed on Edgar & Fred Giles of Porthleven, two brothers who were lost on the Titanic. All the stories in the press made me dig something up from the very deepest depths of my memory...  I was sure that my Mum’s elderly neighbour (the late, much loved Betty) had mentioned to me that a couple from our home village had been on the Titanic. A quick google search proved this to be true. Their names were Annie (nee Hill) and Stephen Hold. Annie and Stephen were second class passengers who had emigrated to America from Cornwall, but had returned for a short break to visit family in Cornwall and Devon.

As the Titanic sank, Stephen and Annie were separated when Annie was asked join lifeboat number ten. Sadly Stephen did not survive the sinking, he was not alone though, as another local man John Jago Smith of Lanarth (a radio telephonist on the ship), perished with him.  No trace of either of their remains were found after the sinking.

Annie’s lifeboat was rescued by the crew of the Carpathia, but without Stephen, she did not stay in America for long. In fact,  she returned home to Cornwall and settled in St Keverne (close to our home village). After some years she remarried a local man and had a family of her own.
Thinking about Stephen, Annie and John Jago, perhaps it is because ours is such a tiny community, that no remembers their connection with the Titanic. Annie passed away in 1960 and rests in the St Keverne churchyard, John Jago’s employers provided a memorial for him in the church, but there is nothing I could find to commemorate Stephen.
Researching a little bit about Annie’s life in our village, I discovered that she was the granddaughter of the famous and heroic James Hill, the coxswain of the village lifeboat.
Among many rescues and selfless act of heroism, James’ quick thinking on the night of the Mohegan disaster in 1898 ensured that 42 lives were saved in very challenging conditions.

On the night of the Mohegan disaster, James Hill looked out to sea and noticed that the ship was on the wrong course. He mustered the crew and launched the village lifeboat before the collision had even taken place, and as a result forty-two people were saved. This is quite an achievement, considering that the Mohegan sank in under ten minutes, at least a mile away from the lifeboat house, and that the lifeboat was powered by oars!

J’s record of the week:
‘Sailing by’
composed by
Ronald Binge

I thought that with all this maritime talk this week, we needed a maritime tune. Sailing by was written in 1963, and accompanies the night time BBC shipping forecast. I still have many friends living and working in the fishing communities of Cornwall (fishing is officially the most dangerous job in the UK), and one once said that when all hell is breaking loose on a trawler in the darkness, the shipping forecast music always brings a measure of comfort ! Jerushah X

Friday, 13 April 2012

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday:

Last week ‘Mini S’ had a short break away
with some friends, which meant her mum
was at a bit of a loose end and had loads of
time to plan the most fantastic Easter Egg hunt ever !
I excelled myself this time, as it took her at least one and a half hours
to solve all of the clues... There were some very imaginative hiding places,
believe me!

The Medway Steam Festival:

I was so looking forward to the Medway Steam Festival on Easter Monday (an event that ‘Mini S’ and me have attended for the last six years)... Then it rained! We had a great day though, all bundled up in our waterproofs.
There were loads of traction engines on display; my favourite bit was the traction engine parade where they all trundled past – what power! I couldn’t resist taking loads of photo’s, even if it was a bit gloomy.

After that we clambered in, out and around all of the ships on display. ‘Mini S’ was particularly amused by the ‘poop deck’ of the HMS Gannet, especially as the seagulls had been rather obliging over it. Actually the term stems from the French word ‘la poupe’ meaning ‘stern’ which has no sinister connotations at all!

The next interesting thing we found was the steampunk village. How does one describe steampunk? Hmmm... Sort of a cross between H.G. Wells, Fred Dibnah, Cybermen and Queen Victoria. They love corsets, kilts, bustles, spyglasses, goggles, hats and making modern items like laptops and phones look steam powered.

For a more in-depth explanation of steampunk, have a look on Wikipedia:

You never know, I enjoyed it so much you might see me donning a bustle, high top boots and monocle instead of a waterproof jacket, jeans and trainers next year!

J’s record of the week:
Rupert Holmes

Otherwise known as ‘the pina colada song!’ ‘Escape’ was released in 1979 on his ‘Partners in Crime’ album and reached number one in the USA. I’ve always loved this song, even before I knew what a pina colada was. Strangely, this week a work colleague & friend, the original ‘S’ (as he likes to refer to himself), approached me and randomly started singing. ‘S’said he would bet that ‘Escape’ was on my iPod... and guess what? He was right! Enjoy those (non alcoholic in my case) pina coladas everyone! Jerushah X