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Must You Go?

by

Antonia Fraser

A diary and reflections on a privileged life with an exceptional man for a husband and luvvies for friends – not to mention six children!

So this is Antonia Fraser writing about her own life for a change rather someone else’s and using her diaries as the mainstay of the book. And this to me is where the book fell down. When Antonia Fraser writes her historical memoirs she researches them in great depth – too much depth for me in some of them – but here she relies on her notes and scribbles to tell the story. For me, it doesn’t. Perhaps because the initial sets of content seemed mainly to consist of who they went to dinner with – which doesn’t interest me as I am not one of those celebrity followers. And for me, seems to be a form of bragging even if it was her life at the time. antonia

However, I did find out some good things, which I hadn’t known before:

  • Harold Pinter (her husband), acted, directed, and wrote screen plays as well as poetry and theatre plays;
  • Harold was extremely left-wing and championed those who were fighting dictators;
  • The couple were fiercely anti the Iraq war (and thus not friends with Tony Blair);
  • Antonia Fraser has written a crime series as well as historical biographies; (just where does she find the time!!?;
  • There was an incestuous crow of luvvies who found work for each other – there was an in-crowd.

I also investigated the illness pemphigus as Harold suffered from  it. It seems it is an auto-immune disease that affects the skin and mucous membranes. There are 3 variants. It was first described I the 1960s and there are 0.68 people affected for every 100,000, so rare. It mostly affects women and the older population and Ashkenazi Jews are especially prone. It is triggered by environmental factors that include stress, tumours and nutrition. There is a mortality rate with treatment of 12& but age and frailty and the drug side effects can cause a higher risk of death.

Overall I gave the book 2.5/3 stars. The original rating was the beginning  of the book. It got better and more interesting in later sections but you did need perseverance to get to it. I only persevered because it was chosen for my book club.

 

 

 

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Books/book review/fiction/net galley/Random and interesting items/crime fiction
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Owls, Hunting and Immigrants – what is the common denominator?

Night Falconer

by

Andy Straka

A Review for NetGalley

Another good book in this excellent series.

The bird of prey here is the long-eared eagle owl. which ranges across North America but is rarer in the UK – though I have seen them at falconry displays. They are quite large and impressive birds. owl

We also have a link to the Underground Slave Railway of the late 19th Century and then Prohibition too… both of which helped create tunnels and underground passages in the city especially New York.

 

One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the “Railroad”. (wikipedia). “Runtoon-station”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Runtoon-station.jpg#/media/File:Runtoon-station.jpg under station

We also hear briefly about the (semi-mythical) free slave village of Central Park in New York with parallels in the current story. This village – Seneca Village was a small village in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, founded by freed black people.[1] Seneca Village existed from 1825 through 1857, when it was torn down for the construction of Central Park. The village was located on about 5 acres (20,000 m2) between where 82nd and 89th Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenues[2] would now intersect [wikipedia]. According to Straka’s story Obadiah Robertson, a slave, helped found this village and supported it through hunting with falcons.

Another interesting discussion is about the different styles of hunting in the West from Arabia. And the photo  Clearly shows the cylinder used as opposed to the glove used in the West.arab falcon

As with all these books the style is easy to read and we learn history and falconry along with our mysteries without heavy facts but in a way that helps the story along.

 

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The Irish Experience: Cork and Blarney

Well I guess Ireland lived up to expectations in that it was largely wet. And green.

We visited three towns whilst we were there: Cork; Limerick; and Dublin. Each town being very different in its culture and thus experience.

We actually stayed just outside Cork in a country hotel  set in a golf course with weddings every day – it was certainly wedding season! This meant that we had to drive to get to our experiences which included a wonderful wild-life park: Fota Wildlife Park. http://www.fotawildlife.ie/.  As you can see from the webpage they were great fun to visit. We saw herds of giraffes, flamingos, orang utans, tigers and other large beasties. and generally had great fun.

There was even a wallaby mum who brought her baby onto the general path and just lay there and sun-bathed.20150814_121632-1-1 20150814_120951 20150814_120958 P1030982 P1030949 P1030950

One of the more interesting areas was their newly laid out seal enclosure, where you could go downstairs to an area which was at water level to see the seals and penguins. it looked very weird from the path of course as they appeared to be in the water…

This wildlife park is only about rare and endangered species and breeding. Some animals have become incredibly rare in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching etc.

We also went to Limerick whilst in Ireland as well as Blarney and Dublin.

Blarney Castle is great. They have made a wonderful garden and generally a good experience for all the family especially those people who knit! Now why would that be you wonder?

And to explain you would need to see what the knitters have done – a group of ladies have wrapped the tree trunks in fancy knitted cosies, some embroidered, some crocheted and others just multi-coloured.

And then the kicker – they went into the garden and adorned an arbour with pom poms!

Apart from the pom poms the garden is really nice with a wetland area and other good features including a witch’s cavern and children’s activities and nice planting.

There is even a poison garden which sends you aware paranoid about what you are growing!

And no, none of us kissed the Blarney Stone!

 

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Gardens of New York

Well I guess there are many private gardens in New York but lacking in the Squares that London abounds in and the Royal Parks, New Yorkers have to make do with two public parks as their joint and shared garden – and they certainly like them! The two I am referring to of course are Central Park and the High Line.

Whilst in New York earlier this year we went to both these parks – I was particularly interested to see what the High Line was really like having seen many photos and descriptions. It did not disappoint except I had thought it would be wider somehow.

It seemed to us that when we were walking the High Line the whole of Chelsea Village, friends and visitors were there too. It was very crowded where we got on but did thin out by the time we left it. I guess the ice cream vendors and coffee shops were close to where we got on and the sun had come out so…

The landscaping cleverly used much of the old railway structure with some stunning planting varieties in a prairie fashion including species tulips. But then it was Piet Oudolph who designed it, so what could you expect. And he handily provided a complete list of plants available from the website of the Friends of the High Line.

In May they also had a great art exhibition with 16 plus exhibits from photos to words to sculptures cleverly positioned so that they surprised you as you came across them. Some were very large and some small but all had something interesting to say.

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Of course the other public garden in New York is Central Park. We couldn’t walk all through it but did see the following plants: Judas trees; azaleas and dwarf rhododendrons; tulips; pieris; painted ferns; hellebores; American plane trees; American elms, oaks and sugar maples as well as other maples.

Before going I had thought that Central Park was mainly grass and trees, with perhaps a skate park – my impression from the TV programmes watched, but in fact there was much more to it as the list of plants indicates.

The old stories I have heard make it out to be pretty much of a no-go area but certainly on a sunny day it was full of people enjoying themselves – locals, mums and strollers, bikes and runners, and of course, tourists.

There was a very fancy restaurant, and cafes; flowers, trees, paths, water, large boulders – glaciated granite probably – the Citadel (castle as mentioned in some books) and Shakespeare’s garden. Now this intrigues us Brits – why a Shakespeare garden?

According to the official website:

“Shakespeare Garden is a four-acre landscape named for the famed English poet and playwright. The garden features flowers and plants mentioned in his poems and plays. Small bronze plaques scattered throughout the garden bear quotes from the Bard.

The garden was first conceived in the 1880s when park commissioner George Clausen asked the Park’s entomologist to create a garden adjacent to the nature study center in the Swedish Cottage. In 1913, Commissioner Gaynor dedicated it officially to the works of Shakespeare. After years of neglect, Shakespeare Garden, just as most of Central Park, fell into disrepair. In 1987, Central Park Conservancy restored and expanded the garden, repaving paths and installing rustic wooden benches and bronze plaques with quotations from the Bard’s masterpieces.” [http://www.centralparknyc.org/things-to-see-and-do/attractions/shakespeare-garden.html]. It is not really a flower park in the way much of Regent’s Park is but still very attractive for a stroll on a nice day.

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Now the clematis fanatic in me was interested to see that on the official website if you look to see what is in bloom in the spring the first 3 items are clematis:

‘Huldine’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Huldine’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to June
Location: Conservatory Garden

‘Perle d’Azure’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Perle d’Azure’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to June
Location: Conservatory Garden

‘Ramona’ Clematis

Botanical Name: Clematis x ‘Ramona’
Bloom Season: Spring
Typical Bloom Time: May to August
Location: Conservatory Garden

Pity not more of them but then as my article for the Clematis journal says, clematis are not that wide spread in the US as the winters are mostly too cold for many of them. Still there are several that are suitable for the climate depending on which zone you are in. The High Line has a set of 9 clematis also ranging from clinging vines to herbaceous including viticella and tangutica varieties and from red to yellow in colour.

 

 

 

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Where Willesden Green began

Once upon a time there was a small hill or two with some water which was cleared of all the trees surrounding it,  and a hamlet grew up.

Perhaps this hamlet was based on a Neolithic site, or there had been a hill-top fort here, or an Iron Age track had passed nearby, but the evidence is not clear and we cannot be certain that this happened.

What we do know is the Roman Watling Street passed through this area and by Anglo-Saxon times the hill-top hamlet was in existence.

There was a brook at Kilburn and the River Brent passing nearby. The Brent is one of London’s longest rivers at over 16 miles. It starts at  the junction of Dollis Brook and Mutton Brook  in Hendon and joins the Thames at Brentford. A Roman Road forded the Brent near Brentford Bridge.

The name Brent is Old English, from Celtic words meaning “sacred waters”. The River Brent divides Willesden and Wembley.

Sir John Betjeman knew the area well and wrote:

Gentle Brent, I used to know you
Wandering Wembley-wards at will,
Now what change your waters show you
In the meadowlands you fill!
Recollect the elm-trees misty
And the footpaths climbing twisty
Under cedar-shaded palings,
Low laburnum-leaned-on railings
Out of Northolt on and upward to the heights of Harrow Hill.

The area of Willesden remained leafy and sylvan for hundreds of years.

The far end of Willesden High Road links to Church End and from there the Church began to acquire the land around, and by the year 1000 St Paul’s Cathedral owned a very large chunk of this part of what is now known as the Borough of Brent.

For those not familiar with this area, I am adding a map: map1

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Willesden, in Brent and Middlesex | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Willesden like this:

WILLESDEN, or Wilsdon, a village, a parish, and a sub-district, in Hendon district, Middlesex.

The village stands 1½ mile N by W of Willesden-Junction r. station, and 7½ WNW of St. Paul’s, London; and has a post-office‡ under London NW, a police station, and fairs on Holy Thursday and St. James’ day.

The parish includes W.-Green, Dollis-Hill, Sherrick-Green Neasdon, and Harlesden hamlets, Brondesbury domain, and parts of Kilburn and Kensal-Green villages. Acres, 4,190. …

Real property, £28,401.

Pop. in 1851, 2,939; in 1861, 3,879. Houses, 642.

Pop. in 1869, about 15,000.

The property is much subdivided.

The manor was given by King Athelstan to St. Paul’s, London; and was known, at Domesday, as Willesdone. W. House, Brondesbury Park, Neasdon House, Dollis Hill, Harlesden House, Heathfield, Mapesbury House, Bramshill Lodge, Glyn-field House, and the Rookery are chief residences. T

he living is a vicarage in the diocese of London. Value, £320.* Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul’s. The church is later English.

The rectory of Brandesbury and two p. curacies of Kilburn are separate benefices. There are an Independent chapel, a national school, and charities £27.—The sub-district consists of W. parish and Twyford-Abbey extra-parochial tract.

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