There was a Young Person of Janina

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Monasteries, they got ’em

October 11, 2017

Our trip to northern Greece hosted by the wonderful Craig and Sue continued with a visit to the Byzantine city of Ioannina.  The city’s foundation has traditionally been ascribed to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD.   Ioannina flourished in the late Byzantine period (13th–15th centuries). Part of the Despotate of Epirus following the Fourth Crusade, many wealthy Byzantine families fled there following the sack of Constantinople, and the city experienced great prosperity and considerable autonomy, despite the political turmoil.  It surrendered to the Ottomans in 1430. Between 1430 and 1868 the city was the administrative center of the Pashalik of Yanina. In the period between the 18th and 19th centuries, the city was a major center of the modern Greek Enlightenment.  Ioannina joined Greece in 1913 following the Balkan Wars.

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By Lake Ioannina, in front of the mosque
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Shortly before the assassination attempt

The thing to do when you’re in Ioannina is to take a boat to the island, where you can see Ali Pasha’s house.

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Ali Pasha’s house

Ali Pasha (1740 – 24 January 1822), often referred to as the Lion of Yannina, first came to notice as a brigand, finally as an Ottoman Albanian ruler.

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Ali Pasha

His diplomatic and administrative skills, his interest in modernist ideas and concepts, his popular piety, his religious neutrality, his suppression of banditry, his vengefulness and harshness in imposing law and order, and his looting practices towards persons and communities in order to increase his proceeds caused both the admiration and the criticism of his contemporaries, as well as an ongoing controversy among historians regarding his personality. Finally falling foul of the Ottoman central government, Ali Pasha was declared a rebel in 1820, and was killed in 1822, aged over 80.  Quite a character.

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Actually he was only wounded through these cracks. His attackers then pursued and beheaded him, so they could present his head to the Sultan. Small decapitation theme emerging here.
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Lord Byron enjoyed meeting the Pasha

Byron described the Pasha in a letter to his mother: “His highness is sixty years old, very fat and not tall, but with a fine face, light blue eyes and a white beard; his manner is very kind and at the same time he possesses that dignity which is universal among the Turks. He has the appearance of anything but his real character; for he is a remorseless tyrant, guilty of the most horrible cruelties, very brave, and so good a general that they call him the Mohametan Buonaparte.”

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The Sultan – arguably portrayed as the bad guy here – receives the head of Ali Pasha
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Is this an original Edward Lear? If so it’s given far too little prominence in the museum.

What of the re-enactment, you ask.  Er, don’t you?  Fear not, we didn’t forget.

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Honoured to feature Sue and her “propitious” “uncle” Craig, although for my money she’s slightly underplaying it.

 

 

 

 

 

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There was an Old Man of Thermopylae

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Still waiting to close those speech marks
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We’re going where the sun shines brightly

October 9, 2017

At last (you say) the Edward Lear trail rolls into Greece, under the generous and wise guidance (and excellent prop provision) of Craig and Sue.

Thermopylae is mostly remembered for the battle which took place…wait, a picture is worth quite a few words:

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…although well informed modern sources (Craig) recommend a healthy dose of scepticism regarding the figures given here of one thousand Greeks vs 1.7 million Persians.
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On Kolonos hill where the Greeks made their heroic stand.

Anyway, where were we?  So a Greek traitor named Ephialtes showed the Persian army a route known only to the locals, which enabled them to surround and eventually defeat the Greeks.  Ephialtes has since come to mean ‘nightmare’ in Greek, and his name has become synonymous with traitor in what had been his country.

Unlike some of our other destinations, we have evidence that Lear actually visited Thermopylae:

The Mountains of Thermopylae
The Mountains of Thermopylae by Edward Lear

Edward Lear first visited Greece in the summer of 1848 and wrote in a letter: ’29th, a run up to Patrasik, a queer mountain place. All these things we were constantly warned off, as full of rebels, brigands etc… but we found all things as quiet as Pimlico.”

Happily Craig was on hand with a superb performance to ensure that the re-enactment was done propylae:

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Eagle-eyed readers might reflect that Leonidas fought particularly bravely, given his choice of battledress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was an Old Person of Loo(e)

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September 15, 2017

As we came down the road into Looe, Debbie said “Parking will probably be a nightmare”.  And yet, and yet. How wrong she was.

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The parking is a joy
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Looe

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Loo
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True dat

After a wander around, we decided we had earned a cheeky lunchtime cream tea.  This reawakened two bitter controversies:

1) Is scone pronounced to rhyme with gone or cone?  and

2) Jam on cream or cream on jam?

We’re interested in everybody’s views.  Honestly.

…we were assailed by the sound of “cool” jazz, which felt like being continually poked with a sharp stick.  I think what annoys is the suggestion that the musicians are so much cleverer than their listeners – if only you understood it better, you’d think it was wonderful.  Debbie said “At least this one has a tune.”  I dunno.  Where there’s a tune there’s a victim, a murdered melody.

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Local museum stalwarts

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Vexatious. Meh

On New Year’s Eve, Looe provides an exciting and large celebration. The small fishing town is host to an influx of visitors. People flock to the streets in their hundreds, wearing fancy dress.  The crowds begin their evening in the town and slowly move towards the seafront for a fireworks display at midnight.  Looe has featured in the top ten places in Britain to celebrate the New Year.

We took advantage of an improvement in the weather to take a very muddy walk upstream to Watergate.

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Picturesque Watergate, scene of Richard Nixon’s downfall

 

 

There was an Old Man of the South

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Debbie shows off her new quad bike

September 14, 2017

South means South say I, and in Britain that means Lizard Point in Cornwall.  An hour and a half’s drive from our holiday let at Mawgan Porth, but it had to be done.

The Lizard may be mainland Britain’s closest point to the equator, but our welcome of driving rain and cold wind reminded us that it is also Britain’s closest point to the Antarctic. Happily after a quick and extremely southern coffee, the weather rapidly improved.

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Spectacular coastal scenery between the Lizard and Kynance Cove

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British history books may not have told you about the Battle of the Lizard which took place during the War of the Spanish Succession between two French squadrons under René Duguay-Trouin and Claude de Forbin and an English convoy protected by a squadron under Commodore, ahem, Richard Edwards.

On 20 October 1707 a large merchant fleet consisting of 80 to 130 English ships left Plymouth for Portugal with supplies for the war in Spain. There were five escorting English ships under command of Commodore Edwards.

The next day near Lizard Point they were spotted by 2 French squadrons of 6 ships each. The battle was almost a complete victory for the French; the 80-gun Cumberland and the 50-gun ships Chester and Ruby were taken, but Royal Oak escaped into Kinsale with a few merchantmen. The 80-gun Devonshire defended herself for several hours against seven French ships until she caught fire and blew up, only three men escaping out of 500.

In all, the British lost over 1,000 men and the French captured some fifteen merchant ships.  Somehow I never heard about that one before.  After this humiliation, the Edwards family returned to its traditional sheep-farming role.

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a century – not the century
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Marconi’s Lizard Wireless Station at Bass Point

Marconi chose a headland called Bass Point to set up the Lizard Wireless Telegraph Station.  In January 1901, in simple wooden huts, Marconi received a transmission from the Isle of Wight over 180 miles distant, thus proving that radio would work over the horizon; something that many scientists thought impossible.

A businessman as well as a scientist, he was quick to develop the commercial potential of radio. Lizard Wireless Station was one of a dozen coastal UK stations which handled ship to shore messages, for a fee. It was the first coastal radio station to receive an SOS call when in 1910 the Minnehaha, aground off the Isles of Scilly, radioed for help.

More spectacular coastal scenery
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Seen that fish before?
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Debbie points the way to a future destination

 

There was an Old Person of Bude

There was a Young Lady of Bude,  Who went for a swim in the nude,

Oh wait, sorry.  Not one of Lear’s, apparently.  This one is:

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So is that booed or cryood?
Looking a bit tired

September 10, 2017

We don’t just throw this blog together, you know.  It takes immaculate and detailed planning.

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Spoiler alert: you might be seeing that big round thing again soon.

So we launched our sweep of the south western extremity of  England by visiting the resort of Bude, much loved by surf dudes.  We had waxed down our baggies in the traditional style, and arrived at the beach ready to go.  In the event, however we settled for a wander down to the sea pool.

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There was a guy doggedly swimming back and forth, but we didn’t want to show him up.

How do they manage to keep that sea pool looking so good, you ask.  Don’t worry, we’re ahead of you:

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Work in progress

Then we paid a visit to Bude Castle.

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Bude Castle was built on the sand dunes by 19th century inventor and polymath Goldsworthy Gurney, to prove it could be done if the foundation was right.

Gurney was an energetic if eccentric inventor, hailed as “Bude’s forgotten genius” – an unsung hero of the age of steam.  He devoted much of his energy to the ‘steam drag’, a relatively light steam locomotive, running on roads rather than rails, and pulling a coach of passengers.  He was invited in 1829 by the Quartermaster-General of the army to make a journey from London to Bath and back to demonstrate the practicality of his new invention.

The journey was eventful: at one point they were attacked in the town square of Melksham by the local populace, shouting “down with the machinery” and “knock it to pieces”.  However Gurney eventually made a triumphant return to London at an unheard-of average speed of 15 mph.  He had achieved the first long journey at a maintained speed by any locomotive in the world.

Unfortunately Gurney’s ambitious plans were thwarted by powerful entrenched interests: mail coach owners, and the many people involved in providing horses and related services prevailed on Parliament to impose prohibitive road tolls on locomotives.  Orders started to dry up and by 1832 he was forced to close his business incurring what were then huge losses of £232,000.

Undaunted, he focused on other inventions, but was not always accorded the recognition he deserved:

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Unsung hero

After his death in 1875, his daughter Anna Jane worked tirelessly to burnish and curate his reputation.  Okay Rachel?  Got that Alice?

Vicious and crude…I think we were able to perplex at least some of the people of Bude.
Bude Canal sea lock is one of only two working sea locks in Britain.
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Soon to be Craig and Sue’s new puppy. Not strictly relevant perhaps, but hey, it’s a puppy. Name suggestions please.

Finally, our readers may be interested to know that we can offer one very high quality Ruff at the extremely reasonable price of seven-and-sixpence.

 

 

There was an Old Person of Bow

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September 3, 2017

Before we get started, let me be clear that this Bow does not have the famous Bow Bells, by which a true cockney is defined.  That honour is held by the bells of St Mary-le-Bow on Cheapside.  According to tradition you must be born within the sound of these bells to count yourself a true cockney.  Unfortunately there are precious few residences (or maternity hospitals) near Cheapside these days, so it may be that all cockneys are now investment bankers.  As I said, nothing to do with this Bow at all.  Sorry about that me old cockney sparrers.

The area was formerly known as Stratford, and “Bow” is an abbreviation of the medieval name Stratford-atte-Bow, in which “Bow” refers to a bridge built in the early 12th century, so called due to its curved shape.

So the Edwards family met up with Hugo, Cathy, Jesse and Joey (and later Aisling) for an epic day’s Learing.

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The Minnie Lansbury Memorial clock was erected in the 1930s, and restored in 2008 – thanks in part to a donation from Angela, the daughter of Minnie’s husband’s second marriage.

Minnie was the first wife of Edgar Lansbury, son of George Lansbury, mayor of Poplar and later leader of the Labour Party.  In 1921, she was one of five women on Poplar Council who, along with their male colleagues, were jailed for six weeks for refusing to levy full rates in the poverty-stricken area, a protest which became known as the Poplar Rates Revolt.  During her imprisonment, she developed pneumonia and died soon after in 1922.  The revolt received huge popular support, and soon a bill, the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act 1921, was rushed through Parliament more or less equalising tax burdens between rich and poor boroughs.

After Minnie’s death, Edgar married actress Moyna Macgill and they had a daughter Angela, who became quite a well known actress.

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This statue stands outside Bow Church. It was donated by Theodore H. Bryant, part-owner of the Bryant and May match factory and leading Liberal.
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This archway was originally part of Northumberland House on the Strand, which was demolished in 1874

Our thanks to Hugo, who despite being pretty darned young, was prepared to tackle the demanding role of the Old Person of Bow:

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“Go back directly to Bow”

An impressive performance, you will agree.  Although as Hugo pointed out, Bow is the one place in the world where you can’t meaningfully tell him to go back to Bow.

We celebrated with a most pleasant walk followed by an excellent lunch at Gotto Trattoria in the impressive Here East development.

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Bow Church was bombed during WW2, and now stands majestically on a traffic island on the A11
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The Clock Mill at Three Mills, site of a former distillery
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Greenish canal view showing ArcelorMittal Orbit by Anish Kapoor
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Heron chillin’

 

There was a Young Lady of Firle

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July 21, 2017

After a traditional welcome-sign portrait, we took advantage of the excellent weather by heading up Firle Beacon:

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Looking south from Firle Beacon

Debbie’s hair is naturally only slightly wavy, but Rik was able to procure a convincingly curly wig to lend verisimilitude to the re-enactment while preserving her natural dignity.

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Expansive

Firle Beacon is one of the 2,010 Marilyns in the UK: that is, mountains and hills with prominence of over 150 metres. The name was coined by Sir Hector Marilyn as a companion to the more famous Scottish Munros.

Next we visited the lovely village of Firle: after a cup of tea at the famous Ram Inn, we paid a visit to the church.

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St Peter’s Church, Firle
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Visitors to the church were invited to attach a ribbon to the metal “Thank You Tree”.

The seat of the local manor Firle Place has been with the Gage family since 1476, and the name of the famous greengage plum variety almost certainly derives from a member of the Gage family, though there is some confusion over whether it was the Reverend John Gage or Sir William Gage, 7th Baronet who are both variously credited for the import of this fruit into Britain from France.  Visitors to the village are advised to stay well clear of this bitterly disputed controversy.

Leading economist John Maynard Keynes moved to Firle in 1925, and died there in 1946.

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The Long Man of Wilmington

Formerly thought to originate in the Iron Age or even the neolithic period, a 2003 archaeological investigation has shown that the figure may have been cut in the 16th or 17th century. From afar the figure appears to have been carved from the underlying chalk, but the modern figure – which is in a different location to the original – is formed much more conveniently, from white-painted breeze blocks and lime mortar.

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The tiny figure in the blue shirt under the tree is Rik. For scale, Rik is about six feet two.

Early depictions of the figure show other details such as a possible scythe blade on the right-hand staff and the suggestion of a helmet or hat on the figure’s head.  Now he looks more like a pioneering Nordic walker.

Rik’s contribution to this historic spot was to lie down for a rest on the grass below the giant’s feet with his spectacles in his shirt pocket. Not a good idea it turned out.

Next on our programme was a short walk to see the famous Seven Sisters,

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A Common Blue butterfly. Not just a common blue butterfly.
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Deborah and Her Sisters

(While taking the photograph above, Rik realised that his glasses were not with him, and recalled being supine by the Long Man).

From this viewpoint, we completed our walk by crossing the bay to the base of the Seven Sisters, which involved paddling through a fast flowing stream, before heading back inland, surrounded by the happy babble of day-tripping foreign students.

It was then time to return to the Long Man, so that Rik could retrace his steps, and with undeserved good fortune, reclaim his specs.

How better to set the seal on a perfect day’s Learing than by returning to Angmering Manor to enjoy a storming performance by Suspiciously Elvis – serendipitously appearing on the third night of our stay.

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Thangyouvaymurch