May 27, 2016

Five on Friday - crossing the gap

It's Friday again and I'm joining in with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday. My topic for this week is Bridges. I've chosen five that I like for various reasons, whether it's history, engineering excellence, or personal experience. 

Norwich Bishop Bridge.  A medieval packhorse bridge. Packhorse bridges were narrow, because technology of the time didn't allow for anything too wide, but it had wider 'passing places' to give horses and their heavy panniers room to cross. This one dates from about 1340 and was originally maintained by the city's bishops, hence the name.  

This one's so important it even gave its name to the village! It's the world's first cast iron arch bridge; built in 1781 by Abraham Darby III, grandson of the Abraham Darby who first smelted iron ore with coke in nearby Coalbrookdale. If you look carefully you can see that the design is very carefully constructed from lots of small pieces that bolt together to make the arch - like a giant Meccano set.  Until the 1930s it still carried vehicular traffic, but safety concerns led to its closure. In fact it was threatened with demolition in 1956, in spite of already being designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Fortunately a programme of repairs in the 1970s rescued it for posterity. 

Whitby swing bridge
Whitby bridge crosses the River Esk in the centre of town. There has been some sort of river crossing near the spot since the 14th century, but the existing bridge opened in 1909. There's also a high level bridge that has bypassed town since 1980. The pictured bridge replaced an earlier one that had too little clearance to allow increasingly large boats to pass below it. Engineers got round the problem by making the new bridge swing sideways when craft need to head in and out of the harbour. Gates at each end prevent pedestrians and cars from crossing while the bridge is open. The guy at the front of the photo is one of the operators. Control equipment is in the green cabinet he's standing next to. 

Humber Bridge
By the time you read this I shall be on the way to Hull (or even there already) to celebrate Mr Anorak's birthday. It's where he's from and we go back once in a while. The city's real name is, of course, Kingston Upon Hull, the Hull being a tributary of the River Humber. Construction on the bridge began in 1973 but it was not until 1981 that the first traffic crossed it. At the time it was the longest of its kind in the world. These days it ranks only seventh.  It's a suspension bridge and the weight of the roadway is carried on huge cables threaded over the massive towers at each end of its 2,220 m span. They are secured by means of these eyelets.

Interesting tale goes with this photo. I'm scared of heights but Mr Anorak insisted that I walk along the footway to the other end of the bridge (and back!) as part of his plan to get me over it. It's a long way, and very high up, (155m/ 510 ft) but I did it. Didn't cure me though. It's the footway you can see in this pic, stretching all the way across to the south bank and Lincolnshire. The traffic is on the roadway to the left. 

Millennium Bridge
This is my 'arty shot' of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, which I was proud of when I took it, but isn't much use to explain what it does. In our house it's known as the 'eyelid bridge' because it blinks. If you want to see what I mean see the YouTube film below. Or better still, book a trip to Newcastle/Gateshead and go see it for real!

Now head over to visit Amy at Love Made my Home to see other people's fives. 

May 20, 2016

Five on Friday - Wheels

Here we are again at Friday and here I am joining in with Amy at Love Made My Home for her Five on Friday feature. Today I've chosen wheels.

A nice simple one to start with. It's a penny farthing bicycle, which I always think look very impressive but I don't fancy riding one. I don't even fancy trying to get up on one! This is on show at Kelham Island Museum in Sheffield.

These wheels are what makes church bells ring. In this case at Lichfield Heritage Centre, a converted church that allows guided tours of its tower and the old bell chamber. They're fascinating to see close-up - but you don't want to be in there when they're ringing!

Here's a water wheel. It's on the side of Dyfi Furnace in Mid Wales. Dyfi is a restored 18th century charcoal fired blast furnace that was used for smelting iron ore. The wheel was used to power the bellows that maintained the furnace temperature.

This one was used to raise and lower a crane by the side of the Trent and Mersey Canal at Shardlow in Derbyshire. Canals were, of course, the main method of moving goods before the arrival of railways, and later road transport. This type of crane would have been a common sight along the banks of the Victorian canal system, but sadly very few remain - including the one in the photo. They fall victims to wood rot and vandalism. Even accidental damage can be fatal, since the workings are made from cast iron, which is very brittle, and cracks when it is hit.

And this one is for fun! It's on the front at Scarborough in an entertainment complex called Luna Park. It's changed a bit over the years, but there's been a big wheel there for as long as I can remember. I've never ridden it. You'll NEVER get me up there!

Now click on the photo below to be taken to Amy's site to see what other Fives are on offer this week.

May 18, 2016

Money - according to Jim

Richard Dadd's version of the Fae
A bit of folklore for you..........

My dad (son of a traveller though his mum settled down before he was born) used to tell me that money belonged to the Little People.  He never used the “F” word – they were always the Little People. (Although the story about smashing the bottom of eggshells referred to Piskies. Of course, the real reason you smash eggshells is so they sink when you throw them overboard and they don’t tell enemy subs where the ship is but we always did it to stop the Piskies using them as boats!)

Anyway, money belongs to the Little People – because it’s made of metal. All metals, and in particular iron and copper, belong to Them and are only on loan to humans. We are allowed to use it as long as we follow the rules and say thanks now and again.

Now, I can hear you saying – “Ah, but what about folding money?”  Quite.  But folding cash is only valuable because of the promise on it.  (I promise to pay the Bearer, on demand etc……) That promise says that if you take your piece of paper to the Bank of England they will pay you an equivalent sum in hard currency.  (Metal, in other words)

Now anything made of metal actually belonged to the Little People, which is why no-on in our family would dream of giving anyone knives, shears, anything with an edge on it, without demanding payment of one shiny copper coin.  I can still hear my dad’s voice when I asked him to let me have one of his craft knives.  “You’ll have to pay for it. You can’t HAVE it!” It cost me a penny – and that penny didn’t go into dad’s pocket either – it went into the garden. (A river or stream would have done just as well.)

So, this means that you can’t take money for granted. Whenever you need money you have to work for it. It has to be earned. And a price has to be paid to the Little People for whatever you get. You also can’t give someone an empty purse – it should always have one shiny copper coin in it (at least).

So if you’re short of cash it’s just possible that you didn’t say thanks the last time you had luck with money.  Next time you win a tenner on the lottery or make a bit of extra cash on Ebay or find a pound coin in the street, don’t forget to pay the Little People their share. You might find that more turns up if you’re grateful for the first lot!

May 13, 2016

Five Flowers for Friday

There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, 
remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts.
There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, 
and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace o' Sundays. 
O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There's a daisy. I 
would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father 
died. They say he made a good end.

Of course Ophelia was quite mad, and grieving over her father's death, when she made this speech in Hamlet, but the fact that Shakespeare included such a rich and symbolic reference to flowers shows how important they were in Elizabethan culture.

I made a recent visit to Kenilworth's Elizabethan Garden and covered the archaeological and historical background in my other blog. What I didn't say much about was the variety of flowers and plants I found there.

The idea of using flowers as symbols goes back as far as the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible. By Elizabethan times the social norms of the day prevented normal communications, particularly between potential lovers, so much was said using the code of floriography, or the language of flowers.

Robert Dudley's great garden of love has been reconstructed using contemporary sources to ensure its authenticity. It contains very many 'hidden' messages to the Queen he created it for. Here are some examples:

Let's start with the ones that Ophelia mentions.  First rosemary. Like I said, she was madly remembering her father's death, but in Dudley's case this would have been to tell Elizabeth that she was always in his thoughts.

Daisies are a difficult topic because they have very many meanings. They can mean unhappy or forsaken love, as Ophelia implies about Hamlet, but they can also mean innocence. So Dudley could have been praising his Virgin Queen.  And red daisies stand for beauty that is unknown to its possessor. Now there's a bit fat piece of flattery. QEI wasn't exactly pretty, if you study her portraits, but Dudley would have told her she was, as part of his campaign to win power.

Here's aquilegia, or columbine. This one symbolises innocence as well. Its name 'columbine' derives from the Latin for dove, because the flower is said to resemble four doves. I can't see it, frankly, but there you go. However, there's a religious link to the christian Holy Spirit, which is also symbolised by a dove. Hence purity and innocence.

The grassy bank below the viewing terrace is packed with primroses. Not only does it make for a very pretty sight (there are cowslips in among them too - representing grace) but it also screams "I will love you forever. I can't live without you" to anyone who understands the message. The flower's Latin name Primula means 'the first', because it is among the earliest flowers to appear in spring. But that was also used to imply that a person is 'first' in another's thoughts.

And finally we come to a bit of a cheat, because I'm going to talk about the hedges as one item, even though they have several species in them. Traditionally the hedges around Elizabethan knot gardens would have been box, but its meaning is stoicism, which isn't too romantic. True, Dudley had to be a bit of a stoic to keep up his pursuit of the queen's hand for as long as he did, even though he never succeeded, but that wouldn't have been too complimentary to her.  So the hedges at Kenilworth include hawthorn and holly. Hawthorn stands for hope and holly for domestic happiness. How clear a message is that?

I've done a bit of research for this post, not just at Kenilworth itself but also online. Thanks to Wikipedia (as ever) but also to this page which refers to “The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting” by Mirella Levi D’ancona.

Thanks as always to Amy at Love Made My Home for organising the Five on Friday .  Take yourself off there to see what other people have to offer. Click here to be taken there.

May 06, 2016

Five from Formula 1 for Friday

How did it get to be Friday again?  Here's my latest offering for Amy at Love Made My Home, who asks us to share five things each week.

Mr Anorak and I recently visited a local museum that's dedicated to the history of Formula 1 motor racing, and Castle Donington's role in the sport. There's lots to see, even if you're not a petrol head. Here's five things that caught my attention.

Apologies to anyone who reads my other blog, because I already featured this over there. Some years ago, in a bid to reduce levels of smoking in the UK, tobacco advertising was banned. Motor racing relied pretty heavily on money from the tobacco industry and tried hard to find ways around the ban when it hit home.  This apparently encouraging phrase is actually Benson & Hedges, with a few gaps. Thanks to Mr Anorak for pointing it out.

This poignant reminder of the risks of motor racing belonged to Roger Williamson, son of a Leicestershire garage owner who began his racing career at the age of 11 in go-karts. (Much like Lewis Hamilton.)  He worked his way up through Formula Three and Formula Two before making his F1 debut in 1973 at Silverstone. In those pre-computer days it was felt that having your blood group written clearly on your helmet would help in case of serious accidents. In the event it didn't help. Just two weeks after his debut, Williamson crashed at Zandvoort in the Netherlands. His car overturned and he was trapped underneath when it burst into flames. Fellow driver David Purley attempted a rescue but could not reach Williamson because of the intensity of the fire. He was awarded the George Medal for his heroic action. Williamson was just 25.

This is an Austin 7. It was an economy model produced by Austin between 1922 and 1939. Nicknamed the Baby because of its size and cheap running costs. It turned out to be one of the most popular British made cars ever built and outsold every other model available by the end of the 1920s. The very first BMW was a Germanic version of the Austin 7, produced under licence.

This is also an Austin 7, believe it or not. It's the twin-cam racing version that competed from 1937 to 1939 in everything from time trials to 500 mile races at Brooklands.

It's not all motor racing. There's a considerable collection of militaria at the start of the tour and I took a fancy to this little VW Schwimmwagen. I could see myself rolling down the highway in it, though it's a bit short on windows, so only on a warm day!  You'll notice that, in order to maintain its waterproof condition, it has no doors. So I'm not sure how I'd get in - but I'd give it a go!

Now click on the link below to see what other Fives are on offer today.