December 30, 2016


2017 will be Hull's turn as UK City of Culture. It's a well deserved title, because Hull has a lot of public art as well as significant gallery collections. Currently there's a flight of moth sculptures scattered around the city to commemorate aviator Amy Johnson, who was born in the city.  For more about Amy click here.

This was the first one we found on our recent trip to Hull. (It's Mr Anorak's home town, of course.) It's called Horizon's Path and was created by artist Sam Tasker. The blue bit represents the freedom of the skies, the maroon bit signifies women's equality, and the white line represents Amy's flight path to Australia.

This is called Engineer, and it was painted by Hannah van Green.  It's a mark of respect for Amy's mechanical skills.

This is World Moth by an artist called Pinky.  It's inspired by the fact that Amy flew half way round the world, and represents some of the landscapes she must have passed along the way.

And here we have Air Mail by David Graham. It charts Amy's flight path and each of the stamps and post marks represents a time and place where she touched down. It also shows various ways that post has taken to the skies over the years - including by pigeon!

And here's Fly High, also by Pinky. It's supposed to represent Amy's achievements, both as a flyer and in her personal life, overcoming attitudes to women at the time.

The exhibition continues until March 2017.

December 23, 2016


We're short of Frankincense and myrrh, but just for you this Christmas here's five pieces of archaeological gold, for my last Five on Friday until next year. (Not sure if anyone else is doing one this week, but if they are you'll find the link here.)

Number 1 is a torc (neck ornament) from the Snettisham hoard. It's one ofmore than 150 pieces of Iron Age gold found in the 1950s in a field near the Norfolk seaside town of Snettisham,. It's not clear where the items came from originally, but it's been suggested that they were part of the royal Iceni treasure. (Queen Boadicea's tribe.)

Here's the Rillaton Cup. Found in a Bronze Age round barrow in Cornwall. Excavated in 1837 and containing a centrally-placed inhumation in a stone cist measuring 2m by almost 1m. Human remains were found along with grave goods including the Rillaton Gold Cup, a bronze dagger, beads, pottery, glass and other items. The squashed cup above is from Ringlemere in Kent. Found in 2001 by metal detectorists.

This is a lunula, a moon-shaped neck decoration dating from the Neolithic onwards. Mostly found in Ireland, but they have been discovered across Europe. They were probably signs of status, altough no-one is exactly sure. They appear to have been phased out and replaced by torcs in the Bronze Age,
The Mold cape, from near Mold in North Wales. Found in 1833 in a Bronze Age burial. The cape is clearly ceremonial since wearing it would make it impossible to move the arms. It is extremely narrow and almost certainly worn by a woman. 

This is the magnificent belt buckle found in the best preserved Anglo-Saxon boat burial at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. The site was excavated in 1939 and is one of the richest graves dating from the period (early 7th century). The grave is possibly that of Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, and there are many parallels with the poem Beowulf. 

Merry Christmas one and all!

December 16, 2016


Hello again for the recently returned Five on Friday  Don't forget to visit Amy at Love Made My Home to see other fives.

This week I have five wheels for you - or at least, things like wheels. Yes, I know I've done wheels before, but I love them!

English millstone
Let's start with a mill wheel, or more properly a mill stone. This one's at Brindley's Mill at Leek in Staffordshire. Mill stones come in pairs - a stationary stone at the bottom and a rotating, grinding stone on top. They also come in two kinds. This one, (above) made of several bits put together, is known as a French stone.  English stones are carved in one piece. (see left)

This one's from a different kind of mill. It's all that remains of the old King's Mill in Castle Donington, Leicestershire. It's wlocally rumoured to have been the place where paper for banknotes was made - hence the King's Mill - but in fact it was used to grind flint and plaster for the pottery industry, which were then shipped to the Potteries in Stoke along the nearby River Trent.

This isn't a wheel at all - because it never turned. In fact it's a support for one of the walls at Caudwell's Mill (bit of a theme going on here) at Rowsley in Derbyshire. Very close to Chatsworth. It's a grade II* listed, steam-powered, roller flour mill.

This isn't a wheel either. It's an ancient symbol of eternity, a spiral, carved onto a very old upright stone in Bakewell Church yard in Derbyshire. Not sure if it's an obelisk or the base of a cross. But it's an impressive piece of carving.

Now this is a lot of wheels that all work together. This is "the bombe", the machine invented by Alan Turing to break the German Enigma code during WWII. Well actually, it's a replica of it at the National Computing Museum in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. Bletchley was, of course, the home of the GCHQ codebreakers.  You can see it working there. What it does (did) is carry out all the different potential combinations of letters by spinning all the dials you can see in the photo. It's a very early form of computer.

December 09, 2016

Plus ça change

Last weekend we went away to the seaside and passed through the village I grew up in. There have been several changes: the shop my mother worked in is now a house; the entire village is bypassed rather than carrying holiday-bound traffic through its centre; the petrol station has gone and replaced by houses.  And there were other significant developments.

This was my junior school. The door you can see on the left was the headmaster's house, and the long range to the right was our hall. The gable end at the right was the reception classroom. It was an old Victorian pile with high walls and windows that were so far up the walls we needed a long pole to open and close them. No staring outside and daydreaming!  These days it would be considered bad for education and children wouldn't be expected to progress under such conditions. But we loved it - and our teachers. We had small classes (there were only 96 pupils altogether) and our teachers cared about us and our learning.  These days its the area youth centre.

This was Wilson's farm. That field used to be full of cows, and twice a day they were guided off to the left and into a pasture on the opposite side of the road. Traffic stopped to let them wander across. Often it coincided with our walk to or from school. These days it's the site of a sheltered housing estate. They seem to have demolished the farmhouse, which is a shame. But it'll be a great place for people to live out their days.

Here's a close up of the wall in the last photo. I remember it as being higher. I an also remember Farmer Wilson shouting at us because a small gang of us were slowly dismantling it while we stood around chatting about nothing in particular. It wasn't vandalism, as such - we didn't mean any harm - it was just idle lack of thought. It's close to being a dry stone wall. There's actually nothing holding the wall together except careful positioning of the stones. The capstones are cemented, but nothing else is. Repairing it is a time-consuming, skilled job. Sorry Farmer Wilson!

This smart-looking B&B used to be a pig farm!  The pigs were free-range, in the field behind the wall on the right, and they were very friendly. You could scratch their backs and they would snort and wag their  curly little tails. Nobody was squeamish about bacon. It was just how life was.

Of course, we went for fish and chips from the chippy where I used to buy "six penn'orth of chips and scraps, please" whenever I could afford it.
I don't go back as far as 1946, but I do remember that range. It must have been second hand when it was installed, because it was an Art Deco sunray design in green and yellow, probably made of bakelite or something similar. It was definitely plastic. It was good to see the clock still there. The fish and chips were still as good as ever too!

This post has been for Five on Friday, hosted by Amy at Love Made My Home.