A weekend in Kent

The Easter long weekend is done and it has glowered and grizzled and pretty much rained for the whole four days. This morning, the weather forecast touted a high of 14C for London but having just come back from running a couple of errands up the street, it feels like more of the same damp squib to me.


It’s led me to reminisce about sunnier times – like when I spent a warm summer weekend in Kent last July.

It was a ‘big birthday’ for stepmum-B’s Mum. B had flown into London earlier in the week and had been staying at Chez Gidday for a few days so we headed into London’s Friday afternoon commuter swell and down to Kent together for a weekend of family catch-ups and birthday festivities. The weekend proved to be gloriously warm and mostly sunny so aside from the party on Saturday evening, we were able to spend some time poking around a few of Kent’s picturesque and historic towns.

We began in Canterbury, the city that gave birth to Geoffrey Chaucer and his tales.

Canterbury - Chaucer and gardens

L: Statue of Geoffrey Chaucer in Castle Street; R: Lush gardens along the old city walls

Canterbury Cathedral is a must see. It’s chock full of glorious architecture…

Canterbury Cathedral - people

Intricate carvings – including on the tomb of Henry IV and his queen, Joan of Navarre (right)

Canterbury Cathedral - looking up

So many spectacular things to admire, it’s easy to lose track of time.

…and comes with somewhat of a chequered past.

Canterbury Cathedral - TB montage

L: Looking down the length of the cathedral from the Trinity Chapel; R: This memorial marks the site of the murder of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, in 1170.

And then there are Canterbury’s many pubs.

Canterbury signs

There’s a little bit of whatever takes your fancy here. Make sure you check out the old ducking stool around the corner from The Old Weavers House.

The local folk festival was on so we managed to catch the parade on Saturday morning…

Canterbury Folk Festival

Catching the start of the street parade for the folk festival.

…as well as popping into the Canterbury Museum for a spot of local history. To our surprise, we found this little piece of Down Under hanging on the wall.

On the Moira Station

On the Moira Station, Australia – oil on millboard – by P Lee, 1890.

After a pleasant morning, we were to meet up with some of the family for a pre-do catch up. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan so B’s brother took us to the town of Sandwich. Folkish pursuits having established themselves here too, we were regaled with some spirited morris dancing as soon as we arrived.

Sandwich - Morris dancers montage

Morris dancing on the banks of the River Stour

Luckily there was also plenty of time to enjoy an ice-cream while wandering through the bustling main square and polish off some delicious fish and chips.

Sunday morning dawned and instead of the relaxed ambling we had counted on after the festivities of the night before, more plans had been developing and we had another family get-together to squeeze in before I caught my train. But there was still time for a quick trip to Botany Bay – the Kent version – for a look around.

Botany Bay views montage

Yes, there was a beach – with people swimming and everything. It was that warm…

Botany Bay Folly montage

The top picture is what’s known as either the Folly or Neptune’s Tower. (There’s quite a good post about it on Echoes of the Past if you are interested in finding out more.) We also introduced B’s brother and his girlfriend to geocaching here. The bottom picture is the view from the coastal path alongside the Folly.

Botany Bay - Seagulls (sml)

A seagull and chick enjoying the sea air and sunshine.

Botany Bay - sign (sml)

Two more birds enjoying the sunshine and sea air of Botany Bay (that’s me on the right).

After a little basking in the sun at the Botany Bay Hotel – over a pretty decent coffee I might add – we headed off to our final shindig via the delightful seaside town of Broadstairs.

Broadstairs, Viking Bay

Viking Bay, Broadstairs – another beach with people swimming!

It was a flying stop, just long enough to get out of the car for ten minutes and admire the view, before driving on to our last family do of the weekend. More eating, drinking and gas bagging ensued…and then it was time to say my goodbyes. Before long I was sitting by the train window relaxed, sun-kissed and watching the Kent countryside, bathed in the soft light of a summer’s evening, whisk by.

The rain has stopped now and I’m pleased to report that it’s definitely feeling warmer at Chez Gidday – the toasty winter throw has been tossed aside and I have the kitchen window open a fraction to ‘freshen the air’.

But what I’m really hoping is that some  proper sunshine is not far away, when it will be just warm enough to sit outside, albeit jumper-clad, to read or to relocate the chores I’ve been doing on the comfy couch. Let’s face it. While waxing nostalgic about summers past from the Gidday sofa has been a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon, I am definitely looking forward to tap-tap-tapping away on the back patio instead.

Fingers crossed that this will come sooner rather than later.

The carnival is over

After an end to August that was bathed in glorious sunshine, Autumn has arrived under a bit of a cloud – literally. For several days now I have been pricking my ears at the sound of rain spattering on the kitchen skylight and have been caught in a few unexpected downpours (only to find myself sweating it out in my mac when the clouds lift ten minutes later). Suddenly layers – and umbrellas – are the things I need to be thinking about.

I was walking back from East Finchley on Monday afternoon – the sky drab with cloud and the air heavy with humidity – and decided to pop into Long Lane Pasture.

It’s been two months since I first discovered it during a geocaching exploit with stepmum-B. On a warm summer day back in July, we had plodded curiously along the grassy pathways, stopping to admire a bright flower, taste some small golden plums or wonder at an unusual plant. Profusions of ripening blackberries, just a few short weeks from plump purple readiness, lined the paths and we had been delighted to find a patch of cool relief under a draping willow tree by the railway fence.

LLP July montage

Since then, the blackberries have all but gone and with things having been mowed and generally tidied, it was clear that the volunteers had been hard at work.

LLP Sept (3)

LLP Sept (4)

LLP Sept (2)

This grass circle (above left) contains 17 different species of native grass which, apart from being hand-weeded, are left to grow wild.

And speaking of native, the middle picture below is a Guelder Rose (viburnum opulus), native to the British Isles and named for Gelderland, a Dutch province. It grows in hedgerows and still grows wild in the London Borough of Barnet although this particular shrub was planted in the Pasture. Birds love the berries but they are acidic and slightly poisonous for people.

LLP Sept (1)

I also got a gander at some rose hips (above left) – which I’d only ever experienced during my childhood as ‘jelly-in-a-jar’ – and all to the accompaniment of bees buzzing away industriously. On the way out I put some coins in the donation box by the gate to support the efforts of the volunteers who tend this little patch for the community.

I continued on towards home and as I passed Victoria Park, I noticed something unusual on the grass.

Victoria Park

No, the aliens have not landed. Rather over the last ten days, the park has been playing host to a kiddies’ carnival – rides, bouncy castles, you know the sort of thing I mean. I’d grown used to it on my morning walks. But on Monday it had vanished leaving nothing but the marked grass as testament to their stay. With the rain, it will no doubt green up even more quickly than usual but I was astonished at how much of an impact the ten days had made.

And speaking of astonished, the garden at Gidday HQ continues to surprise and delight, particularly given the absence of green-coloured-thumbs. Small sprays of roses keep bursting forth, the insects continue to buzz busily and a flourish of striking red poppies has cropped up along the garden fence.

ChezGiddayFlowers Sept17

I did not plant any of these but most days I wander out to visit them, enjoying their delicate freshness and vigour and wondering what other surprises might be in store. I’m also flabbergasted at their undaunted survival and the unequivocal claim they have made at the home of one so horticulturally-challenged.

Nature is a marvellous thing isn’t it?

As I type this, my feet are tucked into my cosy sheepskin slippers. The lounge room is noticeably darker without the sun streaming in and while the desk lamp illuminates the keyboard under my fingers, the floor lamp in the corner behind me casts soft light across the room. The days are already feeling shorter.

Yes peeps, the carnival is definitely over. Long summer days are already yielding to brisk autumn nights. The kids are back at school and daily commutes are crowded with the busy and the anxious again. The steady march of annual comfort telly – the flurry of The Great British Bake Off and the flounce of Strictly Come Dancing – has begun.

Nevertheless I’m hoping that it’s not quite over yet. A bit like the roses at Gidday HQ, just when I think they have finished their annual flowering, their scented petals burst forth again, enchanting me one last time.

Peach roses.JPG

So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one still smelling the roses…and keeping my eyes peeled for a late burst of summer.

It’s Oh So Quiet…

It’s July. The schools are starting to close for the summer break and thousands of families are packing their bags for their annual holiday. Many flee to sun themselves and swim in warmer climes although the UK’s recent burst of gloriously sunny weather may have also inspired some vacation-ing closer to home.

At this time of year, an email is circulated at work, encouraging us to be safe and take care over the months ahead. There are the usual admonishments to drive safely, to stay vigilant outside our normal routines both in and out of the work environment. This year’s message really struck a chord for me.

The new captain jumped from the deck, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the couple swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”  Source: http://mariovittone.com/2010/05/154/

It would appear that drowning is not the waving, splashing, attention-getting event that we think it is. It is quiet, insidious and quick. It can happen in less than 60 seconds…while we watch.

Mario Vittone oversees the development of maritime safety and security products for VLinc Corporation and is a leading expert in drowning, sea survival and safety at sea. He consults and writes on water safety and in 2012, he published the article referred to above, painting a vivid picture of the risks we run as a result of our misconception about what drowning looks like.

In the 1970s, Dr. Francesco (Frank) Pia Ph.D discovered The Instinctive Drowning Response shown in the video below.

The misconceptions remain some 40 years later.

I grew up in a culture where swimming is taught if not in parallel with learning to walk, then at least as part of every primary school’s Phys.Ed. curriculum. And we learnt not just to swim but also to rescue and perform CPR as part of the higher swimming competency certificates in later years.

There is also a legacy of swimming in my family with my grandfather and uncle being swimming coaches and Mum swimming at State level for many years during her teens. Growing up we had pools in our various back yards and seaside holidays galore with many hours spent frolicking in the surf with Mum or Dad close by. My sister and I competed at swim meets both in and out of school and as I grew into adulthood, I spent many weekends with friends water-skiing and swimming in bays, rivers and lakes around Victoria.

Yet I carried the same misconception as many of you probably do. I never knew what drowning really looked like.

So with the Summer months gaining momentum in the northern hemisphere, it’s vital to get this message out there, to wave my virtual arms and make some noise on behalf of those who can’t.

Drowning is a quick and quiet killer and by knowing what to look for, you just never know whose life you might save.

So please share this post or any of the additional material below with as many people as you can. 

The life you save may even be yours.

Additional material:
Drowning doesn’t look like drowning
Instinctive Drowning Response – video
Mario Vittone Facebook page
On Scene p14. – It Doesn’t Look Like They’re Drowning

Midsummer Magic…

Today the Summer Solstice occurs and we in the Northern hemisphere will get our longest day of the year courtesy of the sun reaching its northernmost point in the sky. Stonehenge was awash with 37,000 worshippers at sunrise this morning and all manner of celebrations will take place throughout the world. 

Today also marks Midsummer in Sweden, a festival as important to the Swedes as Christmas is to me and mine. It’s a time of family and food, dancing and drinking and the Swedish contingent at work are pretty much out of contact during this holiday period.

Which brings me to a little Midsummer moment of my own, this week’s visit to Skanor med Falsterbo.

It’s actually my fourth visit to this lovely little part of Sweden. Our European division holds its mid-year sales meeting here, a nod to a time when the company (or part of it anyway) was Swedish and management would leave the conference to travel to their respective holiday homes in the area for Midsummer. In any case, it’s not your run-of-the-mill conference choice – and that’s a good thing.

Skanor med (with) Falsterbo are twin medieval towns situated 28-30kms south of Malmo on the Falsterbo peninsula. It’s a quiet place with a population of less than 7,000 and the area is filled with quaint, wonderfully kept houses and surrounded by pristine beaches and glorious stretches of sea and sky. This year we were blessed with warm mid-20s temperatures and I found a little time to take a stroll to the beach and to soak up a bit of Midsummer magic…

Like a row of quirky sentinels, tiny beach huts line the foreshore. 

Unfortunately the magic of Midsummer was not quite enough to keep Australia from departing the FIFA World Cup…in spite of this, last week still found this little Aussie more than happy with her lot.

Summer’s Lease…

It’s the first of June so that must mean it’s time for another Calendar Challenge and this month, Simon Drew offers a pictorial take on the words of the immortal Bard to kickstart our days of Summer…

To my mind, I think ‘not to be’ sounds rather drastic so I’m voting for the former. But in any case, this quote (from Hamlet in case you were wondering) does make me think about William Shakespeare’s influence in our language

I took literature both at High School and then as my minor at Uni, and I remember how surprised I was at the proliferation of quotes that were already familiar to me. Just sticking with Hamlet, I had heard of both to thine own self be true and neither a borrower nor a lender be despite never actually studying the play itself. 

And while I’ve never gotten around to seeing As You Like It, my theatre forays here on Gidday from the UK are tagged with all the world’s a stage. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery.

What I did study was Macbeth – three times. Not for me the dark romance of Romeo and Juliet (who was the sun) nor the comic delights of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the course of true love never did run smooth

No, after wading through this tragedy as our compulsory Shakespeare in Year 11 English, taking English Literature in Year 12 found me double double toil and trouble-ing again with the teacher thinking it would be better to do something we already knew. And then I went to Uni to broaden my horizons and such-like only to find that rather than bear[ing] a charmed life, fair was foul and I was in the hurly burly…again.

Thanks goodness we did The Merchant of Venice in second semester and I got to learn all about pound[s] of flesh. And I did finagle a spate of Twelfth Night. With wonderful lines like ‘Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them‘ it is little wonder that this remains one of my favourite plays.

I have since seen quite a few of the Bard’s back catalogue here in London, most recently Measure for Measure, King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing. And I love them but I’ve noticed a peculiar pattern emerging. The norm is that I struggle to keep pace with the language in the first half, then google the story again in the interval to see whether I have managed to gain any sense of what’s going on. The answer is almost always yes and I invariably return and just relax into the language, trusting that I will get all of the points that must be made and having a much more enjoyable time as a result. 

And speaking of enjoyment, today is the first day of Summer here in the UK. It has been sunshine-y and warm and the roses are out in force at Gidday HQ – who needs all the perfumes of Arabia [to] sweeten this little hand?

And with that, it seems to me that the only fitting end to this post lies in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date”.

Here’s to a fabulous Summer!

ps…and just in case you are struggling with the translation of the pictogram

To be or not to be – that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
No more

Calendar Challenge 2014 – Back Catalogue
Keep Calm And Carry On
Sour Grapes
Water Water Everywhere

On The Shore

What Lies Before Me

Summery Sundays…

It’s Sunday.

A lazy, mooch-about with A-used-to-be-down-the-hill Sunday.

And it’s a gloriously sunny Sunday here at Gidday HQ.

Yes, you heard read right.

The sky is brilliantly blue, the sun’s rays fierce in their determination to make up for lost (British Summer) time.

And there have been a couple of squatters on the back patio for the second time in as many weekends.

We even had to put the umbrella up to protect our delicate Australian  hangovers skin!

Don’t look now but it might be summer at last!

Shhhhh….wouldn’t want to scare it away again…

ps…and there’s only 10 sleeps to go ’til the big day peeps. That’s right – only 10. You can count down using only your fingers now…

Your 2012 Five A Day – June

So here we are. The 1st of June. Summer at last. 
Long days ending in lingering twilight.
A chilled Chablis. A long tall Pimms. A cheeky Gin & Tonic or two.

And maybe a little social over-excitement as we here in the UK try to cram as much celebratory drinking behaviour as possible into any one of those random summer days that deem the great British Isles worthy of their rays.

So get out there now and make short work of the grassy knoll that has become your back garden. Get the little people outdoors, fire up the barbie and put a few beers in the esky.

Just like Colin Carrot…

But remember to slip, slop, slap peeps.


Otherwise being half cut will be the least of your worries.
Five A Day Back catalogue