Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Windsor. The castle I didn't get to see.

I tried to get into Windsor Castle on two occasions. Problem is it was summer and the queues were long, and I should have done the smart thing to buy the tickets online, which I didn't. I also wasn't up to lining-up to buy them. 

I did, however, manage to walk through the town and pop into little shops here and there. Still, I missed the castle. This simply means I must return to England somewhere in the future to visit. 

You must pardon these last photos. They're not the nicest I've taken in England, but they need to here as they're my memories of this place. 

Just opposite the Castle

The only part of the Castle I saw

The Last Supper in the Windsor Parish Church

The altar in the Windsor Parish Church

Windsor's Crooked House

After Windsor, I took a drive in my KR13JKK Peugeot 207 Sedan on to Maidenhead in search of a Monsoon. Then, it was back to the hotel for one last night.

My home for 4 nights

Milton Keynes. Stories of berries and princesses.

What a road trip England turned out to be. First Heathrow, then Peterborough, Watford for Welham Green, Olney, Cheshunt for Enfield and finally to land in Milton Keynes on Thursday on the doorstep of a friend who had rice and chicken curry on the stove when I walked in!

Fueled by rice and curry, we went for a walk by The Grand Union Canal, which is perfectly situated just behind her home.

Come walk through me, it called. 

Aaahh... the Weeping Willows...

The Grand Union Canal

Pretty hedges on the way

I had to be very patient to get this photo of a bee on lavender

A pretty yellow rose for my mother. She would have loved the abundance of flowers in all colours of the rainbow 

They're really DUCKS. :-) Except for the swan and my walking companions of course

Can you see how I've slyly sneaked in yet another photo of my darling blackberries?

I was probably exhausted when I got into Milton Keynes (even after lovely Olney), but it really hit me on Friday after the visit to Daventry when I almost crumpled in a heap on her carpet. I was too tired to even go out to the shops that evening. That never happens to me. Never. Needless to say, I slept very well that night.

The next day after a leisurely dosa breakfast, we went to Grove Farm. It is a pick-your-own farm. Oh my... a pick-your-own farm. I didn't quite know what to expect when I was bundled into a jacket and red polka-dot wellies other than - Oh dear, this going to be a very wet and uncomfortable day out in the drizzle.

My thoughts proved to be SO wrong! I ended-up pulling out carrots and potatoes from the ground; cutting off courgettes from the stem; looking out for perfect cauliflowers and cabbages in a patch; making eyes at some not-yet-ready fruit; saw more blackberries, discovered that redcurrants look very pretty but are actually quite sour to eat and the best thing of all - picked so many raspberries! I know this is a bit of cheating, as you're not supposed to eat while you pick, but I will admit to popping a few (maybe more?) raspberries into my mouth as we picked.

This was perhaps one of the best experiences I've ever had in my entire life

Beetroot, courgette and courgette flowers... we looked and looked but couldn't find a marrow

I love thee oh redcurrant, even in all your sourness

Ladybird, oh ladybird

More blackberries and a view of the farm

Carrots galore, perfectly polka-dotted red wellies and some farm bunnies

This is the day I fell in LOVE with raspberries

Then on Sunday, after a night of prep by mummy, a mad dash to the shops (where I was introduced to Princess Sophia) and feasting on some delicious biryani, we had a Princess birthday party for one of the farm bunnies who turned 3. Look at the cake and cookies. All perfectly iced by mummy. What a lovely memory!

Cupcakes, cookies and hot chocolate for a Princess' breakfast plus a cake to match

Then - while this birthday party was still going strong - yours truly had to leave and head back to the hotel in Heathrow as my visit to England was drawing quickly to a close.

An excerpt from Milton

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

William Blake

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Olney. The Cowper and Newton Museum.

What's so special about this place you might ask? Well, it's a place of memory for the 18th century poet William Cowper and his friend John Newton. Both have written some beautiful verses which you may know i.e. There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood and Amazing Grace respectively. 

  1. Amazing Grace

  2. Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
    That saved a wretch like me!
    I once was lost, but now am found;
    Was blind, but now I see.
  3. ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
    And grace my fears relieved;
    How precious did that grace appear
    The hour I first believed.
  4. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
    I have already come;
    ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
    And grace will lead me home.
  5. The Lord has promised good to me,
    His Word my hope secures;
    He will my Shield and Portion be,
    As long as life endures.
  6. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease,
    I shall possess, within the veil,
    A life of joy and peace.
  7. The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
    The sun forbear to shine;
    But God, who called me here below,
    Will be forever mine.
  8. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    Bright shining as the sun,
    We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
    Than when we’d first begun.
  9. John Newton

It is William Cowper's house in Olney, Buckinghamshire that is now The Cowper and Newton Museum. It has a lovely walled Georgian flower and kitchen garden around the back.

Both Cowper and Newton collaborated to produce what's known as the Olney Hymns first published in February 1779. Copies of the hymn book are available for purchase in the museum shop.

I was so engrossed with the house. (Me outing myself: I have a fondness for English period romances. This house certainly gave me an insight on how the characters would have lived so long ago). It was transporting to say the least. 

It is not too difficult to imagine what life would have been like all those years ago. Though one can only wonder how they managed cooking in a cauldron over a wood fire in a large fireplace (so large you could almost walk right into it). The rooms were small but well-appointed if somewhat bare. The floor sloped and creaked alarmingly in some places so it is well-worth being careful to tread lightly while walking through the house. 

There are different parts in the museum which highlight the lives of Cowper and Newton as well as their close circle of friends. There is even a section on lace-making, one of the things Olney is famous for (other than the Pancake Race). 

There are no photos of the Museum itself as I wasn't sure if I was allowed to take any and forgot to ask. Here are some photos of the gardens.

I was lucky enough to be in Olney to visit the museum. Olney is another one of those picturesque little jewels hidden in the English countryside. If I didn't go to visit my friends in Traka, I would have missed it completely. You'll be surprised just how many English people don't know Olney even exists.

The one night I was there was spent in The Lindens. It's owned and run by a lovely lady named Virginia, who makes a proper English Breakfast (very important!). It's a gorgeous old house with an equally gorgeous garden around the back.     

In the evening we went for a drink at the pub next to The Lindens and then to dinner at The Swan Inn. The food was excellent. I had a tomato and mozzarella salad garnished with olives and basil, which was delicious. Then came the chargrilled lamb with a hazelnut crust which was equally good. The quality of food at The Swan rivals that of the high-end restaurants at home. Even the wine I had by the glass was a nice one.   

I had a lovely time in Olney. It's one of the best times I've ever had in England. Thank you Godfrey and Steve for making it special. I'd had a tiring start to the week and this mid-week delight was so perfect.

As I finish this post, I'd like to leave you with one of my favourite hymns. I enjoy playing this on the organ in church and its words never fail to cut through my heart... in a good way.

There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I though vile as he, washed all my sins away;
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more;
Be saved to sin no more, be saved to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.

E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing Thy power to save;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou has prepared, unworthy though I be;
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
'Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine;
To sound in God the Father's ears no other name but Thine.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Hertford. The heart of friendship.

The best thing about England is you find pockets of gorgeousness in what seems the most unlikely places. This is one of those places. You'd never know there was town called Hertford tucked away in Hertfordshire sat all pretty round the bend if you didn't take the bend or didn't have friends who invited you to share in its beauty. 

After I knocked on the little red door a little too early, we went on a walk about town. The Two helpfully filling me in on history and important sights while I happily clicked away on my camera. 

The Hart of Hertford
The oldest building in town

Various buildings in the town

The buildings are old and quite a delight to look at (if you're anything like me and love old buildings). They have so much character. I like to wonder sometimes just what they would have seen and heard throughout the years. What stories they could tell if they were able to talk!

Flowers in the marketplace

Why is it that flowers always look so bright and stunning in the UK? Is it because they've awakened from a long sleep and live only a few months before waning to wait for another year that they must make the most of the short life they have? What do you reckon?
The Canal

It went on forever, this canal. I'm told that it starts in London, goes a long way north and you can walk/bike along it the entire way. I bumped into this canal again in Milton Keynes a week later!

Coots... which I thought were ducks initially

Ducks! Ducks! That's what I shouted. Only they weren't ducks apparently. They are coots. I had no idea such a creature existed in this world. We learn something new every day.

Look what I found growing all over the place in England!

I LOVE blackberries! What a pleasant surprise to find that they grow all over the place in summer. One of the Two very kindly picked these 2 perfect berries for me to eat. Pity they were sour. This was the start of my berry craze. More about that in another post.

The Castle that's not quite a Castle. Ahem...

So. One of the Two doesn't think this is a REAL castle at all. Considering it has been rebuilt and only if you look very carefully can you see the difference in bricks between the old and new parts of the building, I suppose it isn't quite a castle after all? It's certainly not in league with the Windsors' of the world, but perhaps we can be forgiving and call it a 'mini' castle.

We walked back to the red door after that, picked up No. 4 and sat down to a scrumptious dindins. We talked until the cows came home. Then very slowly, No. 4 and I made our way back to our hotels. No. 4 and I will never forget what a long drive we had that night thanks to Tomtom. 

Oh well... all's well that ends well.

Scrumptious dindins

The lovely strawberry cake which I insisted on having baked for me. :-)