Friday, 19 February 2010

Merrie England!

Hi Folks. I got out today, on my own, at just after 3.30pm which is pretty brilliant for me. And I walked round taking photos for over 2 hours. Unfortunately it was overcast and even started hailing at one stage so the atmosphere of the photos is a little grim. Which may cause some of you to wonder why I have called this post Merrie England!

It's because the time when the timber framed buildings below were built is traditionally thought of as good times in our history. Why? Well the black death, otherwise known as bubonic plague, wiped out about a quarter of the population in England in the middle of the 14th century. Before the plague life was very hard with food shortages and much of the population living in serfdom. Landowners were able to set low rates of pay and treat the peasants (labourers) in any way they pleased. The peasants were not free, they were serfs in that the landowners could make demands on them they could not refuse. After the plague the shortage of labour pushed wages up, there was enough food for everyone, and plenty of abandoned land for individuals to take over and work for themselves. The absolute power of the landowners was broken and the feudal system was all but over by the end of the 14th century. The peasants had never had it so good (to coin Macmillan's phrase).

The plague gave those left alive the opportunity to prosper, work for themselves and generally make merry.

These are some timber framed buildings from the 15th century. The timber used is oak which naturally ages to a dark grey colour. The infilling would originally have been wattle and daub - woven wooden panels which were covered in a mixture of earth, straw, animal hair, clay, sand and possibly even some dung thrown in! Now of course, although the original wattle (woven panels) may still be there, the daub has been replaced with plaster - more durable and probably smells better!

The pathway up the hill is medieval being made more of pebbles than cobbles. There's also an old gas lamp now converted to electricity. Many original gas lamps can be seen around the city (you'll have seen them on other photos of mine) as this was one of the first places in England to have gas light - in 1815.

I went down this way to call in at the charity bookshop seen here on the right. On the left, the shop is a business owned by one of the Bear's sisters! The stone supports on which the first floor currently stands were put in at a later date presumably to stop the whole thing from collapsing.
Next door is a beautiful church built in the 15th century from the local red stone. I should say rebuilt as there has been a church on that spot since the 12th century.
Across the road is another timber framed building where you can see the original ground floor structure. It is called "The House that Moved" because it was moved to that position in 1961 when they built a new road. The whole building, being mainly wood, was rolled about 90 metres to its new position quite easily! It's now a bridal shop.
Previously some of the timberwork had been plastered over but this was stripped off revealing the original structure in all its glory.
Many wood framed buildings were remodelled in later times. This is an example of a property which has been entirely plastered over but you can still see each storey jutting over the one below.   

Here is another example of original timber framing on the side of a building.

But  the front of that building is entirely Georgian including the perfectly preserved shop front.

I have many more photos, but to finish today here are some photos of the converted pub from the last post showing the gallery with original pews, the main floor and the bar.

And the Regency gothic chapel next door

Monday, 15 February 2010

Gari experiment and pics of the pub!

Hi Folks. I ran out of ground rice, that I make my porridge from, so I went to the asian shop where I buy it and they had changed supplier and the grain of the new stuff was too large for me. I looked round the shop to see if there was anything else I could use to make my porridge and I found something called Gari. It's made from the cassava root, a starchy tuber which is grown in subtropical regions. Gari is produced through a process of fermentation. It looks like small beige flakes. I thought, vegetable source starch - might be a healthy start to the day? So I bought some.

It microwaved with some milk into a thick porridge, but I have to say it didn't smell so great. It wasn't totally inedible, but I couldn't finish the whole bowl. Maybe it's an aquired taste? Maybe I'm just not used to it. It was a "Nil points" in the language of the European Song Contest. Let's just say that the next day I went out to a different shop and bought a 1.5 kg bag of ground rice.

Today my healer wasn't able to see me so I met up with the Bear again in this pub where we have been meeting a lot recently as the tea and coffee is cheap. Everything is cheap actually. Which accounts for the clientele. Which the Bear complained about quite a bit: "Company's rather low. Feels like the tide's gone out!"

He was in bad humour today. He complained about Valentine's day. He got her a card and nothing else. She got him a double photo frame which had a bear inbetween the frames and a pair of espresso cups and saucers. He was fuming that she'd spent 20 pounds! How many people would be upset to have money spent on them? The Bear doesn't like the way she wastes money, as he sees it.

Finally he finished the last section of the form that needed doing. I will photocopy it and post it tomorrow.

The pub was built as a Unitarian chapel in 1760 and is fairly unaltered since that time, both inside and out. The front aspect:
The side of the building where the beer garden is.
The beer garden is bordered on the other side by this building which is a Strawberry Hill Gothic chapel dating from the Regency period (1820). This is a delicate form of gothic architecture before it was adapted into much heavier forms by the Victorians. I will go back another time and take more photos of the front of it. It is a club for the marines now.
Inside the pub is one large double height room which has the original galleried area all round the sides. (The glass barriers were added during conversion to stop drunken people falling over!) Standing on the gallery I took this photo of the back wall of the chapel. Yes, the pulpit is still in place!
The hood of the pulpit is carved from a huge hunk of what looks like mahogony. The carving is superb. A representation of multiple swathes of fabric in an elaborate canopy.  
The design on the stained glass is surprisingly delicate with classical motifs in the central panel.
I love those cute little angels!
A few of the pews which they have left in the gallery.
It's unfortunate I didn't have the confidence to photograph the bar area which is underneath the gallery. But people were starting to look at me and I didn't want to freak anyone out! (I had asked permission BTW.) This is the pub I went to to get on the internet when it was off at home as they give unlimited internet use. I prefer to sit up in the gallery so I'm away from the hustle and bustle and can see everything that's going on. Next time I go in I'll get a shot of the bar.

It annoyed me that I was unable to zoom in. Or even focus properly. I really need to get myself a camera. The Bear notified me that they have some in Argos on sale so I need to check it out.

PS All I drank in there was an orange juice. I was lucky that the Bear was too bad tempered to even eat. Normally I have to watch him eating something greasy with chips!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Busy week

Hi Folks. I've had a stressful week dealing with Bear business. The Bear has had a lot going on. He was sent a letter by the housing association telling him the development where he lives will be refurbished and he will have to temporarily move out for this to happen. He has been very stressed over this. The letter gave no specifics but a couple of phone calls later I found out that they don't have any schedule for works yet but it will start later this year. I will try to negotiate a single move for him rather than moving out for 3 months and then back, because I'm not sure he will stand the strain otherwise. Only problem is that all the other residents are also eldery, mentally ill or physically handicapped so many of them can't cope with it either, so whether they will see him as a priority for a single move I don't know.

Then there is The Form (nothing to do with his housing). A whole booklet of questions to fill in for him. I spent over 2 hours on my own filling out answers on a practice form. I know most of the answers having known him intimately for 9 years. But some I wasn't sure, so we had over an hour together going through the practice form filling in the blanks. Then he had to write it out himself on the real form. The Bear has a slight spelling disability (his reading is not affected, only spelling), and I was getting very worried after about 2 pages of spelling out every other word for him. I said to the Bear, "This is as bad as pulling teeth"... then reconsidered, "OK, not quite as bad as that".

Mercifully after that his engine seemed to be running better and I was only spelling out every 4th or 5th word. Anyway, they will be used to any amount of terrible spelling so a few errors aren't really a problem. The Bear put in a stonking performance and we were through it in 2 1/2 hours - I thought it would take about 4! He can't have done that much writing in a very long time. The *bears* then cheekily asked him what the subject of his next book would be!

So after over 6 hours of work the next stage was to get it signed by the doctor which duly took place on Thursday when I accompanied him at his request. It's a long time since I accompanied the Bear on an app and I was apprehensive because sometimes he makes over the top demands or gets unreasonable. But this time it went OK. I asked for him to be referred for a CPN because I can't handle all the work and support involved with him moving. I had to go back the next day to collect the damn form.

It still needs a couple of sections writing in which I will have to do this weekend so it can be sent off early next week. I think we'll be glad to see the back of it!

I've seen the Bear on 3 days this week and he was surprisingly good tempered throughout. Which is practically unheard of. I was seriously stressed over it all, mainly the anticipation, though it turned out OK. The previous 2 weeks I had found him very draining due to his stress over the housing thing. I have been selfishly so grateful not to be Mrs Bear at this time. Although it has to be said I'm grateful on an average day not to be Mrs Bear. But recently they have been having some very nasty arguments (purely due to stress) and he has been thinking about splitting up with her. I think this would be a very bad idea - esp for me! Admitedly I think he has had this idea in his head for a little while now. The giveaway was when he learnt how to use the microwave.

Other indicators are talking about "doing something" with his hair, and losing some weight. He wants to look his best if he's going to be on the pull. He stopped dying his hair and long white-grey hair doesn't look too hot, so he told me he's thinking of getting a short cut - the name George Clooney was indeed mentioned. I think it will look quite distinguished. The *bears* say that "fur length" hair is just the thing this season so they're all for it.

The weight loss has occured mainly due to his teeth being painful and then subsequently worrying about catching the gum while it was healing. The last couple of years he has looked like he had the most enormous beach ball shoved up his jumper. Now it just looks like a small beach ball.

The big news apart from all this is that The Bear is Broody!!!! Yes really! Which is slightly another nail in the coffin of the current arrangement as she can't have them. I said, "At your time of life?" and he said that he'd reached the stage of life where you consider if you should have a baby before it's too late. (I might add that he does already have a grown up son only 2 years younger than me. But they haven't been in touch for a long time due to getting divorced when his son was still a small child.) Whether he is really serious or just using it as another thing against her, I'm not sure.

Well, that's been a big chunk of Bear hasn't it? What about me? Eating wise I haven't been doing too great this week. I have eaten my stress at several times during the week, although pulled back yesterday and today. On the up side I have been very physically active the last 5 days doing plenty of walking. Up the very big hill to my healer on Monday and walking through town afterwards, Tuesday I went on a walk lasting 1 1/4 hours in the evening, Wed I had 1/2 hour of fast walking going to see my CPN and then another 1/2 hour almost running to get back into town to meet the Bear (dripping in sweat by the time I got there). Thur and Fri I was walking around town with the Bear. He's kept me on my toes anyway!

I have tons of photos yet to post, but for today I thought I'd show you a few curiosities.

Elizabethan themed Trompe l'oeil painting on the side of a building on the High Street.
Intricate carving on the doorway of the Cathedral.
There are many small creatures and birds on the doorway. This little monkey is only half the size of my hand.
This creature is the same size. Do you think it's a dog? It's got a very bushy tail!
2 tiny little dragons!
Ancient passageway. The timber framing on the left is Elizabethan, the infilling of bricks is later.
Someone has done a cheeky Banksy style ghetto blaster on some of the infilling!
PS Hope you all have a great Valentine's Day tomorrow!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Saturday afternoon on the High Street

Hi folks. I managed to get out into town on my own and took a load of photographs to share with you. I have been attempting to do this all week - and failed. Finally, success!

For this post I have concentrated on the High Street. I decided to start at the Guildhall. A sign informed me that this hall has been here for 800 years but the front was added at the end of the 16th century. (That annoying blur is a person)
Looking opposite it is a building as pretty as a chocolate box which is appropriate as Thorntons is a chocolate shop - no, I didn't go in! The shop fronts here are Victorian, but for the upper storeys, on the left is an old merchant's house (date 16th century or earlier) and on the right is a slice of classical elegance (18th century).

The upper storeys here are very early. And the two gables have shown a tendency to collapse towards one another - hence the two metal rods which are holding them apart! 
Highly decorated upper storeys with painted woodwork, leaded light windows and a very cute balcony with a run of Gothic arches. These two buildings are sandwiched in by two modern brick buildings which are plain but in scale.  
Showing the upper storeys jutting out over the High Street. 

Further down the High Street I couldn't resist snapping a few pretty shop windows. A display of bags.

And a peak inside the shop at all the pretties!

Embellishment is still with us it seems. I hardly know what's current as I haven't taken part in fashion for what feels like quite a long time. At the back is a heavily embroidered tunic dress. The band under the bust on the front dress is made up entirely of seed beads.

My eating continues to improve. I have bought no chocolate for over a week now - I'm off chocolate! I have eaten plenty of chicken (I bought 2 ready cooked rotisserie chicken for 97p each!) and veg and salad. I am virtually gluten free, eating ground rice porridge with chopped prunes for breakfast. For my evening meal tonight I have haddock, plenty of veg and mashed potato. So good progress!

I also have a Happy Blogger Award from Alan at Fools Fitness for which I have to think up 10 things that make me happy.

Ten things that make me happy right now:

1) Eating clean

2) Taking remotely in focus photos

3) Wallace and Grommit - right this moment I'm watching The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It happens to be one of the Bear's favourites! He particularly likes Lady Tottington because he loves a bit of upper class totty.

4) Noticing how beautiful the place I live is since trying to capture it on camera.

5) Thinking about my lace making again - I WILL get some photos done

6) Meeting up with the Bear in town (even though he's always in such a bad mood)

7) Reading what all my blogging friends are up to

8) Visiting my healer

9) Looking at my recently dyed red hair in the mirror 

10) The satisfaction of finally getting a post up!

 Thanks Alan!