Sunday, September 30, 2012

Southampton and beyond

I did not realize I have such a large family. After only having mum, dad and the boys for so many years it is delightful to get to know my extended family - up to third cousins on my dad's side. Of course this has led to a lot of visiting, lunches and dinners. Little time for sightseeing, walking nor taking care with my eating habits. Oh I promise to get back into the groove again! We had a Rammoli night with buffet dinner and lots of snacks. One night was at my auntie Chris's for a lovely dinner with her son Nick. She made a delicious steak and mushroom pie and even spelled my name with pastry on the top. The next night it was off to the local carvery for a girl's night out with aunts Joan and Chris, cousins Geraldine and Jane as well as third cousin Isabelle who has just turned sixteen and she is an absolute doll, such a ray of sunshine - I may steal her and bring her back to Canada with me! Friday night Geraldine and her husband Harry took me to their local pub and then back to their place for a lasagna dinner - well I can only say I am eating much more than I did in China! It has been so interesting listening to my aunts and uncles talk about the war and what they endured with evacuations and bombings. Having to leave their homes for bomb shelters and when they return their homes were no longer there. How lucky we are to come from a country and generation who has not had to experience this kind of horror!




















I have also have driven into Winchester and visited king Arthur's round table. Winchester is the former capital of England and home of Winchester cathedral - one of the largest cathedral's in Europe. My mum always wanted to live in Winchester and I can see why it has all the modern conveniences but in keeping with a small English town flavor.


The Round Table is King Arthur's famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knight congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. Between 1222–1235, Henry III (who was born at Winchester Castle) added the Great Hall, built to a "double cube" design, measuring 110 ft by 55 ft by 55ft. The Great Hall is built of flint with stone dressings; originally it had lower walls and a roof with dormer windows. In their place were added the tall two-light windows with early plate tracery. The stained glass are in the knight's coat of arms. Extensions to the castle were made by Edward II. In 1873 the roof of the Great Hall was completely replaced.

An imitation Arthurian Round Table hangs in the Great Hall. The table was originally constructed in the 13th century, and repainted in its present form for Henry VIII; around the edge of the table are the names of King Arthur's knights.


Behind the Great Hall is a re-creation of a medieval garden called Queen Eleanor's Garden.








Today my dad's cousin and his wife (Joe and Janet) picked me up to take me to their home in Somerset. Somerset is in the country about 70 miles from Southampton . Somerset is full of small villages, joe and Janet live in Henstridge (try to find this village on a map). On the way to Henstridge we stopped in the town of Salisbury to visit the cathedral and Magna Carta. This is a 13th century cathedral with britain's tallest spire 123m (404ft). The finest of only 4 surviving original Magna Carta (1215). World's oldest mechanical clock.

Well the spire is certainly impressive from the outside.. However we found the inside to be a bit of a hodge podge and less impressive especially the donated wooden chairs on steel frames took away from the ambience of such a grand cathedral. This is also the home to the best preserved of four surviving original Magna Carta sealed by king John in 1215. Written in abbreviated Medieval Latin on vellum (calfskin), the document set down for the first time the relationship between the King and his subjects and their rights. The Magna Carla's significance in the democratic world today, inspiring documents from the United States constitution to the universal declaration of Human Rights.

As for the clock we could not see it as the face is missing and only the mechanics are still in place - so much for the world's oldest clock!




















We arrived in the village of Henstridge - joe and Janet live on what use to be called the Church Farm right next to the village parish. Below is the view out of my bedroom window.


The church farm was a large farm in the village - the land has been sold off and a developer built cottages (more like homes than cottages as we think of cottages in north america) on the previous farmland. This is now the fate of many farms in the UK.







The cottage where I am staying.










A walk around the village this morning.



The vicker going to the parish for mass


Local Pub -1500 pubs in the UK have closed down over the last couple of years due to no smoking inside pubs as well as stricter drinking and driving laws.













Joe and Janet's back yard. On the other side of the wall is a graveyard!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday in Winchester

Today the weather has changed to the typical English rainy weather and rather cool. My dad's sister, auntie Chris, dropped by this morning and we went out for a coffee and wireless so I could upload my blog. The picture below of auntie Chris and I. I cannot believe she just turned seventy years old - I hope I have my aunties genes they both look so young!

My cousin Michael came to take me out to practice my driving. We or I should say I drove to Winchester where we strolled around and made our way to Winchester cathedral. Winchester cathedral dates back 15 centuries to 642 and is one of the largest cathedrals in England. The picture below is Michael and I - we had a picture taken together in the same spot in 1964 when I was 8 years old.

We wandered past The Eclipse Inn. They say the the upstairs of the pub is haunted as the Winchester court house is across the street and the last hanging was outside the Eclipse Inn - hence the ghosts. I love walking the cobblestone streets and lanes - it is so English, oh that's right I am in England!


Next I drove to Romsey which is a country town where the Mountbatten estate is located. Mountbatten was prince Phillip's uncle and was very close to prince Charles. Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb while vacationing in Ireland in 1979. When Mountbatten was killed his body was returned to Southamptom airport where my uncle worked for British Airways and was responsible for unloading the royal luggage from this flight. The Mountbatten estate is the major employer in this area (cleaners, carpenters, cooks, gardeners etc.) We drove by the estate and it is massive.

We visited the Tudor Rose Pub in Romsey where a workmate of Michael's was playing in a band. A number of years ago David played with the Mumbo Gerry ( in the summer time when the weather is fine . . . .). The band played 60's music and were fabulous - the pub was so small it could fit no more than 50 people and the washrooms were located outside the pub in the back courtyard.
Back home auntie Joan had a steak and kidney pie ready for dinner! And evening of watching Cornation Street and then a special about Kate and Wills recent visit to southeast Asia which included many of the places I have visited on my travels and I was able to share pictures from my ipad with auntie Joan and uncle Vic.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

England September 2012

My journey started with a flight to Calgary, then a 3.5 wait and on to London, Heathrow. At Heathrow I made my way to the central bus terminal but had a two hour wait for the coach to Winchester where my cousin Michael picked me up. Winchester is about an hour drive south of London in Hampshire county (the bus dropped me off around the corner from Winchester cathedral). My family lives in Eastleigh which is a small town about a 20 minute drive from Winchester. Eastleigh use to be the place where all the railway coaches for Britain were built (hence my dad 's love of trains and working for the railroad in his younger years).

I was delighted to see my 82 year old auntie Joan (my dad's sister) and her husband my uncle Vic whoi have not seen since 1996. First job was to unpack the coho salmon I brought - although it was no longer frozen the cold pack did its job to keep it cool. Auntie Joan had a lovely chicken dinner prepared complete with stuffing- yummy!


My first full day in Eastleigh auntie Joan and I made our way to the village where I made a few purchases (mostly for Hannah) - I am surprised at the prices here as I expected things to be much more expensive and most likely they are in the bigger cities like London. After nipping into a coffee shop to check my Internet or as my auntie calls it www dot - we ran into my cousin who drives a taxi and he drove us to Southampton airport to pick up my rental car. I certainly hope I have my auntie's genes at 82 she had no problem keeping up with me and at times I had trouble keeping up with her.

I rented a very small car and with the aid of my GPS and auntie Joan's directions I had lots of assistance to make my way back to Eastleigh! A little challenging driving a stick shift on the other side of the car on the other side of the road- god help me!

For dinner I made a vindaloo salmon dish with roasted vegetables and a black russian pie for dessert - most of the ingredients i packed in my case from home. Auntie Joan and uncle Vic think I am a gourmet cook! A friend of theirs stayed for dinner and said she this was the best fish she had ever tasted. Yes there is nothing quite like fresh BC Salmon - thanks Aaron your fish was a hit.

It is great fun talking to auntie Joan and uncle Vic about family history. I found out uncle Vic's uncle worked in the engine room and went down with the titanic. Apparently there is a museum in Southampton with a large titanic display that I am hoping to see.

My great great aunt was the oldest cleaner in the house of commons in London and another one of my relatives by marriage was a Beefeater in the Tower of London. Auntie Joan told me of a time, during the war, when she and my dad were at the cinema and it was evacuated due to an air raid and while they were running to the shelter the bullets from the planes were bouncing off the buildings around them. Apparently the German planes would follow the railway lines out of London which would lead to places like Eastleigh, bombing along the way in order to destroy the country's transportation system.

Today my cousin Michael picked us up and drove us through the New Forest area to a lovely coastal town called Lymgton just off the coast of the Isle of Wight. We visited the Saturday market (picked up a few Christmas gifts). It was a lovely sunny day so we had lunch at a pub on the waterfront. Glass of Strombow cider and sun what more could one want.

Tomorrow Michael is taking me out for a driving lesson so that I feel comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road and car. Tonight when I went up to my room together ready for bed auntie joan had cleaned up my room and put a hot water bottle in my bed - oh I love being spoiled!