Sunday, December 31, 2006

Chester - the races and half-timbers

On the way back from Wales - Chester, England, on race day. Hats like pictures of Ascot. Very very. See

Parking. We parked fast so we could get out and enjoy, and noted we were near half-timbered buildings. Like this. However, the whole town - it seems - is half-timber. Moral: take a photo of where you are, if you have a digital camera. Or, write down the cross streets and main buildings every time. Every time. The history of Chester and virtual tours are at

Here is the history of half-timber construction in England. With an abundance of oak at the time, many of these buildings survive. They are usually made of squared-off or split lumber. The site compare this resource to Romania and other countries where there was not as much hard wood - they use more whole logs. That is a good site for overall British culture and history.

We did not know if its haunted history at the time. Go ahead. See

Chester is in the Domesday Book, ordered in 1085 by William the Conqueror, or William I. See; and More about William (he won at the Battle of Hastings, among other glories, see, and is buried back in Normandy, at Caen, see France Road Ways.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bodiam Castle - best moat award

Bodiam Castle. See It is listed on the National Trust, and was built in the 14th century. Prize for best moat. It is south of Canterbury, on the way to the Victorian resort at Brighton on the coast. Not far is Hastings, famous for its 1066 battle - William the Conqueror against King Harold, with William winning.

It is a pity that the roof was purposefully removed in the mid 1600's to keep the castle from being used by Charles I (remember the James-Charles-Charles-James sequence in high school history?) and the castle has not been used since.

Castle buffs should enjoy this site for English castles: Medieval England.

The castle is also on the Heritage Trail. It has a fine "barbican," a term seen often that means a forward extension of the gate area. See, for example, Definition of Castles.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

London and Sherlock Holmes; fish 'n chips

Here is Sherlock in London, not far from Madame Tussaud's.

For Sherlock, see Howooo. The Sherlock Holmes Museum is in London. See This fine statue is nearby, and there are many fish and chips places - served in newspaper with vinegar. Recipe at Further hints for making this delectable tasty snack-meal are

More on hounds: See

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

London - Bridge, Tower, Buckingham Palace; World War II Reconstruction

 I.  London Bridge, Tower Bridge

1.  In 43 AD, Romans set up a pontoon bridge across the Thames. 1176, Henry II commissioned a stone bridge where a teetering wooden one had been the only means of crossing for centuries.  The construction consumed 33 years, but stood for 600 years.  It was still inconvenient:  a mere one narrow lane north and one narrow land south. That sounds very high, but see  Then came a series of collapses, London Bridge is Falling Down fame. See also

2.  In 1212, it burned, and 3000 crossers died.

3. In 1825, a new bridge was constructed; followed in 1962 with a bigger, better, wider, new one.  The old was packed up to the US, Lake Havasu, Arizona. See the Havasu Chamber site above.  The new bridge is a sleek, sloping non-towered modern affair, see images but specify in a search for London Bridge that 1973 is the pertinent one.

4.  London Bridge 1973 is different from Tower Bridge, constructed 1894. Photos often mix the two, calling Tower Bridge by the name London Bridge..

Tower Bridge, London, England

5.  Back to history of crossing the Thames in general. The Thames River used to be about five times as wide as it is now, but shallow so that the tides exposed mud flats. See A ferry near the bridge site in medieval times offered a choice for passage, and the daughter of the last ferryman, one Mary Ovary sometimes spelled Overy, used her inheritance to build a convent called, yes, St. Mary of the Ovaries, says the site. This was before restrictions on women's inheritance were imposed so the men could get at it came later.  As to the Ovaries, clearly we can't have women in such a prominent place, so the men took it over as a college for priests. Plus ca change, and none the better for it, is that so. Perhaps this is a hopeful sign:  Cathedral School of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overy, school for children, see

And someone solved the issue:  Overy means “over the water” or “over the ferry”, from a Saxon word overie meaning “over the water”. See

6.  Battles.

 Recalling the bombing of World War II, the Blitz of London, the city now shows little of that. See photos of the Battle of Britain at :// Take your own tour of the remaining sites, and museums commemorating the Blitz, at ://

Buckingham Palace, London, England. Changing of the Guard

II.  Buckingham Palace - the changing of the guard. The palace here is not very old as the Royal Residence.  It was bought for that purpose only in 1761. See

London Tower. For a virtual tour of London Tower, see Find its history at :// The Normans started it in the 1100's, with a wooden structure, a raised center area with wooden fortifications around -- motte and bailey. It then morphed and developed into a place for state apartments, but also intrigue, defense ongoing, royal refuge, executions, imprisonments.

Our guide said that so many people had been executed there and others were taken there for burial, and all had indeed been buried under the chapel.  Finally the stone floor began to heave and buckle and smell so they had to exhume and rebury whoever they could find and identify. Do they still haunt? Ask at ://

Where to sleep in London without giving up your fortune:

Sleeping - Last minute and reasonably priced accommodations can be a problem in the big cities,so aim for the main bus and train stations. Behind Victoria Station in London, for example, is a street that is all little hotels. Fine and clean and convenient.

We drove in all the big cities, on most days preferring the hassle of parking to the blind hurtling of the subways. We like learning the layout ourselves.

London, Kensington Gardens, and Peter Pan

Peter Pan statue, Kensington Gardens, London, England

 Peter Pan. Reread J.M.Barrie's story at The statue is in Kensington, the 242-acre park in London.  It is among eight royal parks in the city.

J.M.Barrie put the statue there himself, however, causing some controversy about self-promotion. See The Twentieth Century Society page for Peter Pan statue, once at, but (update) I do not see the link there now for Peter Pan. Keep looking:  One online forum cites that cite as well, noting that Barrie set it up on the last night in April so it would be magically there on May 1, 1919.  Is that so? This site says that the sculptor Sir George Frampton erected it, see  According to a regular protocol, or sua sponte?

The little statue is not easy to find, if you happen to park at the wrong end of the park. The walk is well spent, however, in duck-spotting.

The statue is very small. As it should be for a boy, and Tinkerbell, and the other children below.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Leeds. Ducks in England

Today we look at English and other ducks, as a topic during walking tours of places.

1. Spotting ducks.  They are treated well in England, when they are not destined for the pot. A focus is good for tranquil walks. Duck spotting is tranquil, leads to unexpected plumage, requires stops, photos, and look-ups later. It also leads to appreciation of habitats. The English are kind to their web-footed friends in protected habitats. In the US, we are limited in populated areas, it seems, to protecting only mallards and Canada geese, and signs to please do not feed. England offers ducks everywhere, in Kensington Gardens, London; at castles, back roads, on grounds.

Leeds Castle, England. Mallard ducks


To identify ducks, visit Increase the volume. Remember the song about your web-footed friends and somebody's mother.
Muscovy Duck, Leeds Castle, England

The one with the red on top of the beak looks like a Muscovy, see

2.  Ducks in literature.

  • Ping: "Things are kind of cramped on the boat in the Yangtze River where Ping the duck lives with his parents, siblings and 42 cousins. That makes it all the more exciting when one day Ping wanders off all by himself." That sentence from Kidsreads: at "The Story About Ping." #45.
  • Make Way for Ducklings:  There was a duckling-caused traffic jam in the Boston Gardens - "Make Way for Ducklings" at same list (, above) #5. 
  •  Plenty of ducks, see Dab Dab from Dr. Doolittle, and many more, at
3.  Aria ducks.
Stop, find a bench, talk about old books, rest your feet. Sing softly, about Little Ducky Duddle, at
 Sing that one at #11. Etc.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Canterbury - Chaucer's life force; and Thomas a Becket's death

 Canterbury in literature
Contemporary literature leads to a deeper understanding of history and society.  Rather than delve into a derivative work specifically descriptive of medieval English life, read tales from the times.  Start with Geoffrey Chaucer. Medieval. His famous tales recount a group of Pilgrims en route to Canterbury Cathedral: some tales are bawdy, others are simply of human interest, funny or sad, anecdotal. Find the times and music at medieval author's times.Geoffrey Chaucer's Times and Tales at The Canterbury Tales are online at

1.  Try The Pardoner's Tale (and the Unredeemed Dead, a topic of the times) at http://; and Pardoner?  Who?  A pardoner was an official whose sold indulgences and relics and preached. See  The focus was on resurrection after death, and how to attain it; and issues of practicality related to it, in the eyes of nonb

Take a virtual tour of the town of Canterbury at

2.  Thomas a Becket. The murder of this cleric in 1170 triggered pilgrimages to the site of his death, the Cathedral at Canterbury.  Turn to a not contemporaneous account (1875) but well researched, by Edward Grim at Medieval Sourcebook,  Becket was first confidante to the King, but later his adversary when issues between powers of church and state came to a head. Thomas was stabbed in the Cathedral itself. See the story of Thomas a Becket at

The beautiful cathedral, at Canterbury is a destination for pilgrimages and should also be a destination for anyone interested in both the secular and religious core of England. Take a tour here: