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Friday, December 14, 2012

Polar Ice Melting

As a lifelong collector and historian of Polar Exploration; I have noticed an item that has popped up today. Much effort was made in the early years of Polar Exploration by many Sailors and adventurers to find a route around the north of Canada and down into the Pacific to China and India.

Finally the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen in the Gjoa took three years to complete the first voyage East to West in 1906 through the ice and Islands of the Northwest Territories in 1928, and the first West East voyage in the little Royal Canadian Mounted Police Vessel St Roch in 1941-1942. (See photo)

This year the ice obstacles have gone due to Global warming according to the BBC. Stunning graphics show the retreat of polar ice in the high arctic over the last two decades. <> mjn from

Winter in Hungary

There's about 20 cm of snow lying outside of the door here in Eastern Hungary where I am staying until Christmas with Ibi and Janos. Both are teaching at their schools this morning as I write but Ibi will be home at lunchtime. I have been Googling, looking up various things on the net. I am pleased that I managed to track down one very old friend in the Scottish borders. Since I've been here swe have been to Buapest to see the Complete Works of Shakespeare which was performed by three British actors - Very funny! We stayed overnight in a comfortable pension. Ibi's daughter Tűnde is still at Uni but will be home before we go to Bristol. She seems to be doing well in her social studies ciourse at Nyreghaza. (Probably spelled wrong!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Roman Fall!

I am ashamed that it was January when I last posted to my blog on return from my wonderful Cape Town Christmastmas. SO I am attempting to pick up the threads. At the moment I am again staying with my dear friends the Kalmans in Mezobéreny in Hungary. In two more days Ibolya and I are flying from Budapest to spend a few days in Rome. Neither of us have visited Rome before so we have plans to visit several of the major tourist sites, xample some Roman food and wine and generally soak up some of the ambience.My title "Roman Fall" is an oblique reference to my late father's film "The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone" in which father as Mr Stonde dies on the plane en route to Rome at the very beginning of the film, allowing his widow (played by Vivienne Leigh) to enjoy herself in the Eternal City. I will try to update this blog more often!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Christmas in South Africa

I had a wonderful time visiting my two step-daughters in Capetown for Christmas.
Please click on the title, this will bring you to the collection of my photos taken in South Africa.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Back over Africa

A few days ago I was on board a British Airways Airbus on my way back to London from my excellent Christmas spent with my stepdaughters in Cape Town, South Africa. BA looked after me well and I had an excellent starboard side seat with plenty of leg room. The passenger in the next seat was not talkative, which suited me fine and so I tried watching a film. After a while though, I switched to the aircraft’s moving map display and began to watch our progress Northward. Having flown this route twice before, I was aware that having flown up the West coast towards Nigeria, then northward over the Saharah desert. On a night flight such as this there is little or nothing to see from the windows: occasional settlement lights and so the moving map gives some indication of progress. It shows town names of exotic places, reminding me of books I once read, My boyhood hero Biggles http://www.biggles-online.com/index.php?bookID=50 was always flying off to adventures in darkest Africa or the Gobi Desert and other places. So, it is dark over the desert and only the moving GPS map to guide me. Looking down I could see occasional lights, not many but Touareg villages I assumed and the moving map announces places overflown such as Tamanrasset in Southern Algeria- Have a look at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamanrasset where goats and camels and many peoples come to the market.
Soon enough we cross the desert and on over the Mediterranean for breakfast over Marseilles then Nothward over the English Channel to Heathrow. Here I changed terminals to catch my onward flight to Budapest, where Ibolya was waiting to escort me home to Mezőbereny by train.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Travel Time Again

Yesterday Stephen took me to Bristol centre to catch the early bus to Gatwick Airport. I arrived at Budapest Airport where I was met by Janos who escorted me via Solnok by train home to Mezobereny where Ibi met us at the station. It is nice to be back. This is just the start of my winter travels. At the end of this month we are off to visit Naples for five nights. Then on 8th November I am flying from Budapest to Cape Town where I will stay with my stepdaughter Jackie until the end of the year. So it will be a braai on the beach for Christmas. It is ages since I have seen the girls and I am really looking forward to seeing them again. I have no particular plans for my visit but I would like to go east around the coast to Knysna to see the amazing herd of elephants who seemed to have avoided notice for many years. See> http://www.knysnaelephantpark.co.za/ Apart from that I will be just happy to be there for a few weeks in the Western Cape. I return to Hungary for the New Year and Ibi`s Birthday. So, for the rest of 2011 I will be away from home. As far as I know, Stephen will be basing himself at my flat as he is mostly working in the West of England at this time.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Notes and News

I have again been in Mezőberény with my dear Hungarian family Kalman. The weather is changeable with recent rain and wind, at least the many frogs in the stream alongside the house chant their delight throughout the night. I am very well looked after and if I have a problem, nothing is too much trouble to solve. It was my birthday on June 7th and I was presented with a special "gulyás", birthday cake and wine. Sadly the result necessitated a visit to the doctor because of a flare-up gout in my right foot - now I hope under control!
The garden is maturing well and the strawberry patch has been prolific and the fruit delicious. Later there will be grapes, peaches, figs, tomatoes and pears.
The goat that lives next door has had kids recently and I can be seen with one of the kids above!
Other wildlife abounds:- We have been visited by a stag-beetle,a mole crickets which are now very rare if not extinct in the UK, woodpeckers,and nightingales. Sadly the storks which have arrived in the area to breed have ignored the excellent nest platform on top of the house roof.
We have downloaded some films to the PC and I enjoyed watching "Cat Ballou" with Ibi and this morning "The Grapes of Wrath" -if one can enjoy such a depressing film! I will try for something more comedic next time. Janos enjoys watching episodes of The Onedin Line in which my father plays the part of Fraser, the rival shipping line owner.
I am not sure exactly when my son Stephen will get back home to Bristol, about the same time as me I hope. What an amazing adventure he has had.
If anyone sees this please look at Steve's blog. It's a good read.
http://steviep.ontheroad.to/ It's not up-to-date yet but I hope he will catch up with it before too long. He has reached the Azores on the last leg of his transatlantic crossinf so not far to go now.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Hungary II

I am still in Hungary (until 15th March when I fly back to Gatwick). The snow last night here has started to thaw and may just be the last of the winter. I have been watching with interest the unfolding news from North Africa and the interviews with Gaddafi who is in denial it seems. The scenes of fighting and crowds awaiting rescue from Libya are amazing. Stephen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa last year on his epic journey, I had never previously been aware of it and now it is headline news as it has become a haven for thousands fleeing Libya. In the other news today I was amazed by the Irish cricket team who have had a brilliant victory over England at the World Cup in Bangalore winning by three wickets. What an embarrasment for the English!

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Blog of 2011

It's been a long time since my last post - Sorry for that but have excuses! I suppose the prime excuse is that I was laid low with a heart attack and spent some time in hospital in Bristol. As always, my Hungarian family was marvellous. Tünde flew over and looked after me, then her mother came over and we spent Christmas together. Apart from having to take many pills morning and evening, I seem to have recovered well. Now I am back in Hungary where
i will stay until the beginning of March. I can relax here and am very well looked after and any necessary medical checks performed by Doctors here. I have been walking as much as possible and yesterday Ibi and I walked along the Köros river road and watched the sun set over Mezöberény, our shadows refected on the trees by the riverside.
During the daytime, Ibi and Janos go to work and I relax in the house until Ibi gets home after one o'clock. After lunch, Ibi often has students who visit for private English lessons and I can join in the conversations and enjoy giving them the benefit of my knowledge and occasional stories of my homeland.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

No News - or What Killed the Dog

In my boyhood, I lived at the home of my grandparents in Tamworth which is to the north of Birmingham in the English midlands. In their drawing room was a handsome old gramophone radio and I spent many a happy hour listening to music and to various monologues some of which I remember to this day, particularly Albert and the Lion and other classics by Stanley Holloway. Attached is an American Classic - No News or What killed the dog, which is still worth listening to or reciting in a suitable social environment. Give it a try! Let me know what you think - please!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thomas Edward

One of the treasured books in my collection is a nice leather-bound copy of Life of a Scotch Naturalist by Samuel Smiles. It is an 1877 Second Edition with a school prize label as presented to A. N. Jack from Merchant Taylors' School, Crosby. His widow was an old friend of my family and who had been the school matron at Highgate School - my old alma mater. Mr Jack had been a champion oarsman in his day and I remember seeing in her home a cut section from a rowing eight. Anyway! I was given the book by her many decaded ago, presumably because of my interest in natural history.
Thomas Edward led a simple but hard life in Banff a village on the shore of the Moray Firth in North East Scotland. He was a cobbler by trade, a simple shoe mender, but every spare moment he devoted to exploring and studying the wildlife of the area. He collected specimens of the many species which he found in the sea and on land.
The book, written to encourage diligence and assiduity - suitable attributes for school pupils of the late Victorian age.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Return trip to Romania

We (Ibi, Janos and I) returned last night from a lovely trip into Romania. I will uplad some photos later. The village we stayed in, was surrounded by mountains and the kind of place to really relax, soak up the relatively undeveloped ambiance of rural Romania where time seems to have stood still for many decades. Cattle with bells, horses and carts, with attendant dogs and villagers pass by and hay is cut and stacked in distintive small ricks. The village women came down each day to the copius spring water in the square to do their washing. Rugs and clothes were being scrubbed and the latest gossip exchanged ( I expect!) The food was good and the scenery really lovely with swallows and martins wheeling overhead. The trusty Trabant carried us well over the awful rutted Romanian roads with little complaint, even when driven expertly by Janos through a torrential rainstorm close to the Hungarian border. Before that we had stopped at a beautiful old wooden church and nunnery. The church reminded me of the Norwegian Stave Churches I had seen near Bergen many years ago.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Snowdonia 2010 [link to photos]

The link above is to the set of Photos taken by Janos on our trip to Snowdonia. En route we visited Atcham Bridge over the River Severn near Shrewsbury and the famous canal aqueduct at Pontcycllte and on the way back we visited the lovely Bodnant Gardens. We also visited Allt y Rhiw the former home of my parents, now busy being renovated after the awful fire there. As you will see if you look at the photos, we camped at a farm at the foot of Tryfan near Capel Curig in lovely mountain and lake scenery. We also visited the slate museum and shared the demonstration (in Welsh) with a party of school children - it didn't matter about the language! We went up Snowdon on the mountain railway which we all enjoyed. Janos was a bit disappointed that we didn't take a bicycle with us, but I was very worried about him cycling on those winding and narrow roads. I hope he has forgiven me for my refusal.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Tamworth Hoard [click here for link]

My early years were spent at the home of my maternal grandparents who lived in Tamwoth, a Staffordshire town to the north of Birmingham. As a family Doctor, my Granfather often used to take me as a small boy on his rounds to see some of his "pooly patients" and I got to know a lot about the area. In recent times having lived elsewhere for many years, I still look out for news of Tamworth but have not visited for some years. Last year a metal detectorist made a magnificent discovery of buried treasure Saxon gold and silver in a field near the town. The hoard has now been valued at over 3 million pounds and will keep historians and conservationists working on the artifacts for many years to come. Have a look at some of the images!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lonesome George

Son Steve has arrived in the Galapagos Islands as a crew member of the yacht Ghost . His blog tells us of his wonderful adventures. He has met and written about the famous tortoise Lonesome George, who is the famous resident of the Charles Darwin Research Centre. Catch up with Steve's blog. It's a good read!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Great Grandmother

I have stumbled upon a poem written by my mother's grandmother, Jane Jones following the death of her brother Edward in 1890. Full of Victorian sentiment and dark religiosity, but nonetheless heartfelt and worthy of preserving here.
In loving memory of Edward Jones, Coedtalog
Written by his sister Jane Jones">

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sad news on the Welsh border!

I am still in shock from the news that my parents' old home at Allt y Rhiw on the Welsh border near Oswestry in Shropshire is no more. After spending thousands on renovation, the present owner was having a party at the house when a fire got out of control leaving no option but to escape with their lives. Only a ruin remains - we can only hope that he was adequately insured. So many memories have gone up in smoke. I never lived there but was a frequent visitor prior to my parents' demise and my brother and I still own the 40 acres around the house which are let to a local farmer for sheep grazing. I have no idea yet what other damage has been made by the fire, I suspect that the ancient yew tree on the east corner of the house must have gone up in flames as well as eveything else. I am glad that I have several paintings and photographs of the house which will remind me of happy times there.
I am staying with my dear Hungarian friends for the next few weeks. Still cold here with snow lying on the ground, but their new house has almost been completed and with wonderful underfloor heating we are snug as bugs in a rug!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Spas of Hungary

Since I have been visiting my friends in Hungary, we have managed to visit a few of the hundreds of thermal water spas that abound in most areas of the country. Mezőberény where my friends live, does not have an organised spa facility, just a town swimming pool with therlmal water supply and nearby, there is a well frequented stand pipe. From the tap by the roadside, water flows constantly at around 30C, year round, twenty four hours a day. Townsfolk come with their jugs and bottles to fill up at this free tap. The water, as is all of Hungary's thermal water that I have seen, the colour of weak tea and not at all unpleasant to taste.
The nearest developed spa to Mezőberény is at Gyula near the castle and here, we have spent a great and relaxing time in one or other of the pools. At a spa like this, there are “Wellness” clinics, where one can have a massage or other treatments, but generally most people just enjoy a leisurely soaking in the tea-coloured waters, swimming with the circulating currents or standing under powerful showers that pummel and refresh the body. It is easy to lose ones sense of time and just meditate while watching others doing the same. After dark in the evening, the atmosphere is wonderful, steam rises, the moon and stars shine down on us while we continue relaxing, vaguely aware of the conversations going on around us before finally, making our way to the showers and the changing rooms.

Earlier in the year we visited the spa at Miskolctapolca which is built into the natural limestone and is very attractive and popular. http://www.thermaltours.hu/furdo_eng.php?furd_azon=105&hir_azon=105

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Amazing Archaeology!

The news from Rome has amazed many people. The Emperor Nero's rotating dining room has been unearthed on Rome's Palatine Hill in amazing condition. Nero's machine had been mentioned by Suetonius but the exact location previouly unknown until now - but here it is, in what appears to be fantastic if not exactly "working order" Please look at the link.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Great Explorer

I would like to share with you the travel log of my son Stephen who has now started his wonderful world tour adventure. He has taken leave of absense from his work, has learnt to crew a ship and is now in Athens joining his ship and will be telling his own story at: -
have a look - he writes well!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

General Update!

It is 7th July and 23rd April was my last blog entry here! I am ashamed that it has been so long as I am sure that many things that were worthy of inclusion should have been written up. In the recent past I have been to stay with friends in New York State - more deteils of that trip later. I am now with the Kalman family in Hungary again and will be returning to Bristol tomorrow. We have, while here, been on two trips, the first was to Szentendre, a romantic resort town on the Danube to the North of Budapest. We visited the model village and Railway nearby at Skanzen and had great meals at a local restaurant. This week we have spent in a guest house in Romania. Janos drove the trusty Trabant over tricky and difficult roads. Romanian roads are not the best in the world and one encounters many potholes, cart-horses, bad drivers and wandering animals. We visited the Ice Cave http://www.rounite.com/2008/05/17/scarisoara-ice-cave/ which was an amazing experience and on the way back had a barbeque feast by a river using the new hibachi type stove. I will try on return home, to find my copy of an excellent design for a brick built barbeque which I am sure that Janos can build in the garden at the new house here at Mezöbereny. There seem to be mixed feelings in Romania about Hungarians, but at our guest house, the hosts were friendly and helpful. We returned home yesterday tired and dusty after the long drive and now it is time to reflect on all the sights we have seen on the trip. Janos took many photographs and I will get some attached here soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Back to Bristol

Last night I returned from my holiday in Hungary. I travelled By train to Budapest, changing trains at Szolnok - a rarther ugly industrial city, south-east of BP. As the evening drew on, we had a magnificent sunset. As we waited for the train, the full red disc of the setting sun was just above the horizon, showing mock suns to the north. On this leg of the journey, I was on my own and my mood matched the colours of the sunset. From a deep rosy pink to an indigo glow through to full darkness. A little light was still lingered by the time I reached the airport. The transition to a full night sky matched my mood as I was sad to be leaving Hungary again, having had a wonderful Easter holiday with my lovely friends, who always look after me so well. Now I am back at my base in Bristol, no disasters to report, but a full box of uninteresting mail to sift through!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Folklore evening at Budapest

The Chain Bridge over the Danube at Budapest, showing the Parliament buildings.

On Saturday, we drove to the local town Bekescaba where we left the car at the station and boarded the train for Budapest. We were in plenty of time before going to the Danube Palace Theatre for the 8pm performance of the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble where Ibi had obtained wonderful seats in the front row of the dress circle in this wonderfully decorated theatre built in 1895. We spent our time before the performance walking the city streets and onto the famous Chain Bridge over the River Danube. We stopped at a pavement cafe for coffee and fruit, eventually taking our seats high above the stage. Upper left of next photo!

Many of the audience were appreciative foriegn visitors and soon we heard the orchestra tuning up behind the curtains. Mostly they were violinists, a double bass, a cymbalom player and a clarinetist. After the overture the troupe of dancers came on stage and gave us their lively routines to the familiar music of Brahms, Berzsenyi-Mészáros, Liszt, Reményi and others. A varied programme of lively music and dance inspired by the gypsy tradition all brilliantly choreographed and performed. A ’must see on a trip to Hungary's capital city!

Eventually we found our way back via the Metro to the Train Station and got back home very tired at about 2:30 AM.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Photo of the Day

Powis Casle, Welshpool, Montgomeryshire

Massive hedge topiary in the Castle gardens

Friday, March 27, 2009


I first noticed Shielings or "Old Sheilings" which are common on Scottish Ordnance Survey maps such as that below in an area one km to the north west of Ben Lawers near Loch Tay. Often the remains are only random and remote piles of stones but they are fascinationg reminders of a vanished culture. A shieling was the shelter for herdsmen who moved their flocks to upland pastures during the summer months. This practice is called transhumance. Still practiced in parts of Europe, but in the UK not since the land clearances of the early 19th Century. Transhumance was the fate of many Scottish cotters (cotter - a peasant farmer in the Scottish Highlands) for many generations. A healthy but bleak life in the highlands,
sharing the elements with
sheep or cattle, ravens and
golden eagles.
There is little evidence left for any archhaeologists. The stone walls and a few hearth blackened stones would be the only signs of the anonymous former occupanrs who would have taken everything back with them as they herded the stock to the lowland pastures with the onset of winter.