Sponsor a Child with Plan, I do!

Sponsor with Plan - Help a child realise their potential

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.

CRABBY OLD MAN When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska , it was believed that he had nothing left of any value .Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem . Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital .One nurse took her copy to Missouri . The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet ..

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? …. What do you see?
What are you thinking…..when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man, ….not very wise,
Uncertain of habit …………..with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food…….and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice…..”I do wish you’d try!
”Who seems not to notice …the things that you do.
And forever is losing ………. A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not………..lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding …. The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse……you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am ………. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, …..as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten…….with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters ………who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen ..with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now. ……a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty …..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows……that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now ………. I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide …. And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ………….. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other …………… With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons ..have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me…….to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ……… Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children ……. My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me ………. My wife is now dead.
I look at the future........ I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing……young of their own.
And I think of the years……. And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man………and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age ……….look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles……….grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone.. ……….where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass ………. A young guy still dwells,
And now and again ……my battered heart swells
I remember the joys………. I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living………….life over again.
I think of the years ..all too few……gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact……..that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people ……….open and see..
Not a crabby old man.
Look closer….see……..ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . . . . we will all, one day, be there, too! PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched . They must be felt by the heart .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Folklore Guide to the Weather

Back 1950's, considering that we had no car, we had quite adventurous family holidays. In 1954 possibly 1955 we went by train to Bideford in a North Devon, and have stayed in a caravan at Westward Ho! (Yes, the town really does have an official exclamation mark!

I am not sure if there are any extant photographs from this holiday, but I have on my shelves, a little booklet, now without its cover, concerning traditional weather sayings. It is Folklore Guide to the Weather published by the the Westerner Press at Westward Ho! in 1954.

I will repeat a few of the sayings at random:-

Green Clouds

If the clouds take on a greenish hue, A heavy storm of rain is very imminent.


When everything at the table is eaten, it indicates continued clear weather.


When the frogs croak much, it is a sign of rain.

The louder the frogs, the more the rain.


Turkeys perched on trees and refusing to descend indicates snow.


Good day for hearing

A good hearing day is a sign of a wet.

Chairs and corns

See how the chairs and tables crack,

Old Betty's joints are on the rack;

Her corns with shooting pains torment her

And to her bed untimely sends her.

It will surely rain, I see with sorrow;

Our jaunt must be put off tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Electrophone

The name Electrophone was used for a telephone-distributed audio system which operated in the United Kingdom between 1895 and 1926, relaying live theatre and music hall shows and, on Sundays, live sermons from churches via special headsets connected to conventional phone lines. This was similar to the French Theatrophone system and the Hungarian Telefon Hirmondó [fascinating link!] which carried news, entertainment and fiction readings. These systems can be seen as important forerunners of radio broadcasting. [from Wikipedia]

I first read about the Electrophone in one of my books, - a 1923 edition of Herbert Jenkins' vade mecum Enquire Within upon Everything. Before the establishemt of regular broadcasts by thto thee BBC it was possible to purchase an Electrophone for the sum of £10 per annum for a home installation. The normal telephone would have up to four receivers attached.

Imagine holding the earpiece to one's ear and listening on your phone - probably with poor sound quality, to a concert from (for instance) the Albert Hall or to the Victoria Palace Music Hall. All one had to do was call the telephone operator and ask to be connectd to ones chosen concert venue. Each venue would have had microphones in the footlights transmitting the sounds through the telephone wires.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The North Pole - Nailed at Last!

As many of my friends will know I have had a great interest in polar exploration since my teenage years at Highgate. I built up quite a large collection of polar travel books over the years and learned about the heroic and sometimes not-so-heroic explorers of the Antarctic and Arctic. I was proud to be chosen at age 18 to take part in the 1961 expedition of the British Schools Exploration Society which took us above the Arctic Circle to Northern Norway and into Swedish Lapland. My appetite for knowledge dated from then and as this blog has recorded, I went on a glorious cruise with Noble Caledonia (link is to similar cruise) to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia in the southern summer of 2005/6.
Yesterday, prompted by the arrival by post of the annual report of the Frederick A. Cook Society and then by coincidence in the evening I was viewing the comedian Billy Connolly’s documentary of his visit to the spectacular
Canadian High Arctic.
When I visited the
Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge UK some years ago I spoke to one of the curators and expressed an interest in Frederick A.Cook. The curator was of the opinion that the Cook controversy was not something likely to be gaining more support for Cook. Nevertheless I have maintained my interest and reading on the subject over the years. The latest Cook Society journal records new acceptance of Cook’s prior claim as “discoverer of the North Pole” on 21 April 1908. Most atlases and biographies show Robert Edwin Peary as claiming the discovery on 6 April 1909 almost a year later than Cook had claimed. Cook's journey home took much longer, so that the two explorers reached the news services almost simultaneously. Peary was beside himself with anger having staked all his reputation on being first to the “Big Nail” and managed to denounce Cook’s claim with the backing of the press. Much more eloquent writers than I, have chronicled the ensuing media battles and the subsequent majority opinion for Peary that prevailed throughout the remaining decades of the 20th Century.
Now it appears that Cook’s claim has been gaining support while Peary’s claim is suspect because inter alia, his recorded sledge mileages for his return to his ship were deemed impossible to have been achieved. See Wally Herbert’s Noose of Laurels London 1989.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Swearing on the Horns at Highgate

Shortly after, or even before I left senior school (many years ago!) I was introduced to the institution of the English Pub, several of which were within 1km of my home at Highgate in North London. One of these pubs, just around the corner from home and across North Hill towars Highgate village, is The Wrestlers Tavern. http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub2166.html It was here in 1961 or thereabouts, when I was 18 years old, the then publican revived the ancient ceremony of Swearing on the Horns at Highgate. It is now a biannual event at the same pub.
Many people came, placed their hands on a dusty set of deer antlers, held aloft on a stick and gave an oath, a very silly but enjoyable oath that conferred several strange concessions to those, having sworn, might visit the streets of Highgate in future….
While some versions are quite long—one source depicts a ceremony with six stanzas,
the best known points are:
You must not eat brown bread while you can get white, except you like the brown the best.
You must not drink small beer while you can get strong, except you like the small the best.
You must not kiss the maid while you can kiss the mistress, except you like the maid the best, but sooner than lose a good chance you may kiss them both.
The exception clauses make it clear that the oath is not an oath at all; one may do as one pleases. Other parts of the oath include pledges to be kind to one's wife, to remember that the man is the head of his household, and to bring new initiates on one's next visit.

Swearing on the Horns and becoming Freemen of Highgate confers several privileges, though the privileges were subject to several conditions and often turned out to be no privilege at all. The immediate reward was to kiss the prettiest woman in the pub; if no pretty women were to be found, the new initiate had to settle for less. If a Freeman in need of a rest was in Highgate, he could kick a pig out of a ditch and take its place. But if there were three pigs in the ditch, he could only chase away the middle one and sleep between the other two. If a Freeman found himself penniless in Highgate, he could have free drinks for himself and his friends, but if any money was found on him (or if it was found he had given it to his friends to hold) he had to buy a round of drinks for the house.

Looking back over many years, I cannot now remember kissing any maids on that day, pretty or otherwise! I kept a photograph from the local newspaper of the day, but cannot now find it.

I am pleased to see that Swearing on the Horns is still a Highgate tradition after so many years, and who knows, one day I might visit The Wrestlers Tavern again and renwew old acquaintance or kick out a pig I may find there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Photo of the Day!

California Sea Otters - anchored in Kelp

Monday, January 26, 2009

My photo of the day! A limestone gravestone ravaged by acid rain erosion and almost completely obliterated! Yorkshire September 2007.
I am going to stay with my friends in Hungary the day after tomorrow and hope to take more photos there and publish some of them here - Watch this space!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Dazzle Ships

I have been fascinated for some time by the succesful use of Dazzle Camouflage on ships during the First World War. Because of the development of radar by the time of the second war, Dazzle camouflage was not a realistic option, but earlier the complex broken lines meant that enemy submarines could not accurately judge distances and directions. No ships and few photos survive, but the World War I dazzle ships definitely earned their place in Art History - See Wikipedi link above.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Christmas Carol


On the Evening of New Year’s Day we went to see the production of The Tobacco Factory version of the famous Charles Dickens story – A Christmas Carol. It was a wonderful Christmas treat, full of good acting from all the enthusiastic cast and in the intimate space of the theatre: an appreciative audience of all ages, children, parents and grandparents. The little theatre is good for this intimate experience, Scrooge's bed, huge on the little stage was visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come in the hope that he, Scrooge mends his miserly ways and in the end he is redeemed and does see the error of his former ways. Bob Crachett and his family were able in the end to welcome him to their Christmas meal and we could feel almost sorry for the old humbug Scrooge who had been severely rattled by his nocturnal visitors.