All too short a stay

'And summer's lease hath all too short a date.' Even if it was quite cold and rained a lot, there were a few sunny days and a break from the frenetic and demanding world of the 'whatever it is I do for a living.'

Small journeys and books to read, acclimatising to a bit of a life changer and having the son home in between trips to Latvia and France defined my summer. It's a shame really but I have to recognise that, these days, I get  as much pleasure from buying a beautiful duvet cover at a bargain price and having the chance to laze about the house than I would from embarking on  an exciting adventure. Not that I have ever really been very adventurous. Still, looking for a two night stay in a hotel in Grange over Sands, I was appalled to see the advertising pictures featuring white haired folk smiling in a lounge that could been the setting for a sitcom based in a genteel rest home. In the end, we plumbed for what turned out to be a really nice B and B and spent time walking the promenade- like late middle aged people do - and getting very wet in Cartmel. Morecambe Bay is pretty wonderful though.

Grange over Sands - a beautiful North Western retreat

Grange-over-Sands Beach - Cumbria

The railway bridge at Arnside - crossing the bridge across the estuary is  one of the best railway experiences you can have in the UK.

 In June, grabbing a few days owing,  I visited Kent and in July took a trip to London, where I met a film director and felt like a member of the demi-monde for an hour or so.

Reculver, Kent 


 Whitechapel Gallery - where I met a film director


 But now it's back to the whirl and the grind of the machine that pays the way. Let's hope I survive with my mental health intact and finally manage to develop my leadership skills.


Arnold Circus

A cool July. Wet and windy with outbreaks of sun; occasional sunny days.

Took a trip to London and found myself near Arnold Circus in East London, not far from the city. Once the sight of a notorious slum, Old Nichol, the area round and about was so impoverished in Victorian Times it was said to be worse than St Giles.  Following demolition this was to become the site of the first ever ever council estate in Britain: The Boundary Estate. Remembering the estate from the excellent The Secret History of our Streets, the social history geek in me couldn't resist taking a look.

The grade II listed buildings are a testament to the enlightened thinking of  late C19th social reformists. Although my sister commented on the slightly institutional feel of the design, I think they stand comparison with the middle class mansion blocks around the back of the Albert Hall, near Kensington Gore.

The topography of London continues to fascinate me. Sitting on top of the mound at Arnold Circus, it felt very peaceful. Later,  I read that, although the mound is  made of the materials from the old slum, traditionally there has always been a mound on the spot and some believe it marks the end of the Strand ley.

The Boundary Estate
The Secret History of Our Streets


Spitalfields Life

As a fairly unsuccessful blogger, it is great to find a blog with real focus and purpose. I have been following Spitalfields Life for  over eighteen months now. The  writer, known only as the Gentle Author, blogs, amongst other things, about local people, business, urban wildlife and the way the area is constantly under threat from developers.

Local art historian and TV personality Dan Cruickshank features quite a lot in the Gentle Author's posts about redevelopment. Both are currently involved in  a campaign to save Norton Folgate, an ancient thoroughfare which lies within a  conservation area. The old warehouses may not, at first, look beautiful but could be successfully restored and made interesting and do not need to be replaced by soulless glass office blocks. A nearby Victorian pub, a successful business with loyal customers, has already been demolished.

I first came across the conservation area around Fournier  St by accident, after visiting the market and spending time admiring Hawksmoor's architecture in Christ Church Spitalifields. I really did feel like I had stepped back in time. This was Georgian London alright but not the pretty squares of Bloomsbury; here  was something with more grit, less obvious charm and older. I could imagine Dickens' characters walking these streets years after they were built. I took a lot of photos, mainly of the amazing doors and knockers, and was amazed to find that at the end of Fournier St I was, unexpectedly, in Brick Lane. When visiting the area for a curry, with my son a few years previously, we had walked from Aldgate East on Whitechapel High St and were unaware of the oasis of C17th streets less than stone's throw away.

Since then, I have read up on the area and visited the famous Dennis Severs House and am planning to stay the area on my next visit to London.

For those of you with eclectic tastes, an interest in London, its way of life and conservation, I recommend Spitalfields Life and the Gentle Author.

Spitalfields Life

Save Northen Folgate

Fournier St

Old blog post featuring Dennis Severs' House, Folgate St

Balance and Justice

And so...while I am deeply concerned that we have a Conservative government, I can't allow that to bring me down and upset my equilibrium. At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, one has to look for the riches within and trust in the path, keeping balanced and focusing on the good stuff.  There is a lot  more to life than politics but fairness and justice are important principles and so, regardless of political persuasion, I pray that the elected government can find compassion in its heart for the ill, the disabled, the unemployed and those on low incomes. I was heartened to read this the other week:

Council cuts: local Tories lead criticism as ‘savings’ hit vital services

A few weeks ago, I was part of a rally through the town, which began at the park and ended in the town square. After the rally, I spoke with Julie Hilling, our ex-Labour M.P. who, just a week previously, had lost her seat. This is a great shame as Julie has been a good M.P.,  who cared about her constituents.

(This blog has had to be slightly rewritten for legal reasons. Blimey!)


A Sea of Blue and a Niggle.

I have a love hate relationship with politics. I am currently active in a political movement (not the subject of this blog) because I feel have no choice but to be involved and because, deep down, I suppose I am drawn to it. I am broadly socialist, yet a strong individualist, with a very strong belief in a social democracy which offers care and social benefits to all citizens on the basis of need.  So I am saddened by the results of last week's general election and the particular model of capitalism it espouses, one in which greed and austerity are like the hands of a very mean monster.  In my daily life,  I do not dislike Conservatives on an individual level. Political beliefs and opinions are only part of what makes a person who they are, and I have met snobbish, unkind and  blinkered socialists, and kind, gentle and quite lovely conservatives - something my more left wing friends would describe as oxymoronic but which I do not; I have friends and colleagues who I value deeply who have conservative leanings - yet I cannot support austerity politics and the outsourcing of public services and I am concerned for what the future holds in terms of the welfare of the people, especially those in England and Wales.

As I write this, I struggle to come to terms with the fact that while England has gone blue, Scotland has embraced the SNP. The Scots seem to be merging strong  nationalistic pride with a social democratic model and a progressive agenda; so what is wrong with that? Nothing on the face of it,  yet my gut is starting to give me really strong niggles. The niggles link to Cameron's desire that English MP's should vote on English things, at a time when the Scots have ousted Scottish Labour for an SNP platform that offers the promise of the best of both worlds: National Pride and progressive social polices.  My fear is that this could be catastrophe for the English and the Welsh.  England and Wales could end up with elitist policies and more privatisation of vital services, whilst the Scots continue to have free university tuition fees and other benefits. Nicola Sturgeon is already looking to set her own taxes to fund the promises she has made. Once parliament is formed and the voting starts, will the SNP give a damn about the poor and disadvantaged of England and Wales? I cannot help but feel that the social welfare of the people of these two countries was partly tied up with Scottish Labour. It will be interesting to watch things unfold.

I was never convinced Labour would get a majority but the failure of the polls was surprising. Reading on-line yesterday, I found a link to this article. It suggests significant numbers of conservative voters tend to be coy about sharing their voting preferences and how this may have impacted on the polls. In a typically English way, there are lots of people who quietly and privately vote for what they believe is the best option and keep that entirely to themselves or those they trust.

Will England forever be conservative?


A new start

Same old dog...new venue.

Due to changes at Google, I have had to start a new blog new account. My old blog was a mixture of celebrating the seasons, occasional references to my self-development; a flash of politics; posts about wild birds, most often those in  my garden; tales of recent or remembered travels, mainly in the UK, and responses to books, plays and films. You can find my old blog here: http://joansbitsandpieces.blogspot.co.uk/

I fully recognise that to get a proper readership one needs a specific theme but I find my blog a place for reflecting and thinking about things. I have a busy, structured day job which requires a lot of a attention and this more of a random, relatively unstructured pastime. 

So…time to settle in and furnish these new rooms with random thoughts and musings.

Below is a photograph I took of Belmont Reservoir just before dusk last summer. A place for peaceful, quiet reflection.