The End of Another Year

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Another year over and a new one just about to begin. Time for New Year’s Resolutions methinks. I always set resolutions, for me, they are just a continuation of the goal setting I do throughout the year. Of course, I don’t always achieve everything, but I always hit at least half of them, and make a stab at the rest.

One of my absolute highlights was when I was walking to work yesterday, and I saw a Robin, about a foot away from me.  I stood and looked at him, he seemed totally unafraid.  I so wanted to get my camera out and take a photograph (I should have got my camera out) but I was afraid of scaring him away.

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I also like to reflect on things that have happened during the year, to me and the rest of the world. Some of my 2015 resolutions and achievements were:

• To finish my writing course – I did, in March, six months earlier than expected. I’ve done two other short writing courses since.

• To try to improve my photography – I’ve made a conscious effort to do this throughout the year. The next three are mine, so see what you think.

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• Be published more – I’ve done that too. I’m still not making enough to live on, but it’s moving in the right direction. That one will be on the list for next year.  There is a particular magazine that I’ve wanted to be published in for a couple of years now, but I’ve never actually written the piece.  I’m aiming for that next year.

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What about the rest of the world? What happened in 2014? Here are few things, not all good.
January – 14 people were killed after the collapse of a three-story building construction site in Goa, India. Water vapour was discovered on the dwarf planet, Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. A Taliban suicide car bomb assassinated senior police officer Chaudhry Aslam and killed three others in Pakistan.

February – the winter Olympics took place in Sochi, with over 2,800 athletes taking part. Same sex marriage was legalised in Scotland. Scientists at the Australian National University discovered the oldest known star -13.6 billion years old.

March – Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 disappeared over the South China Sea with 239 people on board. There is still no news as to what happened. Crimea voted to leave Ukraine, and the Republic of Crimea was declared. The United States closed the Syrian embassy in Washington and expelled all Syrian diplomats from the USA.

April – Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Kiss, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Yay!) David Moyes was sacked as manager of Manchester United. (Poor old David, I like him.) Twelve Nepalese climbers were killed by an avalanche on Mount Everest whilst preparing the route for the summer climbing season. A umber of other people were injured.

May – Conchita Wurst (the one with the beard) won the Eurovision Song Contest with Rise like a Phoenix. The Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ flagship (we all remember that from school, don’t we?) was discovered off the coast of Haiti. Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City were each fined €60 million for breaching Fair Play Regulations. For Man City, this was something to do with a sponsorship deal with Etihad, PSG’s was to do with a deal with Qatar Tourism Authority.

June – Maria Sharapova won the French Open women’s tennis singles and Rafael Nadal won his ninth French Open title. Sir Ian McKellen was awarded an honorary degree by Cambridge University, becoming a Doctor of Letters (that’s higher than a PhD in this country). Water Lilies, by Claude Monet, was sold at auction for £32m.

July – The Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops. TransAsia Airways Flight 222 crashed into buildings in Taiwan killing 44 people. Taghrooda, a British Thoroughbred, won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot.

August – The UK commemorated the 100th anniversary of its declaration of war against Germany in the First World War. By 12 August, the death toll from the Ebola virus in West Africa exceeded 1000. William Pooley, a British nurse working in Sierra Leone, flew back to the UK for emergency treatment after contracting the Ebola virus. Fortunately, he survived, and has returned to Sierra Leone.

September – Scotland voted against becoming an independent nation. Serena Williams beat Caroline Wozniacki in the US Open for the third year running. The archaeological remains of a Viking fortress from the 900s CE, the Vallø Borgring, were discovered in Denmark.

October – New Zealand, Malaysia, Angola, Spain and Venezuela were all elected to the United Nations Security Council. Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North won the 2014 Man Booker Prize. Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to five years in prison for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

November – One World Trade Centre, the fourth tallest skyscraper in the world (at the time of writing) officially opened in New York. This was 13 years after the 11 September attack. Celebrations were held in Germany to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. After voting in favour of allowing them to become bishops in July, the Church of England adopted the legislation necessary to enable them to be appointed.

December – The UN warned that the world is on course for the warmest year ever. I don’t think they’ll get much disagreement round here. At least 141 people, including 132 children, were killed when the Taliban attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.  The wonderful Joe Cocker passed away at the age of 70.
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So what about you?  What have you achieved this year?  And what are you planning for 2015?

Many thanks to everyone who reads my blog, and thank you to all my new followers throughout the year.

Wishing you all the very best for 2015.

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https://www.justgiving.com/Hari-Rome-Marathon/

© Susan Shirley 2014

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Christmas Past and Present

Christmas; a time for giving. If public transport yesterday is anything to go by, there’s going to be a lot of giving, so many people are doing their last minute Christmas shopping. I, of course, can sit here quite smugly because I finished all mine a few weeks ago, but then I stated in June. I don’t normally start quite that early, but I saw something that I thought someone I was going to buy for would like, so I bought it. I don’t do well in crowds at any time, so I always start early.

I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, as usual, which is always lovely, although we’ll be having Christmas dinner at my brother’s home this year, for the first time in several years. We’ve gone out to a local hotel for the past few years, which was great, but it’s safe to be at home this year, now that Bro and his wife have bought a dishwasher.

My memories of Christmas when I was a child are a house full of people coming round on Christmas morning, having a drink and eating the sausage rolls and mince pies that my mum used to make. I was allowed port and lemonade, although I think the port was only there for colouring. Later on, I progressed to snowballs, with a cherry on the top.

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There were always bowls full of nuts in their shells, and dried figs and dried dates. There was always a lot of food in the house – a full English breakfast was a common start to the day, and Christmas dinner… I know we had turkey when I was an older child, but I’m not sure that’s what we had when I was very young. That said, I don’t remember what we did have, but I do remember there were always boiled potatoes as well as roasties. We always had the traditional Christmas crackers with Christmas dinner too. And we had to sit there wearing the paper hats that were inside.

The dessert. Well, this was always home-made Christmas pudding, complete with sixpenny pieces in it, a couple of mince pies and custard or cream. Or both. And if that wasn’t enough food for one day, we always had turkey sandwiches for tea. My Dad did take us out for a walk after we’d had lunch, and because we lived in the country, we could do a few miles around the country lanes.

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Boxing Day always involved a boiled ham, and bubble and squeak. I love bubble and squeak, the proper stuff made from leftovers, not the frozen, pre-prepared stuff. Boiled potatoes and pickles finished off the dish. I think the only thing that surprises me with all that food is that we were not all obese.

We always had Christmas stockings too, when we were children, full of small presents; the big presents went under the tree. The tree was always real and tall, and I think my Dad used to stand it in a bucket of sand. We kids were allowed to help decorate the tree, and help put the rest of the Christmas decorations up. We went for it big style with decorations back then.

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Life was good, but time passes by and we lose people we love, but that’s just life. I started this post by saying that Christmas is a time for giving, and I’m going to end with a little advert.

My dear friend Geoff contracted a rare form of leukaemia some years ago. I wrote about it here:

http://wizzley.com/survivors-of-the-bomb-tests-at-christmas-island-kiritimati/

Geoff has two granddaughters, Izzie and Hari. They are the apple of Geoff’s eye and Hari is running the Rome Marathon in March, to raise money for leukaemia and lymphoma research. I’ll update you about this in due course, but if anyone does want to donate, please click on the link below.

https://www.justgiving.com/Hari-Rome-Marathon/

Meantime, wishing you all a very, very happy and peaceful Christmas.

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© Susan Shirley 2014

The Darker Side of East London

 

I went on another walk last Sunday, this was one called The Dark Side of the Green. The tour guide was David Charnick of charnowalks.co.uk who is an extremely knowledgeable person. I’d recommend him as a tour guide for this reason.

 

This building was previously Bethnal Green Police Station
This building was previously Bethnal Green Police Station

The walk was around Bethnal Green, hence the “Green” in the title. The “Dark Side” is in the title because all of the places we stopped at were associated with crime in one way or another. Villains who played a part in the tour were Arthur Harding, The London Burkers, The Krays, Benjamin Russen, Ginger Marks and Valline and Doyle. You need to do the tour to find out about them all, but trust me, I learned a lot.

The church where Reggie Kray married Frances Shea
The church where Reggie Kray married Frances Shea

For those of you who don’t know, Bethnal Green is an area in East London, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Even though I live East, I’ve always had a perception that East London is poorer than the rest of London (a guy I used to go out with used to say he always knew when he hit East London because the houses were closer together and the gardens were smaller) and that the crime rate is higher. To be fair, the bit about the crime rate being higher is not accurate. The crime rate varies a bit across the whole of London, depending upon the resources being thrown at it.

This was where the Krays went to school
This was where the Krays went to school

I can’t absolutely prove what I’m about to say, but I suspect the reason that East London has always seemed to have a crime association has something to do with the docks, which are (were) all over the east side of the London, being nearer to the Thames estuary. All of those goods, some very high value, being imported and unloaded in East London were just ripe for the picking. Which explains why the likes of the East India Company built high walls around their docks and armed convoys took the goods into the City.

The tour was not close enough to the river (by which I mean the Thames) to cover the things I am about to write, but a woman who was quite notorious in the 17th century was Damaris or Damarose Page.

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Page started working as a teenage prostitute, went to court for bigamy in 1653 and was acquitted. She was also charged with murder for an abortion that went wrong, and was convicted of manslaughter, but she escaped execution because she was pregnant at the time. It seems that the morals of the day prohibited execution of pregnant women. Page’s fortunes improved as the East End became more prosperous, and business must have been good because she became one of the famous prostitutes (bawds, as they tended to be called in those days) of her time. Samuel Pepys described her as, “the great bawd of the seamen.” She may well have been the inspiration behind Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders.

Another bad’un with an East End association because of his apprenticeship to a butcher in Whitechapel is Dick Turpin. Dick was an Essex boy and got himself into a gang when he was in his 20s. (Nothing really changes, does it?) He graduated from his part in poaching and selling the proceeds to robbery. It seems the gang was quite successful for about five years, but then one of them started singing like a canary to the fuzz and the remaining gang members split. (Ok, there weren’t any police then, but the story sounds so much better that way.)

Turpin carried on his life of crime and graduated to stealing horses, which was lucrative until you got caught, because it was punishable by death. Turpin was eventually arrested in 1738 and tried in York. He was found guilty and executed on 7 April 1739.

Finally, there’s someone infamous in the whole of London, not just the East End,
Jack the Ripper. Jack is believed to be the killer of five prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London, although there are some who believe he killed more than this and some that don’t think all five are down to Jack. Theories abound as to who Jack really was, from the writer Lewis Carroll to Sir William Withey Gull (Queen Victoria’s physician) to the Duke of Clarence, and many more besides.

Clearly I wasn’t around in the 17th and 18th centuries (no, seriously, I am NOT that old) so I don’t have photographs of the people mentioned, so I’ve included the ones I took on the walk.

It’s one of those mysteries that I’d really like to get to the bottom of, but I honestly don’t think that will happen. Scientists thought they’d cracked it with DNA but then, earlier this year; it turned out there had been an error in the processing.  Still, maybe it will feature in a future novel…

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© Susan Shirley 2014

A Foodie Themed Christmas Lights Walk

On Monday, I went on a London walk named A Foodie Themed Christmas Lights.

The highlight of the evening for me was that I met fellow blogger Gianni of Across the Hog’s Back fame (https://acrossthehogsback.wordpress.com). I always like meeting other writers; it gives me a chance to get a different perspective on what I’m doing. I also knew that we’d both write something about the evening in our blogs but that they’d both be very different.

She and I ended the evening going for a drink; well, it would have been rude not to! I don’t know the name of the bar we went to, but it was near to Piccadilly Circus, and it was the most magnificently decorated place I’ve seen in a long time, including a chaise longue in the ladies, but so, so loud! We could barely hear each other speak! I’m not going in there again unless I’ve got one of those bone-inducting headsets on. However, I digress.

The walk started outside a pub – the only pub – in Thayer Street, W1, The Angel in the Field. We walked from there down some side streets and up to St Christopher’s Place. I’m not sure whether my photographs do justice to the Christmas lights here, they were light giant baubles and very pretty.

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Sarsden Buildings is one of the properties managed by social reformer Octavia Hill back in 1869. Hill was also one of the co-founders of the National Trust. From here we turned into Wigmore Street and ended up crossing Oxford Street to go down South Molton Street, where there are these lovely blue arches dotted down the street. At the bottom of South Molton Street is Brook Street, with Claridge’s over to the right, and the passageway leading to Handel’s House Museum opposite.

We walked down Lancashire Court and passed the entrance to the museum, which is well worth a visit, by the way, and stopped opposite Hush, a brasserie that won the Tatler test of Time restaurant of the year award this year. Apparently, it’s a good place to eat, but I just loved the way the lights covered the whole of the top of the building.

From there, we made our way to New Bond Street. These lights were like big ostrich feathers, and quite magnificent. And I had to take a photograph of my old workplace, Sotheby’s as we were passing.

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Further down in Old Bond Street, this beautifully decorated place is Cartier, the French jewellers.

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And this one, Ralph Lauren. In 2012, he was estimated to be the 191st richest person in the world.

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This is the top of Burlington Arcade, built by Lord George Cavendish, who lived in Burlington House next door, now the site of the Royal Academy.

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From here we made our way down to Carnaby Street. Personally, I don’t think there’s much to say about Carnaby Street now, I don’t think it’s anything very special.

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The mural below is called the Spirit of Soho, in Broadwick Street, just off Carnaby Street, was completed in 1991. It depicts St Anne as the main figure, with her skirts showing a map of Soho, London landmarks and various famous people and craftsmen. You may notice that there are dogs and hares in the mural – this is a reference to the days when Soho was a Royal hunting ground.

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There is a clock set into the mural, and when the clock strikes the hour, the depiction of opera singer Teresa Cornelys winks at Casanova who blows kisses back at her. Karl Marx just gets to take a sip of Coca Cola.

Somewhere along the way I’ve missed a bit because we went along to Regent Street and Heddon Street, where the photograph for the album cover for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was taken, before it became very trendy. There is even a plaque there saying something like “Ziggy Stardust was born here.”

So, that was my Monday evening. We did look at some restaurants along the way, although I think there was less food involved than I might have desired, and I will have to go back to investigate further at some point, but that’s it for now.

 

© Susan Shirley 2014

The Car is King

There are a lot of road works going on in the area in which I live at the moment. When I say road works, I mean works that impact on the road, not the road actually being dug up. It’s actually the pavement that is being dug up and it all relates to the work being done by the water company, the same work that I had done a few weeks back when they isolated the water supply to my house and fixed the water leak under my house. I have absolutely no issue with the water company, the contractors or the work being undertaken.

For some reason I know not, the roads in my area are fairly narrow but the pavements are wide, as wide as a single carriageway in the road in some places. I suppose that’s why the cars nearly always park on the pavement and the council marks out parking spaces on the pavements. It seems daft to me but I suppose it’s cheaper than widening the roads.

So, I hear you ask, what’s the problem then? I’ll tell you what the problem is. It is the selfish motorists who park their cars leaving no room for pedestrians to walk along the pavement so we have to walk in the road. It’s bad enough for me, but what about people with buggies and the like? These works are taking place on both sides of the road so if you’ve got a buggy, you’d be crossing the road all over the place. That’s hardly safe, is it?

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I should probably say at this point, lest you think I am one of the anti-car brigade, that although I don’t own a car at the moment, I love them, and I hold a clean licence and do still drive, so I have as much affinity with motorists as I do pedestrians (it’s just cyclists I hate, on so many levels, but that’s another story entirely). However, I do get extremely irritated with selfish motorists, especially when they park in a selfish manner. It is common for me to walk along the road cursing the idiots as I walk past their houses, whether they are in the front garden or not.

Being a motorist and being a parent are not mutually exclusive roles, and I therefore fail to understand why, as a parent, and a number of these selfish people are, I’ve seen their offspring, you would be so selfish as to potentially endanger the life of someone else’s spawn. Shame on all of these ignoramuses.

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And here are a few facts about cars and driving that you may or may not know:

• The Highway Code was launched in 1931;
• The Compulsory Driving Test was introduced in 1935, and it cost 7 shillings and sixpence (about 38p in modern money);
• My Dad didn’t ever take a driving test, he got his licence before they became compulsory;
• Driving examiners do not have a quota of people that they can pass, if you are up to standard you will pass;
• The pass/fail rate averages at about 50% across the whole of the country;
• If you use your own vehicle in which to take the test, it must have a rear view mirror fitted for the examiner’s use;
• The first petrol powered auto-mobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz. It was a three-wheeled affair and was open to the elements;
• The first electric car was built in 1888;
• Mass production of auto-mobiles had begun in France and the United States by 1900;
• By the 1950s, the UK was the second largest manufacturer of cars in the world, after the United States, and the largest exporter of cars. We’d dropped to twelfth place by 2008.

© Susan Shirley 2014

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