Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Mele Kalikimaka and fish stalking

Hmmm. Where to begin?

There was the dismantling and disposal of the electric organ prior to a visit from Richard (aka, Slinky) and the lovely Marlene in mid-November.

And then, there was Thanksgiving... on which day E stayed home like a good future Welsh-American slaving over a 14-lb turkey bird (ye olde American went to work). Clem, Richard, Yssy and Katie (this year's Rotary Scholar in Norwich) came over for an attempt at Oma-style feast. This was Yssy's first Thanksgiving! There is now confirmation that yellow crooked-neck squash does not exist in the UK; who knew it was of Mexican origin? Oma's squash casserole is not at all the same without it -- a completely different foodstuff altogether.

Next, there was the fun activity of moving my stuff from my flat and dumping it in E's (now our) house on Magpie Road. Result was his house looked like back store room of eccentric antique shop. Through this activity, E demonstrated a level of impressive fearlessness despite haulage of copious amounts of wool and books... (since meeting me, E has now helped/moved me 5 times in 2.5 years).

Immediately following such relaxing trauma was my 5.00am excursion to Norwich 'International' Airport on 5 December (the coffee isn't even on that early) and a teeny little crochet/knitting-mad flight to DFW, where one was greeted by the lovely Clarence.

The following morning began the first of a frantic 15-day run. Judith does not wait for the grass to grow, which is a very good thing. My heroes of December 2008 are pictured here -- there is no way the 20th December would have been pulled off without them! Of course, if it hadn't been for my continually thinking of more and more and more Martha-Stewart-overchiever-of-the-Year projects, things might have been simpler... but simple is not interesting in excess. And I have never been accused of being simple or uninteresting -- at least not where I could hear it.

There was a small family affair after the 15-day waiting period (just a little firearms joke) and most of the people expected made it -- the most important ones arriving dramtically from across the Atlantic (despite US immigration's best attempts to prevent reasonable entry by legal people). Advice was that little hiccups happening prior to a wedding forecast that everything will go smoothly on the day, and this seems to have been correct in hindsight.

No one fainted. Clumsy people didn't fall into the mud [prescience having led me not wear complicated shoes]. Only one person got slightly lost [but we found her later -- hoorah!] :) [Official photos, i.e., from Scot, are not up yet, but email requests for notification of same] Vir-roo has put some up; and Hiroko has posted some on Facebook!

My vague prediction of Louisiana weather as being between 80°F and 20°F was proved completely honest as there was a 50° temperature drop between mid-day of the wedding and midnight. The Brits no longer think I am mad -- or at least not for meteorological reasons.

Clarence the Great and Wonderful showed her fabulousness again by driving E and me (after E's Final Night concert at the Hilton lobby) to DFW the morning after the wedding! While it was quite wearying to head straight back to Blighty and not relax (or go hunting, as some people wanted to do), it was quite good to get home and start sorting through the antique shop that left in complete disarray. It is coming together quite nicely and we are pretty much sorted for visitors all and sundry to arrive! ['ahem' to all those who have gotten their passports...]

There has also been a tiny Christmas miracle (although E may look upon it as more of a small furry pestilence): it is cute and black and friendly and likes to sit in laps and purr. It also quite the naturalist as it enjoys fish-hunting.

'Christmas' seemed like an apt name since she appeared in the back alley and followed me home (albeit with the slightest coaxing); one can also call it 'Christmas' in different languages for educational amusement (e.g., Kalikimaka or Noel or Navidad or Nadolig). Eamonn voted 'Angus' (through a brow-furrowingly convoluted bit of tricky logic); and Matthew T. proposed 'Tinsel'.

The product of this combination is 'Christmas Angus Tinsel' (initials, c-a-t, which amuses me greatly in the most simplistic of linguistic jokes). It also appears that once again I am proved not to be a very good Miss Marple protege, as she has turned out to be a he. Not sure what we will do with it, but it is nice to have a little visitor! (even E the Gruff sympathised with it in the extreme cold last night, so my legs were trapped this morning under a purring lump)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Bonnie Blue Who?

Reporting from Whoville (in her bonnie blue coat), where there is almost 2 inches of snow depressingly melting away. It has been snowing for the majority of yesterday and until noon-ish today, as part of a Winter Mix spanning the east side of Britain, and it has just all been far too exciting, but I won't whitter on about it.

Unfortunately, I cannot blame the snow for 41 days without blogging. There have been a couple (or 194 1/2) other things keeping my attention, so this will be a feeble attempt to capture some of the big ones:
Well, the last week in the US was just manic... We will leave it at that for now. BUT, it should be noted that neither of my suitcases coming back was overweight! Well, actually one was, but I cleverly went to a blank scale at JFK and fiddled things around so they were both under :)

An amusing (if you are mad, as I am) thing was learned on the return trip as well. If one is transporting Mrs. Meyer's organic liquid fabric softener in one's luggage, one should make sure that a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol is not wedged next to the cap end. What happens is that the lid comes off the Tylenol (which capsules are RED) and then the cap of the fabric softener is punctured and then all of your clothes are pink. Although, they do smell really nice if you had purchased the Geranium scent, which is just lovely!
31st Norwich Beer Festival (but only my first NBF to work) -- E was named Steward of the Festival on the last night (possibly because he worked 109 hours from Sunday to Sunday, and was also judged responsible enough to be put in charge of a stewarding team on the second day of the festival!). He was part of Team Tango, which is thus called because stewards wear orange shirts when on duty.

BonnieBlue was only part of Team Tango on the Saturday night, since my other two nights not as a punter (aka, a member of the general public -- I have no clue as to the linguistic reasons for this term), I served. Beer and ale, that is. (a picture to R is me resting m'weary legs after 5 hour shift after work and to L is Slayer's team -- Slayer was my team leader at the GBBF this summer and did not think me enough of a muppet to not want me to steward on his team again.). After the festival is over, all the people who worked it have a fairly large (yet sedentary since you are pretty wiped) party. It is pretty cool to be in St. Andrews Hall (this huge medieval priory hall) for a party with 40 or so people :)

Fabulously, I was also able to introduce some more Americans to the concept of massive beer festival since they were visiting us (as in the 'Us' from work) as part of a University-sponsored trip! (Facebookers can find some fun photos in Courtney's 'Damn Yankees' photo album. If the link works, that is...). Hoorah for intercultural edumacation!
At the end of the Beer Festival, it became clear (through the remarkable insight of my friend, Sadie) that it was actually going to be pretty stupid for me to pay December rent for the 4 whole days and nights that I will actually be here before heading out on my little jaunt Stateside. And at £112-ish per night for those 4 days, I wouldn't even be able to order room service hot chocolate and extra pillows. So, just in case I didn't have enough to think about, plan, or crochet, E is helping me move (a little bit after work every day) for what is apparently technically the sixth time since he has had the misfortune of being part of my mad schemes. He is to be commended for his long-suffering and patience. I have a lot of yarn. He has had to sacrifice the organ....

There has been (in conjunction with planned move) a growing need to destroy the British Telecom Company as they are all a bunch of blood-sucking heathens (but I shall whinge at length about that another time).
Then The Dreaded Lurgy struck. And stuck. I have had a chest cold for 3 weeks now, and while perhaps it would help me be a piano bar singer, my lack of vocal tonic ability(other than the kind with Hendricks and a bit o' cucumber) kind of lessens the potential of success. E has now begun to hack and moan, despite his strong Irish genes.
We have had two loooovely sets of visitors the last two weekends, too!

Firstly, E's mam and his aunt, Sister Mary, came and we had a lovely weekend of eating and looking at churches and drinking tea and eating some more :) We went to Walsingham on the Sunday in the wind of the century and wandered around a bit.

Then, E's best man and his wife visited last weekend and we pootled some more. I have the cunning plan of luring them away from London, and they do not seem opposed to becoming Norfolkers (titter).

Apparently, there are photos still on my camera that need filling in, so maybe I can do that as a post-Thanksgiving update. Unless I don't... :)

This weekend, we are preparing for Eamonn to cook his second Thanksgiving dinner (I think that any doubters of his sincerity can take this as another sign of good character). He is even taking the day off work on Thursday to prepare (I'm not even doing that)! Shockingly, it is not a holiday here.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Super Duper!

Don't let Bear tell you that I never take him anywhere.

Admittedly, he has travelled across all four US time zones in the last, oh, 4 weeks or so, but your correspondent has not been focussed, organised, or mentally generous enough to share any of the humourous observations she has made (such as 'enjoying' being back in the South, where it is perfectly acceptable to list your nickname -- 'Catfish' -- on your political candidate billboard; or locating a free-range Carribbean island town in Spring Valley, NY; or visiting sweltering Moscow, TX).

However, it doesn't get much more thrilling than driving through Fairfield, CT and locating a culinary gem thanks to a VERY large interstate billboard on I-95. Super Duper Weenie is actually one of the top 10 places in the US to indulge in hotdog consumption, and it must be said that my tummy did enjoy its New Englander and crispetty non-greasy fries today. Their iced tea, though, is not quite up to my high Southern standards, but that can be forgiven.

Perhaps we shall share more of our recent adventures imminently, but for the moment, I must get back to my new amusing activity: crocheting as many little white pinwheels as possible while watching endless episodes of Law and Order (original, CI or SVU -- whichever one is on of an evening).

Friday, 19 September 2008

Road Rules

Road rules are things that we take for granted (as are, apparently, time rules for persons such as myself since it has been a month since the last blog), and which morph funnily in different places where one decides to walk or drive.

For example, in Boston notions such as the traffic light turn signal and the no-drive shoulder of the highway become utterly meaningless. I am happy to report that age has not completely set in so badly that I am not able to adapt and morph along with these stupid ideas and managed to spend almost a week on the inside alive and without scrapes on the Prius -- which is kind of like driving a video game, but does get awesome gas mileage. There are, however, loads of rules being broken all over the place with vocabulary...

My week involved fairly nothing at all interesting, educational, wool-worthy, or explorative in Boston, but Bear did get the chance to go to Plymouth yesterday since British flags had to be found for table displays. (I found myself very un-American for thinking not twice but at least 5 times about whether to drive the 40 miles to the British shop for the flags -- it is just so far in British terms! tee hee. People barely can manage to go 14 miles to visit seals.)

It was excessively annoying to not be able to get an adequate picture of Plymouth Rock since the pavilion is under construction and completely ensconced in plastic and scaffolding. The Mayflower was more photographically cooperative. This activity spawned some conversations with strangers...

Today, to add to idiotic notions of traffic fun, I flew to Atlanta (but the traffic was refreshingly not so bad by 6.30 this evening). Other things which made the day exciting were: going out to the post office in Dedham this a.m.; finding my work credit card declined just before the weekend of charges including a car and hotel; flipping out and having to have my other colleagues in DC call the UK since I thought it was 10 mins to 5pm GMT; not being able to get back to my hotel due to a sudden need to completely close Elm St; flailing about with the 400-page Boston atlas; resorting to police help for navigating back; having heart palpitations throughout.

Good things included: sunshine; cheerful hotel managers; amusing African limo drivers; riding in a black Escalade with my shady pay-as-you-go US cell phone; choosing the 'Expert Flyer' line for going through security in Logan; not causing any alarms to sound or having my bag searched for rogue hotel hand lotions; being upgraded by nice Hertz lady from a Corolla to a Passat; going to Whole Foods.

Oh! And finding a knitting group to go to tomorrow afternoon: the Smyrna Hens!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Common Language, indeed

We all know the language barriers that are so comical and with which people on either side of the Atlantic like to mock and irritate The Other.

Things like pants, elevator, suspenders, and Hokey Pokey (yeah. they call it Hokey Cokey here for some prudish aversion to saying anything reminiscent of poking presumably. For interested comparative linguists, Australia also calls it the Hokey Pokey; I guess the Colonials were selectively Puritanical.).

Well, it is all fun and games until the differences indicate how one is supposed to be doing something, and you are in danger of veering off the track of meaning and crashing your crochet hook into a brick wall.

After my blooming success with the tea cosy flower-top (that is annoying, I know, but it amuses me), am venturing further down the dark path of crocheting with a project that some people call mad and overly optimistic. So, I have a book from the library, which is actually quite helpful in diagrams and simplistic instructions and such, but when trying to figure out how to follow one of the patterns, I thought, 'Yes. Yes, this is all very familiar in Step1, Step2, etc., but my memory has noooooo recollection of learning anything called a 'double treble crochet' or a 'triple treble crochet'. Do I need to go to a neurosurgeon? Because forgetting something with a ridiculous name like that is a bad sign...'

However, there seems to be a chart in the back of the book (on the second to last page before the index, unhelpfully), which has deferred Commitment (in the mental asylum sense) for the time being.

double crochet (UK) = single crochet (US)
extended double crochet (UK) = extended single crochet (US)

half treble crochet (UK) = half double crochet (US)

treble crochet (UK) = double crochet (US)

double treble crochet (UK) = treble crochet (US)

triple treble crochet (UK) = double treble crochet (US)

I believe alert readers will notice the potential for devastating tragedy here, rendering the active participant in the 'relaxing past-time' as nothing more than a quivering lump on the corner of the sofa. But I am bull-headed enough to continue this enterprise that I have resigned myself to having to flip back and forth between pattern and chart (this goes against my deepest sensibilities, however, as this is really the same crippling behaviour as SatNav/GPS-addicted morons). If I were a cat, I would flip my tail in annoyance during this activity.

Beside my confusion at terminology, I may also have become a culinary traitor... last evening I cooked a Jambalaya, using a sauce from the Seasoned Pioneers Gourmet Cooking Sauces range. To make up for my transgression, atonement was attempted by using Africa Hot sausage from the market, some organic chicken, some king prawns (normal sized shrimp to people from Louisiana, but which name allows them to charge more here) and some Norfolk crayfish (crawfish, in case there was any confusion). Outcome was good.... but I am not sure it qualifies as Jambalaya. It was not graced with cornbread, as its worthiness was uncertain. Ingredients on the packet disturbingly list oregano... again, I don't think we use oregano in things that are not I-talian!! And, do we use fennel and cardamom in Cajun food? Paul, you may now take the floor.

This image has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, but as it is almost tea time (aka, dinner time), and this was outside a little cafe during Dawn and Matthew's trip, it just seems appropriate in a Norfolk sort of way. The badger appears to be saying 'mmmmmm' in his little speech bubble and it is unclear whether he is on the menu or just enjoying the menu... We did not breakfast there.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

...and she spun a yarn

Well, she hasn't spun a yarn yet, but she is now ready!

Yes; herself has gone and bought a spinning wheel. (this is not the best picture of her, but she will be portraited soon when she finds her best aesthetic habitat at E's house -- there is not much room in the St. Miles abode)

(Someone might appear to be becoming addicted to Gumtree, but there are deals that just cannot be passed up! I mean, she has found a £1500 bed for £150; she has sold both her bike and her futon on there; AND she found a place to live when she first moved to Norwich. It is a Good Thing.)

The above is an Ashford spinning wheel and chair, obtained for 'Such A Deal' -- £80 (which = $160ish)! E has assured me that I am not insane or being ridiculously frivolous, but he may just be being polite. He is such the gentleman sometimes. This seems to be the time to point out that I can buy both items new from a US website for a total of something approaching $650, or I could have 'Buy It Now!'-ed on Ebay-UK for £241 on Sunday... so I think I got a pretty dingdangdarn good deal!

Now, I just have to learn to spin and buy some wool. I am quite pleased and proud to be following (sort of) in the footsteps of Janie Strain but really wish I had paid more sensible attention through the whole process instead of flitting about Keachi Heritage Days in my Laura Ingalls outfit trying to steal fudge out of pans on tables and ending up with a mouthful of lye soap instead... (blegh! my mouth scrintches up at the memory). So, all I really remember from Mamaw's instruction is her letting me card the wool. And that doesn't get you too far along the woolen chain :)

Next, I want some sheep... has that been mentioned before?

My other accomplishment lately (although this is actually last week's feat) is that the tea cosy is finally finished!

[Mrs. Lily should avert her eyes at this point, so that it won't ruin the surprise. But then, she did pick out which one she wanted...]

This is my very first tea cosy (after buying a knitting book all about... wait for it... Tea Cosies!). It took several starts and rippings out, but the technique is now in my repertoire. The original pattern had pompoms on the top, but as I did not approve at all, I found a similarly pleated pattern online that another picky knitter had made something called a Bachelor Button for the top and decided to alter it.

Vexingly, I was unable to locate the Bachelor Button pattern since the borrower had not returned it to the library (and it is very overdue) and none of the bookshops in Norwich have it for me to sneak in and photograph the pattern with my phone... (oops, did I write that out loud?). Sooooo, i did manage to find another crochet book which had a fun flower pattern (for silly people to crochet and wear on their hats like big dorks), which seemed like it just might work instead of the pompoms.

And so it did! This (the flower) was my re-training in crochet as well, since I am not very good; so this got ripped out a lot, too, and there was a slight bit o' temper.

It took me a while to remember to go and get the pearl buttons, too, also delaying the finished product...

But it is so cute, I am going to make more (Steffi is first in the queue, because she asked so nicely) and they shall go much more quickly, I believe.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

The GGBF and other escapades

Yes, I know there has been little communicative activity of any meaningful sort on the blog lately (the tomahtoes don't seem to have made much of an impression on the general populus).

But this does not mean that we have just been waving handpuppets around to Elvis bumping out of a hi-fi on the streets of Norwich. Oh no. We have been from Sheringham to the Cotswolds to the Great British Beer Festival (sorry, the GBBF is not a long-lost Roald Dahl book), and your correspondent has just been too blasted pooped to write anything about these activities (and it is not like an event is being planned from a distance of 3500 miles or anything).

As an additional pathetic and whiney excuse not to have been writing, I would like to poi
nt out that I am co-ordinating 5 people's work travel to North America to begin in a month; between eye-strain headaches and associated grumpiness, the last thing I want to do of an evening is look at my computer screen unless something entertaining (such as an amusing film, or those little patterns when music is playing) is beaming out of it. I am sure you do not understand. But try, just to amuse me.

(AND, i am quite proud of cycling to work almost every day!)

So, to get back to a couple of Saturdays ago (or three, even. Or maybe 4 -- counting is difficult for me because I was not allowed to watch Sesame Street as a child)... the arrival of The Dawn! (readers will recall that The Matthew arrived on the Friday and we attempted to edumacate him on a segment of Norwich history.)

Dawn finally got here no thanks to National Rail timetables (the above train would probably have better managed to get her here on time), and we had time for her to meet some of the nutters with whom we mingle on Saturdays at the church before we headed off as a small herd to mingle with some more nutters at the North Norfolk Beer Festival in Sheringham (this is the one E and I went to last year and had a smashing time watching the steam trains on the Poppy Line and whatnot). Dawn and Matthew made valiant efforts to fit in with the nutters. Let them eat cake, indeed.

The Ugly Dog Skiffle Combo was happily playing again for the Saturday afternoon; the festival has grown so much that they had to move everything onto the central platform!

Yssy attended her first beer festival, and Bear was fortunate enough to meet her.

I managed to incite a visit to the beach (as I tend to do). Spoodle was feeling co-dependent and would not go away from her parentals and new Sissy.

Sea air has the most peculiar effects on some people...

The following weekend, E and I toddled off cross-country to Oxfordshire to help Helene celebrate her 21st (ahem) birthday (after consuming our first two tom-ah-toes for brekky)!

It was an absolutely lovely drive across the middle (although I now agree that Milton Keynes is quite the soulless social construct in Britain). Church Westcote was not on our atlas, but we did find it with the silly SatNav. It is just that when addresses are called things like Gower House Cottage, it takes the art of locating a bit towards the fortune-telling side ('I feel the energy that we should turn right down this little lane....'; and I might add that this was correct).

Helene was marvelously Martha Stewart to feed us all lunch (including an amazing pear tarte) and to let us sit in her garden (next to the manor house) whilst enjoying a view across Oxfordshire. Later on, we skipped (not literally) through the fields to the local pub to enjoy a few Pimm's; some really shady expensive 'art' in the ladies loo; and, later on, some dindins.

The next morning, the five of us remaining went for another ramble. We saw horses (and petted them -- the poor things were covered in flies, and there was absolutely no wind); i took many photos of flowers and butterflies using my still-fascinating macro setting; and we finally saw some Cotswold sheep! They have bangs (or fringe, as the British like to call it.)

Cotswold sheep were brought to Britain by the Romans, and their wool was known as The Golden Fleece. When I have my sheep farm and wool industry....


Last week, we were just mundane and trolled charity shops and bought important things like lamps and wool (yes, I know I have a problem. But wool is lighter than books...).

Finally to arrive at the main part of the title (the part that is not a Roald Dahl title) -- this Friday, we worked the Great British Beer Festival!

It was held all week at Earl's Court in London, but E and I only went down to volunteer for the Friday at the persistent request of Duncan, one of our local CAMRA characters, who is brewery manager for Wolf Brewery by day and just happens to be Chief Steward at the GBBF.

We had no idea what we were getting ourselves in for, but we are now completely hooked. We were originally scheduled to work the day shift (from 11a-5p) but after we got there and realised the massiveness of it all (and were prodded by the others), we worked the second shift, too, and worked until 11p (when we got some free ale from the Staff Bar).

The GBBF is the largest festival in Britain, with over 450 ales, ciders and perrys on tap this year -- not to mention the food, the brewerania (new stuff and old stuff related to beer and brewing), the massive stage, and the entire staff area. On Friday alone, there were 17,100 people! May I say that we were tired by 12.30am when we left? Shattered tired. But it was unbelievable fun!

Have you ever seen such a pile o' pork scratchins in all your life? Boar Pie, anyone?

As stewards, we were not allowed to drink while on duty. You can have a quick beer when on break (either at a discount in the main hall, or free at the staff bar upstairs), but since you need a clear head to pay attention to all that you need to, it really is not a good idea -- as well, it would make brain cells tired, which is inadvisable if you are doing a 12-hour voluntary shift.

There are hundreds of volunteers every day -- bartenders, stewards, shop-keepers. Stewards are divided into teams (maybe 9?) with about 6-8 people on each team. For the old hands, everyone has a call signal; my team included Harry Potter, Slayer and Dr. Cameron.

Each team does a one-hour rotation in different parts of the hall which keeps you from getting bored -- from escalator maintenance (keeping people out of where they are no supposed to go) to bag searches, to picking up broken glasses to monitoring the beer parking lot for the smokers, to patrolling different areas of the hall. These are things you are supposed to pay attention to (BUS PATH is the mnemonic):

B= badges (of people going into staff areas)
U= unconscious (people)
S= smokers
P= pickpockets
A= agros (or anti-socials)
T= toilets (and also, team-members -- to make sure they are okay)
H= hazards

There are lots of fun things to see. We saw the Beatles. I saw the Seven Dwarves and two fat blokes dressed as brightly bedecked and generously endowed women. There was a guy in a Viking hat with blonde braids who asked me if I thought he was pretty. When someone drops a glass inside the hall, the 400-or-so people around them all cheer and whoop. Apparently (although this did not happen), there will occasionally be a crowd roar through an entire section of the hall and this indicates a streaker. The man who told me said in a very disappointed voice that 9 times out of 10, it is a man. Big surprise :) I am working on a list of the typical beer festival attendees that one might expect to encounter (e.g., The Hobbit, The Suit, The New Suit, Madam Mimm, and many more) -- keep an eye out for more cultural observation!

My favourite part of the rotation was working in the Tar Pit. This is the area outside the back in a fenced in paved part where the smokers could go. However, smokerswere not allowed to take any beer outside the building, so there had to be a guard on the door (dealing with basically 3-year-olds in adult form) as well as people monitoring the clever beer parking lot, which is one of the most brilliant ideas when you think about it. You find a spot, you put your beverage on the number taped to the table, taking the smaller removeable number with you so's you don't forget due to the rapid decline in those pesky slower brain cells; you go and have your ciggy; then you trade your number for your glass on the way back inside! It is QUITE funny to watch tipsy people trying to pick a number, and then afterwards to find the number matching their card.

And everyone (or 97% of everyone) is cool and polite and relatively nice. CAMRA people rate just quite a bit higher than your average courteousness level. I was on the crew monitoring the front doors from 10.00 to closing time (when 10,000 people were being herded out of the hall by E and his team), and almost everyone said, 'Byeeee', 'Thank you', and 'Have a good night' on their way out.

This is us in our fetching orange shirts after our 12 hours of stewarding. We were unable to go back for Silly Saturday, but I think we will be there for both Funny Friday and Silly Saturday 2009.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


These are not the first tom-AH-toes from our strong little trio of plants (the first two were consumed as breakfast in a moment of gluttonous pride over a week ago when we were on our way to spend the weekend in the Cotswolds with Helene and Ashley -- they therefore were not memorialised or eulogised in suitable manner).

These have, however, been prettily photographed.

No names have been given, since it is generally unwise to name things that you plan to eat (as I so traumatically learnt upon coming home in third grade to find Whitey the Cow's pen dismally empty).

Our peppers are not doing so well, and some of the basil has whimpered out and is quite limp. The red Gerbera is brave, but it has some sort of herbivore leaving white trails of eaten leaf.

Whether the copper snail tape works is yet to be seen (it makes me happy to think of the little snails getting a tiny shock). E and I are having repeated disputes over his persistent beheading of what he calls 'useless parts of the tomato plants'. He should never have bought that hunting knife from Bass Pro Shop...

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday Week (Ago)

It is Friday week from last Friday.

This is merely to assist certain people who, like myself, might tend to forget where they are, which knitting project should get preference, or what date it is.

Last Friday, the first installment of company for the weekend arrived. And there was much rejoicing! (and i caused the evening to get to an only slightly late start as a result of snapping my bike key off in the lock -- but as a future lock-picker, successfully forced the key halves together and jammed them down to make the key turn. This after only a 2 1/2 minute fit of despair in the bike shed at work.)

Matthew arrived from Cardiff (first class, of course) and was able to peruse a bit of the city and locate the Puppet Man for future reference (and possible career inspiration -- we all need a little inspiration). Eamonn and the Late Child (aka, me) met M on the Prince of Wales Bridge, where the people-watching is so good, and toddled off for our evening's repast and entertainment. After some lovely nosh and beverages at the Adam and Eve (Pimm's for me, as I was trying to be a laydeeee and ale for them as they were adamantly not), my friend Lisha joined us as well, and we then located the tour that leaves from the pub 6 nights a week from April Fools' to All Hallows.

Bryan McNerney
leads tours of Horrid Histories in the summer, and our tour was themed 'Revolution'. It took us around the back of the Adam and Eve and along a part of the Riverside Walk that I had never discovered before. We walked past the Swan Pits on the way.

The Swan Pits are uphill slightly about 10 steps away from the river and were the slaughter location for the annual swan culling for centuries. Swans were considered royal food and owning swans was limited to persons who had been gifted the privilege by the monarch; even today, the Crown retains ownership of all unmarked mute swans on open water. However, these gifts were also limited in the annual population that could be maintained by the individual or family and so each year the swans were counted (families of swans can be distinguished by features -- who knew! And owners also marked them... but that is much less intriguing) and any in excess of the allowance were killed and then gifted as luxury food (usually for Christmas) to other privileged persons. A little 'tributary' runs from the pits to the river.

About 1/4 mile further on is Cow Tower. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to it before, partly because of the report that you cannot climb up inside it anymore. This makes me sad because I am a climbing mammal. It is still about as tall as it was in its defensive days, but then, Norwich's city defences were more for show than for true battle, as there were huge gaps in the walls, significantly along the river (not like anyone couldn't just boat or swim across the river). The most usage of the gates and walls was to force local traders to pay taxes on either entry or exit (I forget) from the city instead of just coming in to the huge market and then taking their money all away from the city economy.

It is not called Cow Tower because a cow was led to the top and thrown off. It is probably not called Cow Tower because a dead cow was put in a trebouche and shot through the 4-foot thick walls. The tower is placed along a part of the river that used to be meadowland and was where people could bring their cows to graze.

A pretty 5 minute walk along the river brings one to Bishopsgate bridge. This is a place that we have been before, but on a walk of a different sort, as The Red Lion Pub is situated right next to it :)

Bishopsgate is the only remaining medieval bridge in Norwich. As part of the aforementioned city defences, it did have a tower at one time (which is now gone) and did have defensive holes for the bottom of the gate to lock into. This road goes all the way into the Cathedral walls, and is the route which heretics walked on the way to a chalk pit where they were burned at the stake.

Along the riverbank at this point was also where the tanners had their work. Tanners used refuse (most particularly urine) in the tanning of leathers and this was therefore the location where the gong farmers brought their 'wares'. 'Gong' is a Tudor slang term signifying solid excrement. Since there was a plentiful supply of this at this location, a popular form of entertainment was to purchase a bucket o' poo (and such) and throw it on the poor Lollards or whoever were the popular heretics of the week.

In 1549, Ketts Rebellion began as a simple protest again the gradual removal of common land usage rights. Landowners for centuries had allowed peasants to use common land for grazing, etc. but they had begun to remove this privilege, leading to more severe poverty. (This linked article gives a slightly different skew from the tour)

Kett, although a wealthy man by this point, led the peasants in protest against the city, which barred gates against them. The rebels camped on Mousehold Heath, a hill across from Bishopsgate and were apparently sent food stuffs, beer, and things necessary for survival from the citizenry.

After sheltering in a gorgeous 1970s doorway to Trudie's Hair Salon for quite a nice little rain, we made it to the corner where Italian mercenaries were severely outnumbered by 15,000 rebels who had flooded over Bishopsgate Bridge. Lord Sheffield is supposed to have been killed at St.-Martin-Palace-Plain, but from descriptions of his being dragged from his horse and bludgeoned to death by a local butcher with a powl-axe, he was killed at a sharp turn in the road -- right by the back gate to the Cathedral.

The Cathedral itself was also a site of revolution at several points, the most notable being in the 1270s when the Prior decided to levy an extra tax on the Tombland marketplace, the Anglo-Saxon market right outside the Cathedral priory gates. They cleverly decided to raise the tax on a holiday, thinking that since the vendors would be raking in the money, they would be too busy to fuss about a little old tax.

Market traders, however, stuffed their selling of goods, stormed through the cathedral gates into the cathdral, stripped what they could, piled the rest under the tower and set it afire. The inferno only stopped when the tower collapsed dusting the flames. The cathedral is built of limestone. When limestone is heated, it turns pink just before it turns to dust; there are sections of pink limestone still evident inside.

Afterwards, we sat in from the rain and visited with Bryan for a while. Bear learnt a lot.

Upon our leaving, it started to rain again, for which reason I was v. happy to have my lovely authoresses brolly gifted thoughtfully by the Clever Clarence and which I have had with me for my entire sojourn in this country.

We watched our step.

It was a marvellous evening, and I cannot wait to go on another tour (as I am a dork)!

And this was just Friday!
(Saturday will be next installment -- the arrival of the Dawn!)