Coventry Cathedral (Cathedral Church of St. Michael)

On 14 November 1940 the launched 'Coventrate'. The target was to destroy the city of Coventry. As well as killing over 800 people it destroyed various areas of the city. The most famous building destroyed was the Cathedral Church of St. Michael. Dating from the 14th century all that remained was the shell of the cathedral.

The new cathedral was designed by Basil Spence. He decided against rebuilding the destroyed cathedral but build the new one along side. The new cathedral was consecrated on 25 May 1962.

Walking around the ruins on a cold Sunday morning gave off a eerie atmosphere. However, rather than left feeling sad I was left feeling hopeful. The theme of the ruins is reconciliation. Did you know that during World War II Coventry became a twin city with Stalingrad in solidarity with the Red Army defending the city. One of the items worth seeing inside the ruins is the wooden cross.

Originally constructed from two wooden beams that were found lying on the floor a replica is now on permanent display. There is another cross made from three nails from the original roof. Another cross of nails was sent to the Kaiser Wihelm Memorial Church in Berlin as a act of reconciliaton.

Overall the cathedral is worth spending time to visit. A good place to come and gather your thoughts.

For further details visit http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

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Balkans Day 1, 8 September – I Leave Today, What Can Go Wrong Now.

After months of planning and counting down the days the day has finally arrived to leave. I think that everybody was starting to get sick of me talking about the trip. My team I suspect were glad to see the back of me for the next three weeks. The trip has been my only focus for 2013 and it may have cost me a few sleepless nights and lost nights out.

At 7:20pm I left for the bus to take me into Birmingham. My backpack weighed heavy but it felt good to have it on my back again. No problems with the bus and I was soon at Birmingham Central Coach Station. All I need now is the coach. It arrives but was told it had pulled into the wrong bay. So everybody waited for the coach to move bays. We were going to leave late.

Once loaded the coach eventually left station. At the first set of traffic lights the driver gets off the coach and starts to check the rear indicators. This is not a good sign. We carry on until the we reach the outskirts of Coventry. The driver stops the coach, the lights had gone. Now it was time to panic as I have a connecting coach to catch. If there was a problem why did the driver say something at Birmingham. Upon advice from the garage in Birmingham the driver reset the lights. Low and behold they start to work again. Off we move towards Coventry Bus Station. What else could go wrong now.

Coventry Bus Station was chaos. It looked like that too many passengers had been loaded in Birmingham. The gentleman who was travelling with his son quite rightly was angry and refused to leave the coach. I think the driver allowed somebody to travel who was booked on another service. Anyway good fortune arrived when a woman offered to leave the coach and get another service.

We left Coventry at 22:40 over an hour later than planned. At least the coach to Gatwick Airport runs every hour, so I should in with a chance of getting on a later service. We will have to wait for the next day.

 

The Royal Baby and the World

Well, this has been an extraordinary week by the standards of the UK. Sporting success in the form of the England cricket team trashing the Aussies and Chris Froom winning the Tour de France. However, it is fair to say the only story in the UK has been the birth of the royal baby. You would have thought that nobody else had given birth given the news coverage.

I come to this post as somebody who is really not too bothered about the Royal Family. After all, I suspect they are not too bothered about me. It is the reaction of the rest of the world that interests me.

I received the news of the royal birth while on my way home from work. When I switched on the TV I would have expected that the BBC, ITV and Sky to be over the story like a rash. It was when I started to watch the other news networks that I got the biggest surprise.

CNN were broadcasting from outside Buckingham Palace. It seemed surreal to see Christiane Amanpour conducting interviews as though it was gossip. She was born in London so I could forgive her for that. I switched to France 24 and they had wall to wall coverage. Talk about forgotten history. We have always had a love hate relationship. Turning over to the next channel Japan's NHK World and it had the royal baby, the same with Euronews. It was only when I switched to Al Jazeera that I found a station that was broadcasting other news.

I feel this says a lot about the UK and how it is seen by the rest of the world. London is a hub for visitors from around the world and the royal family with all its history, glamour and tradition is the magnet that draws them over. Those visitors who were in London last week will have had an experience never to be forgotten. This is why the birth of Prince George of Cambridge made news around the world and mattered to a lot of people.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Cheese Rolling

Whenever I mention that I am from the UK I am usually end up discussing football and the bad weather. However, the next popular question I am asked is about cheese rolling.

The Cheese Rolling Contest takes place at Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire. It is held on the last Monday in May which is a public holiday in the UK.

Copper's Hill

Starting at midday there are five downhill races including an all women's race. A Double Gloucester cheese is rolled down the hill while the competitors chase after it.

Chasing the cheese

As you can see from the photo there is a good chance that competitors get injured in the pursuit of the cheese. The first person down the hill wins the cheese.

The Prize

This event could only happen in the UK. Would I take part? No way, I do not like cheese.

http://www.cheese-rolling.co.uk

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

FA Cup Final

This is a slightly different post than usual. It is about the FA Cup Final. One of the great sporting days in England, traditionally it was the last game of the football season thought this has changed over the last couple of years.

The FA Cup Final or Football Association Challenge Cup to give its full name is the oldest cup competition in world football. It was first played for in 1872 when Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-0.

The competition begins in August when the amateur and semi-professional play qualifying rounds to make the main draw. The professional clubs from the Leagues 1and 2 tier join in the 1st round and the clubs from the Premier League and Championship join in the 3rd round. The magic of the FA Cup is that potentially clubs from the lower leagues can play clubs from the Premier League. There have been cases of giant-killing performances. This season Luton Town of the Conference beat Norwich City of the Premier League 1-0 at Norwich in the 4th Round.

Cup Final day has always been a magical day for me. Growing up it was one of the few games that was shown live on television. It was not just the match, there was the build up which lasted throughout the day until kick off. Particularly the singing of the Cup Final hymn 'Abide With Me'. A strange choice as it is normally sang at funerals. I always find it a emotional moment. I am not alone, just search You Tube for the effect it had on Elton John.

Another piece of magic about the cup is that you are never certain who would win. I have witnessed some acts of giant-killing. Here are two that I would like to mention.

1973 – Sunderland beating Leeds United 1-0. Sunderland were at that time a second division club and Leeds were the biggest club in the country. I can still hear that magic piece of commentary, “Porterfield, 1-0.”

1988 – Wimbledon beating Liverpool 1-0. “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club.” Wimbledon had been a semi-professional club up until 1977. Liverpool had won the league in a convincing manner during the season.

 

This years final has the potential to create another piece of giant-killing. Manchester City will play Wigan Athletic. City are one of the richest clubs in the world while Wigan continually struggle to stay in the Premier League.

 

Personally, I feel that Manchester City will win 2-0.

As always I will place on front of the TV until the game has finished. Whatever the result it is always a great occasion which I will always enjoy.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

UK + Snow = No Go

I woke up on Friday thinking that I would struggle to find inspiration for the next blog posting. Then I opened the curtains and then it hit me. Snow had come to the UK.

With snow comes everything else and being the UK everything comes to a grinding halt. The schools shut and it seemed that a lot of people did not make it to work. It is estimated that snow costs the UK economy £500m per day.

Then I had my own personal experience of going to work. Yes, I managed to get to work (shift was 14:00 – 22:00) I could see the carnage on the roads. As normal there were no signs of gritting vehicles or snow ploughs. This meant that other vehicles were moving slowly. Coupled with the temperature falling below zero I could see the ice forming on the roads. This particularly affected local public transport especially the buses. There were plenty of people who were late for work because of this. I managed to get to work on time by catching the train. At the time they were not affected by the snow.

I could see people struggling and I felt embarrassed. I speak to people who deal with snow though out the winter and they must laugh at our inability to cope. Then you see the scenes at Heathrow Airport with all the cancelled flights. Not a good advert for the UK. It is hard to believe that six months ago we successfully organised the Olympics and Paralympics. A bit of snow and we grind to a halt. The problem is that the UK is that it is difficult to predict when we will get snow. It usually only falls once during the winter and then it last for a week at most.

As for my own experience of the day, it was mixed. The local buses stopped running at 19:00 which while bad news I still could catch the train. They were still running but I noticed that they were beginning to get delayed. I had no real choice but leave work early. I managed to get home safely but the journey took nearly 90 minutes.

However, snow is not all bad. It does allow the chance to take advantage of possible photo opportunities.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

 

Photo of the Week – Sutton Park, New Year’s Day

Wyndley Pool
Wyndley Pool

This week’s photo is of Sutton Park on New Year’s Day.  A good walk is always a good way of starting the new year.  I am lucky to have this park close to where I live.  As you can see it was a beautiful day. I was not the only person to be walking.

Until the next post stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

City of Lichfield

The city of Lichfield is situated in the county of Staffordshire and lies to the north of Birmingham.  A small place given city status because of the cathedral.  It is worth visiting from Birmingham to spend a city here.  A historical city it is famous for being the birthplace of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

The best way to get to Lichfield is to take the London Midland train from Birmingham New Street to Lichfield City station.  Journeys take around 40 minutes.  The most expensive adult ticket costs £7.10 for a day return.  Once you arrive into the station it is a five minute walk to the city centre.

There are several attractions to visit in Lichfield and I will list a few of my favourites.  Firstly, I will point you towards the cathedral.  Originally to be classified as a city in England you had to have a cathedral.  What makes Lichfield Cathedral unique is that it is the only medieval cathedral that has three spires.

The next place I would recommend you visit s the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum.  Acting both as a museum and bookshop it tells the life story of Dr. Samuel Johnson perhaps Lichfield’s most famous son.  Items that can be viewed in the museum include Johnson’s personal armchair and tea set.  The museum is located on Breadmarket Street and has free entry.

website – http://www.samueljohnsonbirthplace.org.uk

Another attraction that you should visit is Erasmus Darwin House.  Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin was a renowned doctor, inventor, poet and scientist who lived in the city for over twenty years.  Included in the museum are two rooms with audio and visual exhibits.  One pleasing aspect of the house is the Georgian herb garden that contains plants from the period. The museum is located on Beacon Street.  Admission costs £3.00 for adults.

website – http://www.erasmusdarwin.org

A perfect place to go for a walk is Beacon Park.  Originally marshland it was reclaimed in the 19th century.  It is home to various sporting facilities used by the citizens of Lichfield.  There are also monuments and statues.  The most famous being of Edward Smith, the ill-fated captain of the R.M.S. Titanic.

If you are looking for entertainment then a visit to the Lichfield Garrick Theatre is a must.  Opened in 2003, it is named after the famous 18th century actor David Garrick who was born in the city.  The theatre shows plays and concerts while a local Rep company is based there.

website – http://www.lichfieldgarrick.com

Finally, if you are looking for somewhere to eat I would personally recommend ‘The Spark Cafe Bar’.  Situated on Tamworth Street it serves excellent food at reasonable prices.  The coffee is also excellent.  There are plenty events that take place including live comedy and music.  It is also home to a book club.

website – http://www.thesparkcafebar.co.uk

There is plenty more of Lichfield to see.  It is a rewarding place to visit for the day.  It has a small town feel where the pace is unrushed.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

Photo of the Week – Statue of Doctor Johnson, Lichfield

This week’s photo is of the statue of Doctor Samuel Johnson.

Dr Samuel Johnson

Famous for compiling ‘A Dictionary of the English Language’ Dr. Johnson famously said “A man who tires of London, he tired of life.”  In fact he was born in the city of Lichfield in Staffordshire.  This statue was erected in 1838 outside his birthplace in Market Square.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve

A New Challenge – City Walks Around London

Recently I have been doing a spot of tidying up around the flat.  Among the items I came across was ‘City Walks: London – 50 Adventures on Foot’ by Craig Taylor.

It comprises of 50 walks in London.  Instead of being a book, the walks are on individual cards which can be slipped into the pocket.  Each walk starts from a tube or mainline railway station and usually last for a couple of hours.  The cards point out places of interest to see as well as recommending places to eat.

The new challenge that I have set for myself is to complete the walks and write posts on each one.  I will be starting tomorrow and hope to post my findings during the coming week.  I am looking forward to this as I travel to London frequently and I want to share the not so obvious areas that you may miss out on.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve