Amsterdam

Hello All

I will come clean I am not a huge fan of the city of Amsterdam. But this time in the company of No 1 Daughter – an Amsterdam lover – and staying in a hotel near Vondelpark and away from the centre I warmed to the place and we spent a pleasant day there.

After a night on the ocean waves and traveling straight to our hotel to dump our backpacks our first port of call was Coffee and Coconut

A quirky cafe (Amsterdam does these really well) inside a converted cinema which serves fresh coconut juice, refreshing iced teas and a range of goodies to eat.

From Coffee and Coconut it was a short walk through picturesque streets, along a huge market and via lots of indies (some with familiar names!)

To reach the giant Amsterdam sign so popular with postcard printers,

(There’s always one …. actually there were hundreds!)

Until we reached the Museum Quarter. We skirted the Rijks Museum (huge so it will have to await another trip)

To the object of our visit Moco, a small museum housing a humongous exhibition of Banksy works.

It might seem a bit odd to view an exhibition of works by a Bristol graffiti artist in Amsterdam but it was an amazing collection spreading over three floors and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly like the wall devoted to a group of ‘Riot’ Police skipping through a meadow…

This is where modern information technology came into its own. We found out about the Moco Museum and it’s exhibition because No1 Daughter could see where friends had visited and this came recommended. In addition we love the Banksy piece used on the advertising as it looks very like Peanut!

Footsore but happy we wandered back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before the next day’s mega-(several)-train journey to Copenhagen….

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Trains and Ferry Boat

Hello All

The adventure begins. And as it often does it began with catching a train. But oh-ohh! What does that departures board say? Delayed!!!!

Missing connections, missing ferries …. it all flashed through my mind but thankfully only the connection was missed. No 1 Daughter and I soon found ourselves on a PACKED train to Newcastle – passengers almost popped from the train when the doors sighed (with relief) open at Newcastle.

Once returned to our normal shape and size after the crush and refreshments taken we found our transfer bus to the DFDS passenger terminal for the overnight ferry to Amsterdam.

Yahoo! Soon we were relaxing …

(Not a usual photo from me I know … I prefer a cup of tea … honest)

… and exploring the ship. Brace yourself here is a very very rare photo of yours truly (you’ll see why) and beautiful No 1 Daughter (she gave her permission).

While we are talking No 1 Daughter an apology to those of you who follow her on Instagram. As chief family photographer many of the photos in the posts that follow are hers so you may see some re-appear on her Instagram ‘stories’.

It was a demographically strange crossing as most of the passengers were men, had there been a football match? Don’t know but apart from several fellows who obviously don’t get out much cringingly ogling No 1 they were a well behaved bunch. In fact when we were the only two women in the cinema I felt the male audience were on very best behaviour. Bet they were dying to hoot and holler as comic book heroes rampaged across the screen. As to No 1 and I…?!

The sea was calm and apart from someone knocking on our cabin door at 1am, “Dawn?…Dawn?…are you there Dawn?” It was an uneventful crossing and back packs on we disembarked ready for a day in Amsterdam.

Wonder if he ever found Dawn?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Wandering

Hello All

I have done my research

And then some more

Indulged in a little guilty pleasure

Say nothing.

With all that under my belt

and my bags packed I am off with No 1 Daughter on another Inter Rail adventure.

Copenhagen here we come!

As to what this dynamic duo did next be assured I will keep you posted.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Left right left right… the Women of Cumbria trail continues…

Hello All

I am culturally replete. Wednesday 14 March 2018, what a day! Three exhibitions, a bookshop and a castle all in a whistle-stop visit to Carlisle. To save your eyes and my sanity I am splitting the exhibitions et al into two posts. Today I am concentrating on the Women of Cumbria exhibitions currently on view in our lovely Border city.

“Sit up straight you ‘orrible little blogster you…” oh dear better get typing.

Trusty companion J and I went first to Carlisle Castle to see the ‘Follow the Drum Women’s Stories from the Regiment’ at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life.

Carlisle Castle deserves a blog post all of its own but that will have to await a further visit – perhaps for the Poppies: Weeping Window display running from 25 May to 8 July 2018 – as I need to move on quick smart…yes sa-ah. Suffice to say the Castle has an incredible history which stretches from the 10th century to today. It has even been the headquarters of both a Scottish and an English King, although not at the same time!

‘Follow The Drum’ gave us a glimpse of life for the women who either followed their men to war or more latterly have joined the military themselves. The exhibition concentrates on the changing relationship between women and the army focussing on the period 1800 to the present.

Most amazing to me were the women of the early 19th century, those that followed their husbands to the Peninsula War (think Duke of Wellington, think Napoleon). While being regarded as camp followers or prostitutes these valiant women kept the men’s clothes clean, tended the injured and risked their own lives and health. Nonetheless they worried the army hierarchy who sought to regulate them by making their husbands responsible for their behaviour…. 21st century woman biting her tongue here.

The stories of women like Catherine Exley who followed her husband in the early 1800s to the Peninsula War are astounding. Having gained permission to join her husband Catherine was witness to the battles of Salamanca and Vittoria and in ever present danger. She notes in her memoirs that she tore the linen off her back in order to bind wounds and was used to fetch water to quench the thirst of the dying. Her story is both harrowing – she lost her son by following the regiment – and inspirational: it was the support of the other women and wives that kept her going. This mutual support is a theme that runs throughout the military women’s history.

Primitive paintings exist of women like Catherine,

But I don’t think the reality of nineteenth century military life is truly reflected in the strangely charming pictures of these families. This sweet and colourful portrait of the Dollery family certainly belies the truth. Having outlived her husband poor Mrs Dollery was ‘rewarded’ by life and finally death in the workhouse.

But these women soldiered on. Later in the 1800s another stalwart was Mrs Skiddy – Biddy Skiddy to her friends. Biddy was remembered for washing the men’s clothes and supplying tea but she also carried her injured husband, complete with his rifle and kit, on her back for half a league (about a mile and a half) until she could lay him down in a bivouac. A tough cookie.

Thankfully the army came to realise that the military wives were assets, a steadying influence and good for the soldiers’ welfare. In fact for the Victorians the family image fostered by the military’s better treatment of the women improved the army’s poor reputation. Even so orders is orders and the Standing Orders of 1896 made it clear what the army expected of soldiers seeking to marry:

Despite the wars and dangers one thing survived, love. And this collection of cards sent by Private Wood to his wife and daughter during the First World War made my heart melt.

The final sections of the exhibition moved to the twentieth century and the active role of women in the military. With up to date accounts from serving female personnel like Private D J Ferguson. Her comments on military life brought an interesting insight into a woman’s perspective of life in the army today.

But before we knew it we were “Dis-missed” and off to our next Women of Cumbria port of call. Quick march!

Tullie House’s exhibition is a contrast to most of those we have seen so far. Instead of sighting the exhibition in one room (except for the Cracker Packers*) Tullie House has used the Women of Cumbria motif as an opportunity to highlight 10 objects around the museum and allow us to discover the stories of the women behind them.

Honestly I went to corners of the museum I have NEVER visited before! What a brilliant idea. Carlisle has had such a varied history the artefacts cover women’s history from the Romans up to the twentieth century. Sadly incompetent photographer that I am I have failed to transfer several of the objects that we looked at …. I can only offer up a few highlights. Drawing a veil over the Roman era – I know whatever next?! – I move swiftly to the Vikings and the beautiful ornate brooches used to pin a Norse woman’s clothing,

This grave good is one of a pair but I decided to edit its partner brooch as the photo was too wobbly. It reads ‘must try harder’ on my photography homework. I used to call these tortoise brooches but I notice that no such nomenclature was mentioned so I wonder if this is a new naming protocol (bit like the Brontosaurus vanishing in favour of the Brachiosaurus). These open work brooches are sizeable things not dissimilar in size to an adolescent … tortoise…. And while beautiful they are certainly strong enough to support clothing together with chains and jewellery strung between them.

Moving swiftly on before I get over fanciful there were a couple of exhibits I think particularly worthy of attention. One seems humble enough.

This dinner-sized porcelain plate painted with enamel is the work of Ann Macbeth. Ever heard of her? I certainly hadn’t yet not only was she (take a deep breath) a renowned embroiderer, artist and writer, member of the Glasgow Movement, associate of Charles Rennie Macintosh, lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art she was also an active suffragette imprisoned for her beliefs, a banner maker and also a proponent of women being able to earn their livelihood through craftwork. Born in Bolton she moved to Patterdale in the Lake District in 1920 and died in Cumbria in 1948. All round someone I would have loved to have met.

Finally – thanks for staying with me soooo long – another role I hadn’t considered much in relation to women (although my yarn stash should have taught me better) is that of collector. One of Tullie House’s most important artefacts was generously donated by talented musician and instrument collector Miss Sybil Mounsey-Heysham. Along with a number of wonderful antiquarian stringed instruments Miss Mounsey-Heysham gave the museum the Amati violin.

The father of violin-making Andrea Amati is thought to have made this violin around 1566. It forms part of the earliest (older than Stradivari by almost 100 years) and most famous set of stringed instruments. Amazing in itself but what I liked best was learning that Miss Mounsey-Heysham had probably played the instrument herself and that occasionally – for the good of it’s health – the Amati is still played. Like a teddy-bear that is hugged rather than kept pristine I can’t think of anything that would be more appropriate for this rare and beautiful instrument. Wherever they are in the universe I hope that Miss Mounsey-Heysham and Mr Amati enjoy the performance.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* I haven’t forgotten the wonderful Cracker Packers. Watch this space. Mx

Down at the Doctor’s

Hello All

Don’t worry I am not poorly but undertaking another excursion as part of my Women of Cumbria quest. This time me and buddy J were off by X6 bus and then train from Barrow In Furness along the west coast of Cumbria to the port of Whitehaven.

One of the bonuses of this quest is travelling to lesser known areas of this wonderful county and by using public transport taking in fabulous scenery and history to boot. Arriving at Whitehaven I can do no better than quote from Hyde and Pevsner’s description of this safe harbour:

“Noble breakwaters of interlocking pinkish stones, worn by the fretful seas…”

If you have exceptionally good eyesight you may be able to make out the very hazy outline of the Scottish coast on the horizon opposite the harbour entrance. No? It is there….honest.

There is definitely something fishy about Whitehaven and we had fun spotting the marine connections along the Millennium Promenade:

Until we got to our destination, the Beacon Museum.

This fabulous museum was quite rightly described by one member of the very friendly and helpful staff as ‘like a Tardis’. It is huge. We only had time to look around two floors!

Starting with the viewing gallery we gained an overview of the town and coast. We spotted important landmarks and buildings, and even saw Scotland (it is there I tell you).

We moved on to an exhibition by a Japanese photographer of the towns in Japan left empty after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011. The artist overlaid his photographs with drawings of monsters lurking transparent against the uninhabited buildings. Images of a lingering fearfulness made more pertinent by the proximity of the nuclear plant at Sellafield only a few miles away – we passed it on the train…

Perhaps it really is time to visit the doctor. Edith Brown: Medicine Woman here we come.

Well with waiting times going up you have to grab the opportunity when you can…!

Born in 1864 Doctor Brown started her career in different times. Luckily Edith, the daughter of a Whitehaven banker, was determined. She was one of the first women to study at Cambridge. Cambridge only began to admit women in 1869 and did not allow them to sit exams until 1881, even then when Edith passed her exams she was not given a degree because Cambridge (I thought they were clever folk there?!) did not award degrees to women until 1948 (1948!!!! Hope someone’s report card read ‘Could do better’).

As I said Doctor Brown was determined and after studying at Edinburgh, Brussels and London she qualified to practice. Driven by a childhood ambition Dr Brown travelled as a missionary to India to open a hospital for women. Realising that she could not do this alone she set about training new Indian female doctors.

I am personally uncomfortable with other countries, communities and faiths being patronised by early 20th century missionaries however there is no denying Edith had a huge effect on healthcare and brought opportunities for other women to train as doctors. She was one tough cookie. Especially when this was the sort of medicine cabinet she had to work with:

I spared you the amputation kit.

Time for some fun. J and I moved on to the ‘Changing Times’ gallery to explore thousands of years of the region’s past. I was able to indulge my love of all things Roman and Viking and even reconstructed a replica of the Norse Gosforth Cross. A lot easier than I have made it sound. But it was on board the ‘Maria Lowther’ a replica 3D ship from 1838 that we got really silly,

Struggling to steer the ship on the very effectively swaying deck and running about as giddy aunts pretending to be ship’s crew we had a hilarious time. You are never too old…

Leaving the museum there was one place we felt we needed to visit before boarding our train back to Barrow. Edith Brown’s house. Walking around Whitehaven in search of her home at 10a Coates Lane we got a feel of Whitehaven’s grid street layout. Much remains of the original Georgian housing and I understand it has a flavour of 18th century east coast America. Very quaint.

Lo and behold we found Edith’s house amongst the Georgian buildings:

Today’s mission complete.

With it’s wonderful history – including being the site of an American attempt at ‘invasion’ led by John Paul Jones in 1778 during the War of Independence – this one time major port is a gem tucked away on a sleepy section of England’s north west coast. A great day out.

Retracing our steps along the Millennium Promenade we took in the whale-tail benches with their histories and tragedies from Whitehaven’s industrial past.

And a collection of knot sculptures one of which is close to my heart, the Granny Knot.

Ironically the Granny Knot, also known as the lubber’s or booby knot, apparently has only one practical purpose…as a surgeon’s knot! Hope Edith knew how to tie one.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Sunning myself

Hello All

Those of you that know me will acknowledge I am not a sun seeker. But when very good friends move to a home where the sun not only shines but also gives warmth – Cumbrians know all too well that the two do not always go hand in glove – what is a woman to do but board an airplane (first time in 17 years!) and fly out to sunnier climes?

Thanks to AJ and KJ I have spent a fantastic long weekend along with buddy J catching up with these lovely people and visiting their new home on Lanzarote. In case you don’t know Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. It lies in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa. In fact although Lanzarote is a Spanish island it is only 78 miles off the coast of Africa and 621 miles from the Iberian Peninsula. Enough of the factoids. Here was the view from my bedroom window:

This just gives a hint of the amazing landscape of this island born of oceanic explosions and volcanic activity. The greatest recorded eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736 in what is now Timanfaya National Park. It is the strangest topography I have ever seen. Not what you could call pretty but breath-taking nevertheless.

Traveling with our friends we gained a superb overview of the island: the wilderness of the National Park; the peculiar vineyards where vines (at this time of year looking rather dead to be frank) sit in dips made in the black piroclasts (picon) with horseshoe volcanic rock walls protecting them from the winds; the pretty towns and villages where buildings are all two stories or less and painted white; and the stunning beaches.

Our first port of call was the small pretty town of Haria where an artisan and craft market was bustling with local makers and shoppers.

The weather was perfect. The sun shone warmly but not stiflingly. Lanzarote is called the “Island of Eternal Spring” for good reason, temperatures do not fluctuate wildly and usually settle somewhere in the 20 degrees centigrade. Gorgeous.

We did not see much wildlife – we were excited to spot a small gecko like lizard – but the gardens are a picturesque mix of palms and succulents.

Leaving Haria we set off to Castillo De Santa Barbara which sits high on Mount Guanapay overlooking the old Lanzarote capital of Teguise.

The castle is now a museum of piracy not surprisingly as it was built in the 16th century to protect the Lanzarotenos from pirates like Sir Francis Drake! The castle affords an amazing panoramic view allowing you to observe two of the island’s coastlines.

In the top picture you can see our next destination, our lunch stop, Teguise.

Teguise was once Lanzarote’s capital and it is a beautiful place to meander. The whitewashed houses like most on the island integrate with the landscape and are adapted to Lanzarote’s geology and weather. I love them. Occasionally there are buildings which standout from this general principal. One such is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Once a very simple building with no windows and only stone seats set in the walls Our Lady of Guadalupe has seen its fair share of Teguise’s history of looting, violence and arson since it was built around 500 years ago. As a result the church has undergone several renovations and expansions. It is now Lanzarote’s principal church. Situated beside one of Lanzarote’s convivial town squares – they just cry out for a sit down and a catch up – the church fits comfortably within the architecture of Teguise.

What an amazing day we were having and it got even better as we set off after a delicious lunch – mine an aubergine bake and sweet potato fries….drooling a wee bit now – for the west coast and the stunning beach at Famara lying under the dramatic Massif of Famara.

The waves formed rollers which crashed the shore as we stood and watched. The whole effect was quite mind blowing for someone used to the mud of Morecambe Bay. If you are wondering why the sand is not black I am led to believe that this sand has actually been blown to Lanzarote from the Sahara. As you can imagine showing a Brit all this sea and sand can only result in one thing…paddling! AJ thank you for joining me in the whooping and hollering as the freezing Atlantic cooled our hot tootsies.

More shocking behaviour was to follow for the next day I donned …. flip flops! I don’t think I have owned a pair since I was a child and it was liberating, even if my feet didn’t know what had hit them. Sunday was a gentle pootle-ing sort of a day with an exploration of Playa Blanca AJ and KJ’s home town.

I can see why they have settled here. In addition to the glorious weather (have I mentioned it was sunny?…) there are archaeological/antiquarian sites (just made for me); wonderful walks; beaches; courtyards and cool (in all senses of the word) places to eat. Let’s start with a bit of history. If you are groaning don’t worry it will be over soon, humour me. It’s those pesky pirates again.

This magnificent structure is El Castillo O Torre Del Aguila otherwise known as Las Colorado’s Castle. Like the Castle of Santa Barbara it was built (this time in the mid 1700s) to warn of pirate attacks. Originally it was surrounded by a dry moat and stands near to a small promontory which can now be accessed from a promenade walk.

Minutes away we were walking among small courtyards,

Before enjoying a drink overlooking the marina.

Living the dream.

Too soon it was time to go. While Lanzarote (and its weather!) is gorgeous and hard to leave hardest of all was saying goodbye to AJ and KJ. But – despite the shriek-fest paddling – these wonderful peeps have invited us to come back. So not so much a good-bye more an au revoir.

Thank you AJ and KJ for showing us such kindness and sharing your superb new island home.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Bussing it – Two visit Herstory

Hello All

Had a fab day yesterday following the quest for this year. Quest? You say. Is this a great endeavour aimed at bringing about world peace? ending inequality? famine? Well…errr…. no. While these are definitely laudable aims me and walking buddy J have set our sights a wee bit lower….

Our target for 2018 is …. to visit all 11 of the exhibits at the Cumbrian museums taking part in events ‘Celebrating the Women of Cumbria’. Yahoo!

Humming ‘The March of The Women’ (could just have been me) we boarded the good old 555 Stagecoach Bus at Kendal and set off for Keswick and Herstory. In case you want to hum along* here are the words of this rousing suffrage anthem written by Cicely Hamilton with music by Ethel Smyth.

The March of the Women

Shout, shout, up with your song!

Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking.

March, march, swing you along,

Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.

Song with its story, dreams with their glory,

Lo! They call and glad is their word.

Forward! Hark how it swells

Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord.

Long, long, we in the past,

Cower’d in dread from the light of Heaven;

Strong, strong, stand we at last;

Fearless in faith and with sight new given.

Strength with its beauty, life with its duty

(Hear the voice, oh, hear and obey).

These, these beckon us on,

Open your eyes to the blaze of day!

Comrades, ye who have dared,

First in the battle to strive and sorrow;

Scorned, spurned, naught ye have cared,

Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,

Ways that are weary, days that are dreay,

Toil and pain by faith ye have borne.

Hail, hail, victors ye stand,

Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!

Life, strife, these two are one!

Naught can ye win but by faith and daring;

On, on that ye have done,

But for the work of today preparing.

Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance

(Laugh in hope for sure is the end)

March, march, many as one,

Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend!

Keswick Museum certainly did not disappoint. The staff were super helpful and friendly (even after I changed their knitting example from garter to stocking stitch … sorry) and for the sum of £4.50 we each purchased a 12 month ticket for this delightful museum.

We first had a quick tootle around the ‘old’ museum where I couldn’t resist playing (or attempting to) the huge slate ‘xylophones’ housed there. These amazing instruments have a fascinating history dating back to the discovery by Peter Crosthwaite in 1785 of his first 6 ‘music stones’ (sic). He produced a further 10 musical stones over the next six months and in later years his achievements were built on by Joseph Richardson of Keswick who spent 13 years (!!!) scouring the slopes of Skiddaw for rocks with the best tone in order to produce an extraordinary instrument which comes complete with candle holders and an 8-octave range. So popular was this instrument of percussive delights that in 1848 the ‘Richardson & Sons, Rock, Bell and Steel Band’ performed at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. The instrument was donated to Keswick Museum in 1917.

I am lucky enough to have heard a selection of these stones (35 rather than the full 61) during a performance at Kendal Library some years ago. They were played by composer Brian Dewan and Jamie Barnes who performed (in 2005, I think) seven new movements for the musical stones written by Brian Dewan with the assistance of Jamie Barnes. Atmospheric indeed. But I digress…. what were we here for? Ah yes, ‘Herstory’.

We had a marvellous time learning more about this famous Lakeland town through the stories of its women. What I think absorbed us most in this mountainous area so beloved of climbers were the brave women who scaled the local peaks often dressed in long heavy skirts, heeled boots and an ever present tipfer pinned to their copious coiffured locks. It reminded me of a description of Ginger Rogers: “sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backwards and in high heels”.

Glad to say that some of these bold lasses donned knickerbockers under their skirts and when up in them thar hills took off their voluminous skirts and carried them (annoying enough) in their knapsacks.

My cartoon was inspired by the photograph we saw of Pauline Ranken and Lucy Smith of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club ascending Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh in June 1908. Unlike my swinging lady above they were doing the job properly despite their attire and being suspended by what looked remarkably like string. Gutsy women.

We had a whale of a time and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Keswick and its friendly museum post-haste.

We have now visited two of the eleven exhibitions. We tripped over the trail in the Museum of Lakeland Life (MoLLi) at Abbot Hall where we had gone to view the Folk Art exhibit. The MoLLi definitely set us on our quest as their exhibition was so cleverly woven into the museum’s existing artifacts giving us a taste of the struggles which both suffragists and suffragettes – didn’t know about the difference till then – faced in pursuing women’s suffrage.

Next on our list is the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven where they are exploring the life of Whitehaven’s Edith Brown a trailblazer in women’s healthcare and education. Watch this space….

In any event I am sure that I will be back in Keswick soon. Not only is it – to my mind – the best bus journey in England but I have a new walking book to add to my small collection.

Happy days.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

* Warning!!! Don’t listen to ‘The March of the Women’ unless you want it in your head all day … Shout, shout up with your song… aaaaargh!