Saturday, May 24, 2008

The best time to be here

All those cute little sayings, and bits of sayings spring (!) to mind - and I have no idea where any of them come from really.

Like: "Oh to be in England now that April's here ..." or is it now that Spring is here?

And "April showers bring May flowers ..." Well, that one seems to be quite true.

Today is a bit of a red letter day.

I am observing an old Australian tradition - I have hung washing outside on the washing line!

That was when I came to stop and look at all those May flowers. Our yard is a bit of a mess, all jungley and overgrown with weeds ...

but they are such pretty little weeds.

Being a good Oz, Peter headed off down the street to find our car and wash it - no outside taps and hoses here, just a good old bucket and sponge.

And then he did the British thing - off with the shirt and out catching some rays.

(Hee hee! He doesn't even know I took this one!)

The whole area certainly looks a lot nicer now that the trees have (many-coloured) leaves. This is the more ostentatious end of Unthank Road - all big houses with extensive gardens and no one needs to park in the street!

Our tight little corner is much nicer too now that the trees are all leafy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cheltenham and the Romantic Road

When we first tried to book a B&B in Cheltenham, everywhere we phoned was full. But then we chanced upon

Badger Towers

It had previously been called Beechworth Lawn Hotel, and then the owners discovered they couldn't use the term 'hotel' unless they had a bar. But they didn't want to be just Beechworth Lawn, sounds like a park or something.

Anyway, as you can see, it is a splendid house - one of many such houses in the beautiful town of Cheltenham.

This is a caricature of Peter, a retired university teacher, who runs Badger Towers. He is a most gracious host, eager to please and keen to chat and get to know his guests.

The food - full English breakfast in the morning - was excellent, and the rooms were bright and pleasant, and charmingly decorated - such as this colourful moulding around the ceiling.

And everywhere there were all sorts of badgery things!

The Romantic Road

We heard of the 'Romantic Road' when we were teaching English lessons at the Uni. There is a book that describes two routes out of Cheltenham winding through the Cotswolds villages taking the minor roads and lanes. If you buy the book (available apparently on the Internet or from Tourist Information) it presumably has maps and pictures. We didn't get around to doing that, so we only had a printout of the instructions (with comments and poems) from the free Internet version.

Even so we thought it would be worth giving it a try. We only got ourselves lost a couple of times when we couldn't find signposts or features specifically described in the book. There are two routes: "A Road for Today" is a circuit that goes to the north and east out of Cheltenham; and "A Road for Tomorrow" goes east and south. There are lots of villages where you can stop and get out and explore on foot, or you can just keep driving.

The Pumphouse

This is where the Road for Today starts.

Cheltenham is really called Cheltenham Spa, and (like the city of Bath) has hot springs, and this is where the rich and famous used to come for their baths. The day we called by there was a postcard collectors' fair going on inside.

Then we left Cheltenham and headed out into the beautiful country side. Spring was bursting out everywhere, and the weather was the warmest so far.

And there were places where we could get out and frolic along the public footpaths.


In the UK, it's very 'trendy' these days to move out of town and live in a village. There are three or four villages around the outskirts of Norwich where the with-it people reside. They go there, apparently, for the peace and quiet, or something like that. The villagers in the Cotswolds must abide by strict rules to keep the place picturesque and tourist-appealing.

As we've discovered before, picturesque doesn't always mean comfortable. Some of the villages with their tiny streets were jam-packed with cars, worse parking problems than here in the city.

And no supermarkets. People who live there really need to have a car to get to work and shop in the more civilized places.

How 'bout this wisteria vine, though, ay?

And blossoms everywhere, falling like snow in the sunshine. Oh to be in England ... and here we are!

So at this little old church in the village of ... oh bother, I forget ... ther church has some interesting gargoyles. Some of them are the usual demons and animals

But others have more human faces, obviously local personalities in various degrees of distress.

Out and about around Cheltenham

We went to church with my friends from 40 years ago in Devon.

David Mardon lived two doors away from us in the vicarage at Cullompton, where his father, Noreen's husband, was the vicar.

Trinity Church in Cheltenham looks like a regular CofE from the outside, but inside there was not a hint of the traditional.

The weather was threatening

and we'd seen plenty of 'the road' and the villages, so we wandered through the town.

And a very pleasant place it is too.

One or two rather odd pieces of art work, like this one.

The minotaur and the hare ... we walked around and around it a few times before we noticed this on the ground.

Then it got just too wet, so we wandered into the Regent Arcade, and took a look at the Wishing Fish Clock ... I think that was what it was called.

At the half-hour (and presumably on the hour too) it played music and the fish blew bubbles all over the place.

The movement of the clock seemed to be governed by these orange balls

Which dropped into the wheel, turned around and came out along another tube. The sun seems to be the hour 'hand' and the other hand points to the minutes of course.

Then there was the inevitable problem of where to find dinner on a wet Sunday evening. Most places in England still close on Sunday - earlier than usual, if not all day. We were reduced once again to pub food.

Not wanting to risk one of their tough-meat meals, Peter went for a big hot dog thing. Wow! That IS big.

Back Home again

Despite the odd shower, the weather was warm, and getting warmer. By the time we got back to Norfolk the outdoors thermometer built into our car was telling us it was 23 degree - positively summery.

Many of the fields we passed were bright, bright yellow - so bright that it almost hurt to look at them.

Noreen told us it was rapeseed flowers - I guess she would know. And it's not as easy as you'd expect to get a decent photo of it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A bit of a kafuffle

Just before going to Cheltenham for the long weekend, I discovered that some of the people I knew in Cullompton way back in the 60s are now living in Cheltenham.

So we called in to see elderly Noreen Mardon, widow of the late Jack Mardon who was the vicar of st Andrew's in Cullompton 40 years ago.

While we were lunching with her in her tiny basement flat, she noticed rather a lot of policemen had gathered in the street just outside. So we went out for a bit of a gawk and to find out what was going on.

It was Saturday afternoon, wasn't it? And a very important football match was about to be played - and the police were ready for trouble-makers. We counted 31 constables there at one time. The local team (Cheltenham) were about to be relegated if they didn't win this particular match.

There were several police dogs on short leashes, and they were excitable, barking and snapping - although they were mostly interested in each other, and in a man who tried to walk past with a kid on his shoulders. We asked the friendly bobbies what the dogs were trained to do. "Bite people," they replied.

Apparently the important game was in fact won, and everyone went home happy - except the other team which wasn't from around there ...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Eye Group

When teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), the best times are had with classes that are multi-cultural.

My main class at INTO UEA is "Foundation Group 'I'", and we have a lot of fun together. Not only are they a multi-cultural group, but they are all intelligent and creative. So meet the gang, or at least some of them.

These are my boys - and yes, they are all boys. Bryan (bottom right) is one of the many Chinese students who are reluctant to get a hair cut in the UK! Next to him is Andrew, from Colombia, and behind them are Kyrie (left) and Wilfred (right) both from China.

Here are my sweet Chinese girls - Leeco and Crystal

and Kico and Cecilia. Who could resist those eager little faces?

And then there are my African girls

Enoma - from my birth-country, Nigeria - and Amaraiah from Zambia. As you can see, they are both full of fun.

When we took this photo there were several students absent - Pauline (from China), Victoria (from Hong Kong), and Ecem (from Turkey).

It's a good mix, and lessons are never boring.