East, West, South and North

21 11 2010

Go get yourself a cuppa because it is time for a Lizzie catch up and what a busy month it has been, traversing the four corners of Great Britain. I did take more photos than appear below, a couple more are on flickr, I’ll add more when I get the opportunity.

East. Lincoln (England) 23-24 October. Lincoln sits in the East Midlands and is often overlooked in a London-centric England, which is a bit of a shame as it is a gem of a city.  It is one of the closest cities to where my parents live and as I was at my parents for both the obligatory birthday dinner (yes it is that time of year again), and as I had other necessary tasks to complete, a trip into Lincoln was required.  Sites in Lincoln that are particularly worthy of a visit include the Cathedral and the Castle, both of which originally date back to the 11th century.   One of my favourite places in Lincoln is Stokes, a cafe which sits on the High Bridge over the River Witham.  The bridge itself is the oldest bridge in the UK to still have buildings on it and dates to the 12th century.  From the windows you can look over the river (which is often decorated with swans) and the Empowerment sculpture (one of my favourite sites in Lincoln).  This shot is actually taken looking back towards High Bridge (which is obscured by trees) and the sculpture.  To add to the surreality of the moment the Merry-Go-Round was playing the Dambusters theme (617 Squadron were stationed in Lincolnshire, including at RAF Scampton which is not far from the city):

West. Caerdydd/Cardiff (Cymru/Wales) 30-31 October. I had no real plans when I booked my weekend in Caerdydd, other than a desire to return to the city since my trip last year for a Stereophonics’ concert at the Castle.  In I had a lovely time walking around the city.  The Welsh are high on my list of likes for a few reasons which are neither great nor grand but regardless are important to me, namely:

  • Ms Griffith. My teacher in 5th Form (History) and in 6th Form (Human Development).  She was originally from Cymru and was one of my favourite teachers at secondary school.  If I were to ever get into teaching it would be in part due to her, she was wicked cool.
  • Rugby. The Welsh take the game of Rugby Union as seriously and passionately as New Zealand and a Wales vs New Zealand fixture is always eagerly anticipated.  Unsurprisingly I am rather totally excited about the opportunity to go to the All Black game at the Millennium Stadium this Saturday.
  • Stereophonics. I’ve written about this band more than once and how much I like them, so enough said on this occasion.
  • Dr Who/Torchwood. Last time I visited Caerdydd I made a point of visiting Bae Caerdydd (where the fictional Torchwood facility is located) and the Doctor Who exhibition. I took many photos and was a total nerd.  It was great.  Here is a shot of Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru/Wales Millennium Centre taken on this trip (Torchwood fans will recognise it as the vicinity where the facility is located):

South.  Brighton (England)  7 November. I would say a day by the seaside, but a visit to the English seaside doesn’t really extend into Autumnal November.  Instead the day was spent hopping between cafes with a trip to the local museum thrown in for good measure. The museum was interesting, and had a rather eclectic, but enjoyable, array of exhibits. It was rather surreal (but lovely and heart cockle warming) to see a carved stern of a waka and a carved tiki from New Zealand amongst the artifacts.  Brighton is known, amongst other things, for its pier and seaside attractions, on an earlier visit I took this shot of a Merry-Go-Round sitting on the sea front before it was put to bed for the evening:

North.  Edinburgh (Scotland)  13-14 November. RUGBY.  That was the reason for the trip to Edinburgh: Scotland vs New Zealand at Murrayfield.  Scotland is one place that I have wanted to visit since moving here, and for some strange reason I hadn’t managed to get there until last weekend (though I had a brief wander around Jedburgh in 2008). Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to really appreciate Edinburgh on this occasion, so I anticipate a return trip sometime next year. I will definitely stay at the same hostel though, it had the most crazy-cool decor, including a baby grand piano and bust of Caracalla in the Posh Lounge and pictures of Hendrix and Marley in the Cool Lounge. My favourite little guy in the hostel was this fella I found lurking in the stairwell:

The match itself was well worth the trip up north, and along with yesterday’s game against Ireland, served as hearty appetizers for New Zealand vs Wales in Caerdydd this Saturday (where I will once again wave the New Zealand flag with gusto and pride).


Rugby & Rock Concerts

23 10 2010

Rugby and rock concerts.  Two pursuits of happiness that make for a contented Lizzie.  Last weekend was all about that particular combination with a rugby match at Wembley and not one, but two, Stereophonics concerts.

Amazingly I had not actually attended a rugby match here in the UK until last Saturday.  Considering I made a point of attending every possible Lions, Hurricanes and All Black game back in Wellington, this long gap in rugby attendance is rather uncharacteristic.  However, for the grand total of ten quid I found myself among 45,000+ other spectators for Saracens vs Leinster at Wembley.  Wembley is a stunning ground, and while Leinster took the victory over the home team (thanks to Sexton and to the delight of the Irish supporters around me), I was just a bit gutted that my camera wasn’t working because it was a truly gorgeous early Autumn’s day.  Well, I thought my camera wasn’t working.  I tried turning it on and got the message change battery pack. I thought this was a strange message as the last time I checked the battery (the day before) it was full but nevertheless I put it back in my bag.  It wasn’t till I got home that I found that the battery was fine, the camera was fine, it was just having a bit of a moment on me.  Shame, because there was a clear, crisp blue sky behind Wembley and you could see out over most of the City of London from the stadium – it would have made a lovely photo or two.  This disappointment was tempered somewhat by the Elvis impersonator I passed on the way to the ground singing Suspicious Minds. Awesome.

The Stereophonics performed their two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo with Word Gets Around on the Sunday night and Performance & Cocktails on the Monday night.  Not used to school night excursions two nights running, I was a zombie at work on the Tuesday, fuelled by tea and anything with sugar. 

I have been a bit of a mark for the ‘Phonics since I was but a school girl and – as I mentioned in this post – I have made a point of attending as many of their concerts as possible while I’m here in the UK.  The ‘Phonics are supreme live and these concerts were no exception.  Both nights started with Kelly telling anecdotes of Stuart Cable, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  I particularly appreciated the story of Stuart and their first ever gig at Wembley Stadium in 1999.  Stuart was big on rugby and the same day and time that the ‘Phonics were playing Wembley (supporting Aerosmith no less) was the same day and time that Wales were playing the ‘Boks.  This presented a dilemma for Stuart (and one with which I can sympathise).  Faced with a 60,000+ audience, Steven Tyler on one wing of the stage and Noel Gallagher on the other wing of the stage, Stuart solved his problem by taking a small portable telly on stage with him so to not miss the match.  Good on ya, mate. 

Highlights of the concerts?  For Sunday, one would be Kelly’s response for a request for Sex on Fire from someone in the audience. “F*#k your Sex on Fire” was his reply, easily one of the best quips of the night, week, month, year.  Thank you Mr Jones.  But seriously, closing with Bartender instead of Dakota (and similarly closing with Local Boy instead of Dakota on the Monday) was awesome.  Also well enjoyed was Too Many Sandwiches.  Back in the days of school uniforms and homework I wrote out the lyrics to this song in Carla’s leaving book – that was how much I liked it, so much so that I knew it off by heart and ten years on and I still know it by heart.  Also deserving an honourable mention was the Word Gets Around version of She Takes Her Clothes Off and the humble request that they play this version more often? Please and thank you.  Highlights for Monday night would be  Roll Up and Shine, Is Yesterday Tomorrow Today? Nice To Be Out, Plastic California and I Stopped to Fill My Car Up which ends with a particularly storming solo by Adam and worth hunting out online. 

Set list 17 October:

Chaplin/Tramp’s Vest/Thousand Trees/Carrot Cake & Wine/Chris Chambers/Tie Me Up & Tie Me Down/Same Sized Feet/Traffic/Goldfish Bowl/Check My Eyelids for Holes/Buy Myself a Small Plane/Poppy Day/Home to Me/She Takes Her Clothes Off/Too Many Sandwiches Encore 1: Billy Davy’s Daughter/Raymond’s Shop/Last of the Big Time Drinkers/Local Boy Encore 2: Pick a Part that’s New/Radio/Maybe Tomorrow/Have a Nice Day/Dakota/Bartender

Set list 18 October:

Roll Up & Shine/Bartender/Hurry Up & Wait/Pick a Part that’s New/Just Looking/Half the Lies You Tell Ain’t True/Radio/Fiddlers Green/T Shirt Suntan/Is Yesterday Tomorrow Today?/In My Day/A Minute Longer/Sunny Afternoon/Nice To Be Out/She Takes Her Clothes Off/Plastic California/I Stopped To Fill My Car Up Encore 1 Thousand Trees/Tramp’s Vest/Same Sized Feet/Too Many Sandwiches Encore 2: Traffic/Maybe Tomorrow/Have a Nice Day/Dakota/Local Boy

Lizzie meets an Angel

8 10 2010

The following is an account of what happened to me this Monday (4th October).  It was a timely reminder that there are people of grace and kindness all around us, even if there are times when we can’t see them for the crowds that surround us. 

Monday started early, I had a lot to do (even for a Monday) and there was a Tube strike to contend with and work around.  I thought I had arrived early enough at the Regent Street bus stop to miss the crush of people who would normally catch the tube to work but had opted (like me) to try their luck with the buses instead.  It didn’t take long before I realised that I had underestimated the situation.  Fearing that it was now or never, I managed to squeeze onto the third number 23 bus which stopped at Regent Street.  Relieved to be on my way, I found a spot on the floor near my feet for my backpack and grocery bag and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible amidst the crowd of Monday morning commuters.  Everything was fine for the first 30 minutes or so and then I began to feel unwell.

Pull yourself together girl

I tried telling myself

You’ll be fine

No such luck.  I began to feel as if I were no longer welcome in my own body and the bus around me began to change into a tunnel.  I awoke in the door well, lying on my back with an angelic commuter (there is no other way to describe her) holding my hand in both of hers, reassuring me that I’d be alright.  Confusion morphed into realisation as I slowly figured out what must have happened.  I felt something metallic under my head 

I must have hit my head when I landed

It was the first coherent thought that I could manage.  Shock began to set in and I felt my body start to tremble slightly.  The raw emotion of the past week (which I had done so well to mask up until that point) mixed with the shock and formed a tidal wave under which I felt overwhelmed

You’ll be alright

Reassured my Angel.  I felt tears began to warm my eyes and then slide down my cheeks.  I gripped her hand a little tighter.  The bus driver arrived at the back door

You alright love?

Someone told him what had happened, that I’d hit my head.  I felt unable to speak.

Should I call an ambulance?

I wasn’t sure, but I felt that right now wasn’t the time to be stoic.  I wasn’t the right person to assess whether or not I’d hurt myself.

Yeah, maybe, yes.

I managed to get out those three words out, though they felt strange and like someone else was talking.  The other commuters began to file off the bus as an ambulance was called.  I felt like a bizarre specimen in a science lab which everyone glances at but doesn’t want to be seen to have done so.  The bus driver reappeared at the back door.  My Angel remained by my side, holding my hand.  Not sure where to look, my let my gaze flit from my Angel, to my abdomen (watching as I breathed in and out, I was wearing red, my power colour), to the commuters as they left the bus.  A police officer who was passing by stopped and asked the driver what had happened.  He bent down to talk to me.

What’s your name?


You fell?


Even though I was still collecting myself  (I could only now feel blood tingling back into my fingers), I was beginning to feel stubbornly frustrated that I was only able to manage monosyllabic answers.

You two travelling together?

This time the question was directed at my Angel.  It occurred to me that I didn’t know where she had come from.  I couldn’t recall seeing her on the bus. 

No, I was walking by and I saw her fall

Her slight eastern european accent began to filter through, I noticed for the first time her ringlets of strawberry blonde hair and realised that the look of concern which I had first noticed about her hadn’t left her face.  I felt more tears slid down and drop onto my shoulders.  I heard the bus driver’s London accent again

They asked me how old you were

He waited for effect

I said 40

I felt a giggle escape from my body and then a smile.  I could hear sirens in the background.

Sirens? I get sirens?

The thought puzzled me and the moment felt immeasurably surreal.  I had heard plenty of sirens during my time  in London.  I never thought I’d hear them ringing through the city for me.  The police officer remarked

I think these are for you

Before adding with a reassuring smile

You’re getting well looked after – Police, Ambulance…

The ambulance arrived and one of the medics looked me over. All the while my Angel remained by my side, the last commuter left on the bus. 

You’re going to survive, we’ll just take you to the ambulance for a couple of small tests

She followed just behind me as I slowly made my to the ambulance.  I stopped at the ambulance door

Thank you

Those words seemed horribly inadequate

I wouldn’t have left you

Was her reply, her reassurance that I would have never had to pass through that moment in my life alone.  I felt tears prick my eyes again.  I had not before experienced such grace and kindness from a complete stranger.  I felt humbled by it.  Words failed me and it was the best I could do to say

Thank you.

Remembrance 2009

16 11 2009

While typing this, there has been footage shown on the BBC of the repatriation of two more British soldiers killed in Afghanistan . Their bodies were flown into RAF Lyneham and processed through Wootton Bassett. This was the 99th time that this repatriation ceremony has taken place. A very real reminder that the act of remembrance is not confined to the wars of a century past, but also of those which are very much a part of our present.

There are few events that can cause an entire nation to pause and reflect. There are even less that can cause such reflection on a worldwide scale. There are even fewer still that can achieve this on a regular basis. The acts of remembrance for the fallen of the Great War, and all subsequent conflicts since then, that take place on Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are one of those rare events.

As I’ve mentioned briefly in a previous post, history is a powerful force: events of the past teach us much about who we are and what we can be. The yearly acts of remembrance play an important role in history’s lessons.

Like many others in the UK, I attended a service of remembrance on Remembrance Sunday (8th November). I watched the local parade as it made its way to the high street, the subsequent wreath laying ceremony at the cenotaph, and attended the remembrance service with my Nana (who served in the WAAF during World War II).

I was also fortunate this year to be able to watch the coverage of the Armistice Day service from Westminster Abbey. This abbey is home to grave of the Unknown Warrior: an unidentified British solider from the battlefields of Europe who was repatriated and buried there on Armistice Day 1920. Eighty-nine years later, Britain marked the first year of remembrance where no British survivors of the Great War were present (the last of these veterans passing away during the preceding twelve months). As such this year marked not only the remembrance of the fallen of the Great War, but also the passing of the generation that fought it and survived. As the years between our present and their past grow in number, so does the importance of remembrance. Remembering the reasons why they fought, the circumstances under which they died and the lessons which we can learn from this turbulent period of our history. The importance of this inheritance was summed up by the Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the conclusion of his sermon during the Westminster service:

The generation that has passed walked forward with vision and bravery and held together the bonds of our society, our continent, our Commonwealth through a terrible century. May we learn the lessons they learned; and God save us from learning them in the way they had to.

This year the act of remembrance continued past Armistice Day. The following Sunday (15th November) I attended the ceremony for the laying up of the standard for the Boston and South Lincs Branch of the Burma Star Association at St Botolph’s Church in Boston (a.k.a the Boston Stump). A close family friend is a member of this branch, having served in the Burma Campaign during World War II; he also acts as standard-bearer for the branch. Local branches of The Normandy Veterans Association and The Royal British Legion Women’s Section were also laying up their standards at this ceremony.

The laying up of a standard isn’t a particularly long ceremony, but it is incredibly poignant. Once laid up, a standard is not carried again, it is not paraded again. It lies in its sacred resting place until it turns to dust. Before attending this ceremony, I attempted to find the plan for the service online, so I would know what to expect. Maybe I wasn’t doing it right, because I couldn’t find one. So I am going to close this post with the ceremony which occurred on Sunday, so that those who haven’t been to one can have an idea of what it entailed.

Laying Up of the Standard

Procession The standards were processed down the nave to the altar during the final hymn of the preceding service (Sung Eucharist) by the standard bearers and their escorts.
Act of Remembrance The bugler sounded the Last Post, during which the standards were dipped.
The Exhortation This was spoken by a member of the British Legion:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them.

The congregation responded:

We will remember them.

The Kohima epitaph was read:

When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today

Silence A minute silence was held. Followed by the bugler sounding the Reveille, during which the standards were raised to the “carry” position.
The Standards Are Laid Up The Burma Star Association’s standard was the third and final standard laid up in this ceremony. A member of each branch took their standard, stepped forward and handed it to the clergy saying:

I commit this sacred standard of the [Boston and South Lincs Branch of the Burma Star Association] to you as Vicar of the Parish for safe keeping in this Holy Church for evermore

The standard is accepted and Reverend Robin Whitehead responded:

I accept the charge

And continued with:

May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace

The congregation responded:

And rise in glory

Organ Voluntary The Imperial March by Elgar was played.