Manchester 2011 – Day 3

Today the sun is shining and it could turn out to be a scorcher. We caught the bus to town where we arrived around 9:30.

Morning in Piccadilly Gardens
Morning in Piccadilly Gardens
Today may turn out to be a scorcher

Tigger wanted to go to Bury as that is where here grandfather came from. The best way to go there was by tram so we bought day tickets, as these will allow unlimited tram travel throughout the day. We have been on trams in other cities but this will be our first experience of Manchester’s variant. Trams have the advantage that they came move slowly through the town like buses and travel at speed like trains in the suburbs. As cities expand and acquire satellites or connect with neighbouring towns, this seems an ideal transport system.

Riding the tram
Riding the tram
Here we are approaching one of the small out-of-town tram stations

We managed to occupy front seats and thus see the track ahead and the driver’s actions – all interesting and instructive. As we left the centre of Manchester, the tram tracks ran along with the railway lines but then diverted onto a dedicated path where stops were spaced out and the tram ran at speed.

The tram arrives at Bury
The tram arrives at Bury
Bury is the terminus and from here the tram returns to Manchester

The tram network seems to me very efficient and a speedy way to travel. Like the London Underground, having dedicated tracks means that, unlike buses, trams have no traffic to contend with, at least when away from the town centre.

The Art Picture House
The Art Picture House
Built in 1923, it is today a pub

Leaving the tram at Bury, almost the first building we saw was the Art Picture House, once a cinema and now a pub. The interior retains much of the luxurious – not to say luxuriant – decor of the cinema, though the circle and the boxes today accommodate spotlights, not spectators.

The proscenium arch
The proscenium arch
Among the pub clutter the proscenium still stands

To their credit, Wetherspoons have preserved much of the original fabric and decor. Despite the inevitable clutter of tables, chairs and other furnishings, the proscenium arch still stands, resplendent in bright paint and gilt work.

Boxes with chandeliers
Boxes with chandeliers
No longer used to seat cinema-goers

The boxes with their splendid chandeliers are no longer used for seating. They hold an array of lamps and projectors which illuminate the old cinema to best advantage.

The circle
The circle
The circle is also dark and empty

Similarly, the circle, its front decorated with gilded garlands and cherubs, is dark and empty.

The toilets
The toilets
Modern but with gilding around the mirrors

An effort has been made even in the toilets (usually not the most enjoyable part of a British pub) which though modern, have gilding around the mirrors reflecting that in the theatre. (Ignore the plastic bin!)

East Lancashire Railway station
East Lancashire Railway station
Now run by volunteers

As we explored, we caught sight of an advertisement for the East Lancashire Railway and transport museum. We sought out their premises, the old Bury Bolton Street station, thinking we might visit the museum and even ride the steam train. No chance. Both the railway and the museum are closed on Monday and Tuesday, a pattern that we find often repeated in these parts. To be fair, I imagine that running an organization with volunteers does mean that you cannot always run a full-time programme.

This is not (really) a castle
This is not (really) a castle
A Victorian folly on the site of the original fortified manor house

As we went about, we caught glimpses of what looked like a castle and so, fresh from our disappointment with the East Lancashire Railway, we went to take a look at the castle. Unfortunately, it is not a real castle but a Victorian and Edwardian mock-up on the site of the original fortified manor house built by Sir Thomas Pilkington in 1469. Sir Thomas backed the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses (i.e. he supported the Yorkist cause) and in punishment lost his house in 1489. Thereafter it fell into ruin and was pillaged for building materials. A drill hall was built on the site and this mock castle added in the Victorian era.

Local hero
Local hero
Sir Robert Peel 1788-1850) was born here

Sir Robert Peel, famous for creating the first police force, was born in Bury and is commemorated in this monument. He was also active in politics during a fairly turbulent period and if that sort of thing interests you, you will find details here.

John Kay Memorial
John Kay Memorial
Memorializes the inventor of the flying shuttle and provides a
meeting point for Bury’s youth

Though not born in Bury itself (he was a son of Walmsley, a little to the north), John Kay has achieve a place of honour in the town. This striking monument, by the sculptor John Cassidy (1860-1939), was erected in 1908.

John Kay panel Power loom panel
Two of the memorial’s panels
One shows John Kay himself and the other the power loom

John Kay (1704- c. 1779) took out a patent in 1733 for what became known as the fly-shuttle or flying shuttle for use with weaving frames. Hitherto, working the shuttle had required two weavers who tossed it back and forth between them. The new device required only one worker.

John Kay did not invent the power loom – this was patented in 1785 by Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) – but it is claimed that the John Kay’s shuttle was one of the technologies that helped Cartright create that machine. A panel to the power loom thus appears on the memorial.

Drinking fountain 1907
Drinking fountain 1907
“The gift of John Barlow J.P. of Wellfield”

Having had lunch in a cafe in a street picturesquely named The Rock, we decided it was time to move on. We felt that Tigger’s grandfather who had left Bury to fight in the First World War and had spent the rest of his life in the south of England, would recognize little or nothing of his town in modern Bury.

This is not a car crash...
This is not a car crash…
…but one of a set of imaginative public garden flower beds

Not that Bury was devoid of interest, as I hope the foregoing demonstrates. As well as historical traces and memorabilia there were imaginative ideas such as the council flower beds of which the above is an example.

Altrincham Clock Tower
Altrincham Clock Tower
An understated but elegant design

We took the tram back to Manchester and sought caffeine-based comfort in Caffè Nero, where we hatched a plan to go to Altrincham. Why? Well, for one thing, we had never been there…

"Historic" Market Quarter
“Historic” Market Quarter
History? Where?

The clock tower (built in 1880 and now listed) was an early promise but what we found was a town, like so many, that are pleasant enough if you are satisfied with shopping “precincts” dominated by the usual suspects and buildings that are brick boxes devoid of character and in which the label “historic” is affixed to areas from which all traces of history have been carefully expunged.

Shopping precinct
Shopping precinct
Devoid of character and dominated by the usual suspects

The highlight of the visit was the discovery of the County Galleries, an art shop run by an amiable gentleman in what was once the premises of the County Bank.

Gallery interior
Gallery interior
Once the public area of a bank

As an ex-employee of the same he was able to give us some interesting details of the bank’s history and he kindly allowed us to take photos of the interior even though we made no purchases. Such people are a pleasure to meet and add greatly to the enjoyment of our explorations.

Round window
Glazed door Portal
Round window and two doors
An inner beautifully glazed door and the street portal

The original bank counter which originally ran down the middle of the room has been taken apart, moved to the back and reassembled.

"Two Geese"
“Two Geese”
A sculpture by Sean Crampton

This sculpture of two geese stands in the middle of Goose Green, to which we made a brief foray before taking the tram once more. (We were determined to get the most from our tickets!)

Altrincham did possess some interesting old buildings whose size and design suggest that there was once commerce and plenty of money here. To judge from boarded up premises, though, it is no longer as affluent as it once was. Somehow, the town as a whole failed to impress me.

The Eccles Cross
The Eccles Cross
Named after the actual Eccles Cross, a religious symbol

This is where we arrived, at Eccles. There is, or rather was, an actual cross dating from Anglo-Saxon times which was destroyed, as rumour has it, by a lorry.

The Eccles Cross
The Eccles Cross
Today’s cross includes a drinking fountain

Site of the Eccles cake shop

Today’s cross is a curious artifact which incorporates a (non-functioning) drinking fountain. I don’t know the origins and age of this cross.

The town of Eccles became famous for the cake named after it which was first made by James Birch in 1793. Since then “Eccles cakes” are made all over the world but true enthusiasts of course only accept those made here as the genuine article. Sadly, James’s shop no longer exists and even the position of the blue plaque is approximate.

St Mary's Parish Church
St Mary’s
The parish church of Eccles

The church incorporates parts of an original Norman forerunner. It has a rather nice clock though I find the church as a whole has a rather brooding look.

Sundial
Sundial
An unusual form of sundial

In the churchyard is this unusual urn-shaped sundial. I don’t know it’s history and, as you can perhaps see, it’s broken.

Aboard the tram
Aboard the tram
The trams are walk-through like oversized London bendy buses

Time was getting on and even though we hadn’t explored Eccles completely we felt it was time to take the tram back to Manchester.

The Midland Hotel
The Midland Hotel
A hotel in the grand style

Back in Manchester, we walked from the station, looking for somewhere to have supper. Along the way, we could not help admiring the wonderful buildings that are to be seen there, such as the Midland Hotel, built between 1898 and 1903.

107 years old...
107 years old…
…and the tiles glisten like new

The intricately patterned glazed tile work is magnificent and has withstood the ravages of over a century of Manchester weather with barely a mark. The building, by Charles Trubshaw, is of course listed.

Celebrating the arts
Celebrating the arts
This panel is in honour of architecture, appropriately enough

There is a set of panels celebrating the arts of which the above, honouring architecture under the names of Palladio and Wren, is one. All in all, it is a building that deserves to be counted among the jewels of Manchester.

From huge to tiny
From huge to tiny…
Mr Thomas’s Chop House

At the other end of the scale is the tiny (at least, tiny in comparison to the surrounding buildings) Mr Thomas’s Chop House, an elaborately styled late Victorian pub. You cannot walk through this city without being struck at every moment by some intriguing sight.

For supper, we were lazy and went to Frankie & Bennie’s which, if the food isn’t all that good, were at least giving a 25% reduction for Monday. It was now raining but we bravely went to Tesco to replenish our stock of breakfast instant porridge before finding our way to Oldham Road and catching the bus back to the hotel.

Bury War Memorial
Bury War Memorial
Bronze panel

Our "tram day" had been a busy one and we had kept moving, travelling over the greater part of the tram network. The service is impressive and an encouragement to other cities thinking of bringing back the tram in a new incarnation. All of the towns visited had something to offer and made the day a full but interesting one.

Mythical beasts
Mythical beasts
Decorative tiles, Midland Hotel, Manchester

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Manchester 2011 – Day 2

The hotel room turned out to be very warm, too warm. We fiddled with the air conditioning but it was still too warm. We ended up sleeping on top of the bed clothes. I had strange dreams about people and talking cats.

A face looks down at passers-by
A face looks down at passers-by
Luxuriant decoration with dramatic faces are features of Manchester’s
classic buildings

Many hotels these days give you a choice of room with or without breakfast. As the cost of breakfast is usually excessive and emphasises non-vegetarian items such as bacon and sausage, we take just the room and make our own arrangements for breakfast. Even going to a cafe is generally cheaper than the hotel breakfast. On this trip, we are experimenting with making our own breakfast of tea and instant porridge (bought from Marks & Spencer) before leaving for the day. That way, we save both time and money.

A dull Sunday in Manchester
A dull Sunday in Manchester
A day to be prepared for all eventualities

The sky is cloudy today and because of the heat in the room, even with the window open, it is hard to determine how warm or cold it is outside. There is also a possibility of rain, to judge by the dark clouds, so we had better go prepared for all eventualities. Once in the street, we found it was chilly and with a damp feeling in the air. A bus came and deposited us at Piccadilly Gardens. From there we walked to the station.

Waiting for the train
Waiting for the train
A view from the platform, Manchester Piccadilly

Here, we enquired the prices of various rail tickets. It’s often advantageous to buy a rover ticket that gives us 3 or 4 days unlimited travel during the week but for today, as we are unsure how often we will take the train, we contented ourselves with day returns, our destination being another great city – Liverpool. We would have had to wait nearly an hour for a direct train but we discovered we could take the Stockport train, leaving in a few minutes, and change at Oxford Road. This we did, and soon found ourselves on the second train, trundling through green countryside under a cloud-covered sky.

Ken Dodd OBE Bessie Braddock MP
Local heroes
At Liverpool Lime Street station stand Ken Dodd OBE and Bessie Braddock MP, sculpted by Tom Murphy

By the time we reached Liverpool, the weather was clearing. This was a relief, as it is no fun trying to explore a city in the rain.

A busker
A busker
Street musicians prefer fine weather too

It was probably also a relief to the buskers, like the one above, who, unlike Gene Kelly, do not enjoy singing in the rain.

The World Museum
The World Museum
Liverpool has many such splendid buildings

As we usually do, we set out to wander and explore and take photos. Liverpool is a very rewarding city in which to do that as there are many beautiful and interesting sights to enjoy at every turn.

Church Street
Church Street
A pleasant pedestrian precinct in which to go shopping

We have been to Liverpool before but it is too big for anyone to get to know it in a few hours, so there are always new discoveries to be made.

Radio City mast
Radio City
Because of its huge size, the mast of Liverpool’s Radio City seems to follow you around

We decided on this visit, however, to venture outside Liverpool itself and to visit Port Sunlight in the Wirral. This is a beautiful and fascinating place to explore.

A leafy street
A leafy street in Port Sunlight

We caught a bus to go there, and the trip started with a ride through the tunnel under the Mersey, rather like going through the Blackwall Tunnel in London but a lot longer.

Red-roofed houses

Black-roofed houses
Housing styles are varied in Port Sunlight

Port Sunlight was founded from 1888 by William Hesketh Lever in association with his brother James as a site for the manufacture of his soap and for the model village constructed to house his workers.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
Our first glimpse of the gallery which enchants with the beauty of the building as much as with the beauty and
interest of the contents

The story of how William, a successful travelling salesman for his father’s wholesale grocery business, became an even more successful soap manufacturer and philanthropist is too long to be told here but there are many good biographies and other sources of information.

Main gallery
Main gallery
The exhibition space is light and airy and contains an immense range of art works and other objects

The living conditions of the workers were far in advance of what was normal in the country in general at that time – the village even acquired its own cottage hospital. William and his wife mixed with the inhabitants, organizing and taking part in many of the community’s celebrations and events. Elizabeth Lever would often deliver birthday presents to village children in person.

Early 19th century Italian chair
Early 19th century Italian chair
Part of a set of settee and chairs

William became a baronet in 1911 and his wife then became Lady Lever. In 1917, he became Baron Leverhulme, the name combining his own with that of his wife, Elizabeth Ellen Hulme, who had been his childhood sweetheart and whom he loved deeply.

Androcles and the lion
Androcles and the lion
You will not be surprised that this marble of Androcles removing the thorn from the lion’s paw is one of my
favourite exhibits

Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1913, a devastating blow for William. He created the gallery in her honour in 1922, naming it the Lady Lever Gallery, as that had been her title when she died.

Midsummer Morn, Bushy Park
Midsummer Morn, Bushy Park
Painted by George Dunlop Leslie in 1905, this picture shows the Diana Fountain

The Gallery abounds with exquisite paintings by famous and important artists. Unfortunately, the light which make the place so agreeable also cause reflections on the glass covering the pictures, making it impossible to get a good photo. I have chosen this one as an example because we recently visited the very spot from which is was painted (see Chestnut Sunday in Bushy Park).

Caracalla
Caracalla
Bust of the Italian school, 18th century

This bust of Roman emperor Caracalla (ruled 209-17), fratricide and general bad egg, exudes personality and an aura of evil power. A striking piece of work  but not one for the living room.

Glass dome
Glass dome
One of the domes that cast their magical light on the exhibits

The gallery building is an object of beauty and worth visiting for its own sake. The visitor should appreciate it along with the works that are exhibited within it. This dome is one of the elegant features that attract admiration.

Specimen cabinet, c 1830
Specimen cabinet, c 1830
An English cabinet made of many different woods, possibly for a collector of botanical specimens

As you can see, photography is allowed in the gallery, the only exception being the special visiting exhibitions which are not owned by the gallery itself.

Oliver Cromwell Charles I
Joined in enmity
Neighbouring busts of Cromwell and Charles I

Outside the gallery are more works to admire but these are of a more monumental nature, as we shall see.

The Leverhulme Memorial Figures beside the memorial
The Leverhulme Memorial
A lively group of figures stands at its base

William, Lord Leverhulme, died of pneumonia in 1925. The Leverhulme Memorial, designed by Sir William Reid Dick, was unveiled in his honour in 1930. The figure at the top represents Inspiration and those at the base, Industry, Education, Charity and Art. It is an elegant and fitting tribute to a man who was in many ways ahead of his time and, I might add, ahead of ours.

Port Sunlight War Memorial
Port Sunlight War Memorial
Port Sunlight suffered from the First World War as did the rest
of the country

The First World War brought suffering and loss to Port Sunlight with over 500 dead, without counting injuries and broken health and damage to property. Destroyed houses were rebuilt according to their original plan and the War Memorial, designed by Sir William Goscombe John, a friend of William Lever, was unveiled in 1921. It impresses with its size (it is 38 ft tall and 80 ft wide) but also with the remarkable bronze sculptures depicting wartime scenes.

Woman and children Navy scene
Scenes from the memorial
Here are just two scenes but all are admirable for their liveliness and
accuracy of depiction

The war memorial offers a panorama of the violence and suffering of war, both on the battlefield and on the home front. The long list of names on the roll of honour is eloquent testimony to the losses sustained by this community.

The Girls' Club (1913)
The Girls’ Club (1913)
Many buildings have changed their usage in the course of time and this one is the museum and visitor centre today

There were many more buildings that would have been worth seeing and describing if we had had time. All were beautifully designed and show, I think, the mood of optimism in which they were built. Even though the houses today can be bought on the market, something of the original community spirit still survives. We could have spent much more time here but now had to return to Liverpool.

Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral
This is the Anglican cathedral started in 1904

Back in Liverpool, Tigger wanted to see the Cathedral, so we found a bus that would take us there. The original design was by Giles Glbert Scott, though it was changed somewhat during the building. The foundation stone was laid in 1904 but the job was completed only some decades later. A modern building, to my eyes it looks more like a factory or a power station, though I know it has its admirers.

Cathedral graveyard
Cathedral graveyard
The graveyard lies at the bottom of a hollow, almost a well

Beside the cathedral is a strange sunken graveyard. I don’t think burials take place there nowadays but it must has been a trial carrying the coffin down to the bottom of the hollow.

A Case History
A Case History
That is what this accretion of pretend luggage is called

We now set out on foot, seeing what there was to be seen, and along the way we passed this heap of pretend luggage, consisting of trunks and suitcases modelled in cement or something similar. The title of the work is “A Case History”, obviously a rather feeble pun. The author is John King who has provided a map showing that certain cases and trunks “belong” to certain famous people. Whether there is some deep meaning in this or whether it is simply an attempt to attract celebrity backing, I do not know.

Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Philharmonic Dining Rooms
A splendid looking pub and dining place once frequented by the famous

A little further on, we came upon the Philharmonic Dining Rooms with an ornate gilded gate. Unfortunately, it was closed so we couldn’t look to see whether it was as interesting inside.

The Catholic Cathedral
The Catholic Cathedral
Officially, it is known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, but it also has a more popular nickname

Thus we found ourselves in the vicinity of this rather individualistic building. It is known as the Catholic Cathedral or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ and the King. In Liverpool, well known buildings and monuments tend to acquire vernacular names as well. In line with that, this ecclesiastical construct is known to many as “Paddy’s Wigwam”. The reader can no doubt work out why.

Gate to China Town
Gate to China Town
This spectacular Chinese gate indicates the entry to China Town

We tried to get a bus back to the centre but, for some reason, all the bus stops along the road we were on were closed, so we ended up walking a very long way. Our reward was to encounter this splendid Chinese gate, indicating that we had arrived at China Town.

Chinese lions guard the gate
Chinese lions guard the gate
There was also a pair of Chinese lions on either side of the main road

The street names were printed in both English and Chinese characters. I wondered whether the names were the same in both languages or whether the Chinese have different names. Without an interpreter, I have no way of knowing.

Lamp dragon
Lamp dragon
The street lamps are decorated with dragons

We unfortunately didn’t have time to explore China Town but we did now manage to hail a bus and it took us to the station where we caught a train back to Manchester.

The Palace Tower
The Palace Tower
The tower of the Palace Hotel is a famous
landmark

Now, just because we were back in Manchester, it was evening, we were tired and were on our way back to the hotel, there was no reason not to go on looking around and capturing any sights worthy of attention! Among those we caught were the Palace Hotel.

Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel
The elegantly colourful entrance to the Palace Hotel

As well as a tall tower, visible from a distance and lit this evening by the setting sun, the Palace Hotel possesses this elegant and colourful entrance, reminiscent of a Moorish palace. There are many such gems waiting to be discovered in this city.

The Lass o' Gowrie
The Lass o’ Gowrie
A well known pub in “Little Ireland”

My last shot of the day was this romantic (code for “underlit”!) view of a well known Manchester pub called the Lass o’ Gowrie. Built sometime in the 19th century (I haven’t managed to discover exactly when) in a quarter of the city known as “Little Ireland” because of the number of Irish immigrants who settled there, it was named after Lady Carolina Nairne. Why was a pub in an Irish district named after a Scottish titled lady? A sketch of an answer may be found here.

Our next and final stop was our overly warm hotel room where we made tea, sorted our photos, mulled over the day, and rested ready for more adventures on the morrow!

Copyright © 2012 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Manchester 2011 – Day 1

We got up this morning to find a dry and sunny day awaiting us. Last-minute packing and chores done, we caught a 476 bus to Euston station where we arrived with enough time in hand to consume our usual breakfast (porridge, croissants and coffee) before boarding our train on platform 6. Our reserved seats are at the end of a carriage. This has the advantage of easy access and exit, and enables us to keep an eye on our luggage, but the disadvantage that the seat has no window, meaning that we have to peer between heads and over seat backs to see outside.

Manchester Piccadilly
Manchester Piccadilly
We arrived at this station and also departed from it on some of our trips

As we run north, the clouds gather and by the time we reach Stoke-on-Trent, it is raining determinedly. We are also behind schedule having earlier been diverted onto the slow track for a while because of line problems. Fortunately, this is not a courier run but a holiday so delays, though a nuisance, can be taken calmly.

The train did not manage to make up its delay and we drew into Manchester Piccadilly station around 11:25. By now, we were glad to see, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining between clouds.

A figure reclines...
A figure reclines…
…atop a building in Manchester

Because we had luggage and were uncertain of the direction to take for the hotel, we treated ourselves to a cab. In the advertisement, the hotel, the Holiday Inn, claimed to be in a central location though the address, 888 Oldham Road, did give us pause for thought. As the cab proceeded, it became clear that the hotel was further out from centre than we had been led to believe. That is quite an important consideration if, like us, you do not have a car but are obliged to use public transport.

The Holiday Inn
The Holiday Inn
The hotel is not “central” as its publicity claims

As hotel rooms go, this one is satisfactory, though the mood at reception was perfunctory and not particularly welcoming. The layout is obviously designed for people with cars: the entrance is around the corner from the main road and you have to walk across the car park to reach the main entrance. Because of its bleak setting in an apparently deserted industrial zone and the tall iron railings around the perimeter, we refer to it as Stalag Grimshaw, after the name of the nearby Grimshaw Lane bus stop.

Spot the fake tree
Spot the fake tree
A metal tree stands in Piccadilly Gardens

We got settled in, made tea and had a little rest. The makings of tea and coffee are provided but we always bring our own, so I was able to enjoy a mug of good strong Russian Caravan! From the stop near the hotel, there is a bus roughly every 10 minutes which takes us into town. Depending on exactly where you want to go, the journey is about 5 to 10 minutes. Though it is a nuisance having to take the bus each time (and again on our return), we have endured worse on other occasions.

River Irwell
River Irwell
A view from the Albert Bridge

We reached town at about 1:15 and looked around for lunch. We plumped for PizzaExpress which currently has a lunchtime offer of two courses for £10. The waiter was everything that the hotel reception was not – welcoming, friendly and helpful. Other people we have met have also been cheerful and amiable so let’s hope that is a trend set to continue.

After lunch we did as we usually do and went for an exploratory ramble, seeing what there was to see. We had been to Manchester before so some things were familiar to us and some were new. Manchester, like several other cities we know and appreciate, runs a free bus service in the central area. In fact, Manchester does better than most by providing not one, but three free routes. These buses offer a good way to explore the centre.

Whigs and Tories
Whigs and Tories
Politics and the people at the People’s History Museum

Our ride took us near the People’s History Museum so we went in and visited it. The theme of the museum is the struggle to achieve civil rights and decent living standards for the mass of the population against the jealous retention of wealth and power by a corrupt minority. This was rather appropriate for me as I am currently reading Emmeline Pankhurst‘s account of her struggle for women’s suffrage, My Own Story, which is closely interlinked with the theme of the museum.

Banner of the Suffrage Atelier
Banner of the Suffrage Atelier
The Atelier, founded by artists in London, ran from 1909 to 1914

We asked whether we could take photos are were told that we could as long as we signed a disclaimer saying we would not sell, or make copies for sale, of any photos. We then asked if the photos could be posted on my blog. I was asked write on the form, under "Purpose" that the photos were for my blog. However, the assistant also said I should be careful because some items on display were covered by copyright. That was hardly helpful as there is no way for me to know which are so covered and which are not. All I can do is post and hope that my usual copyright notice covers all eventualities.

The Co-operative Society
The Co-operative Society
A display celebrating the foundation of the Co-operative Society

The message that I draw from the museum – and from Emmeline Pankhurst’s book – is that we are extremely fortunate to be living in the aftermath of those struggles and to be enjoying the life that those campaigners fought for, often bitterly, and at great cost to themselves. There is, however, a darker message that we ignore at our peril, namely that these gains are by no means irreversible – take a look around the world and see many cases of their being undone – and that corruption and selfishness are still rife in the corridors of power. In the spurious name of "security", government has already undone many of our hard won freedoms and will continue to do so unless we stand firm against this.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs
The Tolpuddle Martyrs
Is there a lesson here for us today?

After the museum, we returned to the centre, stopping occasionally for tea or coffee, until we felt it was time to return to the hotel. We then had a decision to make: should we have supper now and then go back to the hotel; or go to the hotel now and come out again later? I was not hungry but neither did I fancy coming out again later. What should we do?

SilverTiger at work
SilverTiger at work
Photo by Tigger

Tigger then pulled the rabbit of lateral thinking from the hat: we went into a small supermarket and bought food to take back to the hotel. Problem solved!

Now all I have to do is upload and catalogue my photos, put on charge our menagerie of electronic devices, and then I can relax and look forward to further adventures tomorrow.

Lion face decorations
Lion face decorations

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Departure looms…

The last few weeks have been hectic with regard to blogging. This is because I fell badly behind, firstly as a result of our "staycation" and then because a number of further outings not only provided material for posts but also got in the way of writing it all up! I subsequently worked hard to catch up, knowing that this week was the deadline.

Why was this week the deadline? Well, because this weekend we are going away again and the cycle will start over!

For the next 10 days or so there will be no new posts, though these will appear retrospectively as I manage to write up our travels and explorations.

Tram
Tram
Trams are a feature of the city we are visiting

Where are we going? As usual, I will not say until we get back but I will leave a couple of easy photographic clues. The first one appears above: the city is known for its trams (but then, so are several cities).

Arcade
Arcade
This Victorian arcade enchanted us on a
previous visit

Our destination is a city but, although we shall be staying there, we shall also make excursions into the surrounding area. We have visited this city before and on a previous trip we discovered this lovely Victorian arcade and had a cup of tea in a cafe there.

Those clues are probably pretty easy to crack and there are no prizes so you can give your answer in a comment if you wish :) Confirmation and further news when we return.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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How do you read ebooks?

I remember when, some years ago, the idea of the electronic book was first mooted. Nominal plans showed a box-shaped object, unlike the wafer-thin "ereaders" of today. There was a good deal of scepticism as to whether such a device would prove successful commercially, let alone replace the traditional paper book. Then it seemed to slip from public notice.

Now, a few decades later, we find ourselves in the midst of what might be called the "eBook Revolution", when, for the first time, sales of books in electronic form are reported to have overtaken paper book sales. It would be hard for even the most hardened sceptic to retain his scepticism in the face of the current success of the electronic book. Like the PC and the mobile phone before it, it is here to stay and, though we might enjoy the feeling of novelty for a little while longer, we shall soon find ourselves wondering, as we do with those other devices, how we ever managed without it.

Looking on Amazon and other booksellers’ Web sites, I see that prices of ebooks have fallen, sometimes quite dramatically. In fact, the electronic version of a book is often cheaper than the paper version. But that’s not all: the ereader provides us with a comfortable way to read all those free books out there. Organizations like Project Gutenberg have been labouring away for years transposing out-of-copyright books into electronic form, but reading them was always slightly inconvenient in that you had to read them off the PC screen or print them out on paper. Now, suddenly, with the ereader, they have come into their own.

Even if you do not possess an ereader, you can still read ebooks: many sites offer you free ereaders that you can install on your PC, laptop or tablet PC. This isn’t as good as it sounds, however, for most of these are designed to get you to buy books from the company concerned and will let you download books from elsewhere only reluctantly or not at all. What we really want – and what we should insist on – is a reader that can download from any site and read books that have been stored on our computers and other devices.

I was fairly sceptical about ebooks until recently. I still believe that you cannot beat a "proper" book on paper. The look, the feel, the fact that you can flick back and forth between text, illustrations, index, etc by simply sticking your finger between the pages are qualities that the ebook cannot match. Not yet, anyway. However, if your book consists of a straight narrative without pictures or diagrams, then the ebook is perfectly acceptable.

Having obtained your ebook, though, what is the best way to read it? One obvious answer is by buying one of the electronic ereaders currently available on the market. Their prices are fairly modest (depending on how well stuffed your wallet is, of course) but you may still hesitate to fork out the money if you have little experience of ebooks and are not sure the expense will be justified.

This was the question that I faced myself. Initially sceptical about ebooks, I now wanted to try them out but was not ready to buy an ereader until I was certain that the expense was justified. There was, however, a solution. It was sitting on my desk in front of me: my smartphone!

In a previous post I mentioned the Ibis Reader. This is an online reader and provider of free ebooks. The list of available titles is not impressive but Ibis Reader has qualities that make it stand out from the crowd. It ought to be better known. As with most online facilities, you start by creating an account. All this requires is a username and password. This is simply to gain you your own bookshelf where your uploaded books are kept.

Once you have your account, you can load your bookshelf with books. You can obtain these from anywhere. There are books available on the Ibis Reader site but you can obtain books from other sites. The easiest way to do this is to download a book in epub format onto your PC, and then upload it to your Ibis Reader account. Then you read it!

The disadvantage of this system is that you have to be online to read. No reading on the London Underground, then. As long as you can get online, though, you can read your books without let or hindrance. Ibis Reader remembers, without prompting, where you got to in the text and obligingly opens it at that spot next time.

The advantage is that Ibis Reader is designed the work in any device. It will certainly work on you PC and laptop and on your Android tablet PC. It claims to work even on your smartphone. So, does it?

Well, yes it does! At least, it works perfectly on my Blackberry Curve. While Ibis Reader formats the text to suit the kind of device you are using, the final result will depend on the device itself. For example, I have two browsers on my Blackberry, the native RIM browser and Opera Mobile. Both display ebooks, but do do slightly differently. The native browser shows the text in a fairly small font. I can enlarge this by zooming but this also expands the width of the page beyond the edges of the screen, making it necessary to scroll left and right as I read. The Opera browser, on the other hand, show the text in larger print but still keeps it within the borders of the screen. It is thus the better option for reading ebooks.

If you like to read books in French, however, you will probably find that Ibis Reader lets you down. This is because the French seem not to use the epub format at all. Their preferred format for ebooks is PDF. Ibis Reader, unfortunately, cannot read PDF files.

I found the solution to this quite serendipitously. I had Documents to Go installed on the Blackberry and recently updated it. Included with the update was… a PDF reader! So I can still read PDF files on my phone though I have first to load them into memory. On the other hand, I don’t need to go online to read them.

There are now many sites online that offer to convert files between all the different formats. In theory, you could convert a PDF into an epub file and read it in Ibis Reader but in practice that is not very satisfactory. The result is never perfect and the faults in formatting may make to text difficult to read.

Now that I have perfected the art of reading ebooks on my Blackberry, an even better solution has come along. Before I say what it is, let me make a further point. The explosion in electronic inventiveness has brought a problem in its train: a proliferation of devices. With regard to portable devices, we first had the laptop computer; then we had the mobile phone; this was followed by the PDA and, more recently, by the tablet PC. And now up pops the ereader. The way things are going, you will need a special bag to carry all these devices around with you. What is the solution?

The solution, of course, is consolidation, the creation of devices that are multi-purpose. This has already happened to some extent with the mobile phone and the PDA becoming parents of the "smartphone", which is not only taking on the functions of a computer but also adding to this many entirely new functions such as that of the electronic wallet.

The only difficulty with this is one of the main virtues of the smartphone: its tiny size. No matter how good the screen resolution, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to surf the Web or read ebooks for long periods at a time on a smartphone. That is to risk eye-strain. In response, enter the tablet PC which, with its larger format provides a much pleasanter experience for surfing the Web and for… reading ebooks. It just so happens that, thanks to Tigger, I have joined the ranks of the tablet PC owning classes. Once I have got to grips with it, I will be able to say more about it from the point of view of reading ebooks.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Multi-cultural and artistic Folkestone

Today we are off into Kent again by the HS1. Grabbing tickets and a take-away breakfast, we boarded the fast train to Margate. We will not go to Margate, however, but will change trains at Ashford International for our final destination.

Ashford International
Ashford International
”International” because the Eurostar stops here

It is a day of cloud and sun so far, with pale blue sky between tumbled heaps of white in which it is tempting to see mountains and mythical castles. A day, in short, to go lightly clad but with a spare jumper in your bag.

Sparrow Sparrow
Sparrows
We met these appealing little fellows on Ashford station

At Ashford, we transfer to the Ramsgate train. This train splits in two parts that continue on to different destinations so you need to be in the correct section. In our case, that is the front part, consisting of four carriages, that will take us to Folkestone, our destination for today.

Walking to town
Walking to town
Sunshine but a threatening sky

It’s a bit of a walk from Folkestone station to the town centre but we undertook it in good heart. You can see from the above photo, though, that in spite of the sunshine, the sky had taken on a more threatening expression.

Sandgate Road
Sandgate Road
One of Folkestone’s wider streets

Folkestone has some wide streets, like Sandgate Road, pictured above, and…

Church Street
Church Street
With the quaintly named Rendezvous Street on the left

…it has a lot of narrower ones, such as Church Street, which is shown above where the picturesquely named Rendezvous Street meets it.

Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall
The Old Town Hall, now a retail outlet, dates from 1860

Folkestone has its share of older, nobler buildings, such as the 1860s Old Town Hall, but most of these look as if they have seen better days. (Come to that, many of the modern buildings look as if they have seen better days…) This was previous a Waterstone’s bookshop and the current tenants seem to be on the point of leaving.

Market day
Market day
Saturday is market day in Folkestone

On Saturday the market is held in Folkestone and this creates a lively and colourful scene, especially when the sun shines (which it did, intermittently).

Multi-cultural event Multi-cultural event
Gurkha food stall
Multi-Cultural Festival
Folkestone’s Multi-Cultural Festival, June 11th-12th

Folkestone was enjoying a Multi-Cultural Festival over the weekend and there were street stalls where all kinds of goods were on sale and various activities of a more or less cultural nature were taking place, all very animated and colourful.

Cruising gull
Cruising gull
The gulls were of course cruising about keeping an eye on things
(especially eatable things!)

Folkestone is a seaside town and on a clear day you can see France on the other side of the Channel. Gulls are plentiful in the town, entertaining or annoying, depending on your outlook and mood.

Lenberg College
Lenberg College
Was it Lenberg or have letters been lost from the name?

I was intrigued by the name “LENBERG COLLEGE .” with its emphatic full stop. I don’t know whether that was really its name or whether some of the letters have been lost as a result of the building having been damaged and partly rebuilt. The building is Victorian and the inscription looks original so may well date from then.

Two pigs One pig
Blue-eyed pigs
Was this once a butcher’s shop?

We walked along Bayle Street, where we saw these colourful blue-eyed pigs looking down at passers-by and I wondered whether this house was once a pork butcher’s shop. I hope not. I hope it was simply decorated by someone who liked pigs.

Mence Smith
Mence Smith
Once a retailer of art materials, today an art gallery

Next to the pigs’ house stands this old art shop with intriguing representations flat fish and a sword fish (round the corner) attached to the sides. The shop is on the corner with what is sometimes called “High Street” and sometimes “The Old High Street”. This is one of the streets belonging to what has been designated the “Creative Quarter”.

(Old) High Street - looking down
The (Old) High Street – looking down
The street slopes quite steeply down towards the harbour

The big arched sign “Creative Quarter” stands at the beginning of the sloping (Old) High Street, which curves becomingly as it descends. This was once a main shopping road but seems to have got left behind by passing time.

(Old) High Street - looking up
(Old) High Street – looking up
Many premises are boarded up but are being refurbished and readied for use

Folkestone used to have a cross-Channel ferry port. Even though it always played second fiddle to Dover, many of us remember travelling to France from here. The ferry port closed in 2000 and when we visited Folkestone a few years ago, it looked like a town on its uppers, with many shops and businesses premises boarded up. There was an air of desolation to the place.

A coffee house
A coffee house
Somewhere to dodge the rain

At first sight, the High Street, despite its “creative” new image, seemed to fit into that pattern of decay. To add to the mournful feeling, it began to rain, so we quickly took shelter in a coffee bar. Whether it was “creative”, I cannot say, but it was handy.

The sun shines
The sun shines
Sunlight presented an altogether more optimistic outlook

When we emerged, the rain had gone and the sun was shining. Looking with more cheerful eyes, I could see that the shops were not merely boarded up but that they were workshops: work was going on refitting them and preparing them for new occupants. There was an air of optimism and productive bustle.

Silver tiger on a tee shirt
Silver tiger on a tee shirt
They must have known I was coming

This year, the town is celebrating the Folkestone Triennial 2011, with plans to create art works and put them… well, everywhere, really. Is that such a good idea?, you naturally ask. (Or you do, if you’re me.) I suppose each of us must answer that according to our individual taste and preferences. Here are a couple of samples.

Hare and hound (Unknown artist) Horned head (Unknown artist)
Public art
These works are perhaps part of the Triennial project

These objects are perhaps part of the Triennial but there is no information to confirm or deny this, no artists’ names. The horned beast made me think of the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

Folkestone Harbour
Folkestone Harbour
A sandy bed for the boats when the tide is out

At the bottom of the Old High Street, we crossed to the harbour and walked along the quay. The harbour itself was quiet because the tide was out, leaving it dry. We had lunch in a cafe called The Captain’s Table before continuing.

A sandy beach
A sandy beach
On the hill you can see a member of the chain of Martello Towers (painted white)

On the other side of the harbour is a broad sandy beach but it was virtually deserted. Beyond this, on the cliff top , you can see a white-painted Martello Tower. I think this one is available to rent as a holiday cottage.

Brewery Tap
Brewery Tap
A fine example of an Edwardian pub, now refurbished
for other uses

We turned back through the town, where we stopped to photograph this rather fine Edwardian pub now being diverted into other purposes) and take a look at the public library and museum.

Public Library
Public Library
Built in 1886, it also houses the museum

The library contained a rather pretty glass screen dividing a smaller study room from the main room. We also went upstairs to have a rummage around in the small museum.

The Leas Cliff Lift
The Leas Cliff Lift
This 19th century lift is of traditional design and is still functioning as intended

We went up to a road or promenade that runs along the cliff and is called The Leas. We here encountered the Leas Cliff Lift, which was just closing for the day. This originally opened for service in 1885 and is still going strong, carrying passengers up and down the cliff. It is of a traditional design, using water to weight the upper car for descent.

View from the Leas
View from the Leas
Looking east towards the harbour

It was becoming rather cold and I was feeling somewhat grumpy because of this. I would have been happy to go to the station but Tigger wanted to wait for an advertised fly-pass of the Red Arrows. As they were coming from a previous engagement they were late and my mood was not improved by the suspicion that they were not coming after all.

Local hero: William Harvey
Local hero: William Harvey
Discoverer of the circulation of the blood

While waiting, I photographed this pigeon besmirched statue labelled simply “Harvey”  (referring of course to William Harvey, local boy and discoverer of the circulation of the blood),…

Lion frieze Lion head
A frieze of lions
This decorates the viewing platform where we waited for the Red Arrows

photographed some lions,…

Gull lit by evening sun Gull lit by evening sun Gull lit by evening sun
Gull
Lit by evening sunlight

and a gull faffing around in the evening sunlight. (I like gulls, as you have noticed.)

The Red Arrows turned up just as we decided to leave. I didn’t bother photographing them as all there was to see was a group of 8 planes which flew straight over and just farted some black smoke before disappearing beyond the horizon. I blinked and almost missed it.

Christ Church Tower
Christ Church Tower
All that remains of the church

We walked back across town now, heading for the station, but still ready to take in anything of interest. There was plenty of interest too. For one, here is the tower of Christ Church. It is all that is left of the church that, consecrated in 1850, was destroyed by enemy action in 1942. God must have looked the other way for a moment.

101 hands 1925 hand
101 hands
A century of hands and the hand of 1925

As you approach the station, you encounter another piece of public art and I have to say I rather like this one. It consists of 101 hand prints, one for each of the years from 1900 to 2000, each the hand of a person born in that year. This too is a project developed by the Folkestone Triennial. (See Update below.)

Tiled panel Detail
From the Prince Albert Hotel
An early Victorian pub now in a rather parlous condition. Strangely,
the face resembles someone I knew years ago.

Why go to Folkestone? Actually, Folkestone, as I hope you can see, is not devoid of interest. In fact, it contains more interesting things than you can conveniently see in one day, at least if you are serious in your interest-taking. And shall I tell you a secret? This is that our first Christmas together was spent in Folkestone, so it retains a certain appeal for us. I hope the old place gets on its feet again and we shall certainly come back from time to time to see how it’s getting on.

Update July 27th 2014

The hands were made as a project for the Millennium by Strange Cargo and not by the Triennial as stated in the original text. See the comment below.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged | 10 Comments

To Covent Garden for tea

I do like my tea. (I like my coffee too, but that’s another story – see The Little Man with the Moustache.) I drink my tea black and while I’ll take “English Breakfast” or “Yorkshire Tea”, if that’s what’s going, I prefer something a little more special. The sort of tea I like is not to be found in the supermarket – I have to go to one of the specialist tea importers.

Covent Garden tube station
Covent Garden tube station
stands on the corner of James Street with Long Acre

My current favourite tipple is a blend called “Russian Caravan”. A good blend of Russian Caravan is strong and has a smoky flavour. At least, that’s the sort that I like. The problem is that I don’t think there is a specific recipe for this blend and tea retailers make up their own, often without being very specific about what they put in it. I suspect that they sometimes palm off their leftovers and less satisfactory teas by mixing it up as “Russian Caravan”.

Not my bookshop
Not my bookshop
I used to work here but in those days it was a bookshop

I discovered Russian Caravan by accident. I had bought a lot of different teas to try and one day decided to mix the remnants all together to use them up. By a sheer stroke of luck, the result was wonderful. I decided to try to recreate it and by a process of trial and error came up with a blend of three teas: Keemun, Formosa Oolong and Lapsang Souchong. It’s the latter that confers the smoky taste to a good Russian Caravan blend.

James Street
James Street
Looking down James Street towards old Covent Garden Market

Buying several packets of tea, mixing the contents together and then spooning the mixture back into the packets and resealing them is not difficult but if it can be avoided, well, why not avoid it? I have been ordering and trying the different “Russian Caravan” blends sold by a number of importers without finding one that satisfies me. So I have gone back to buying the ingredients and mixing them myself.

The old market building
The old market building
No longer a fruit and vegetable market but a fancy goods market and shopping centre for tourists

You can buy tea online, of course, and I have a list of firms that I have bought from. When you buy online, you usually have to pay postage on top of the price of the tea so it’s an advantage if there is a shop you can visit. The nearest one I know is the Tea House in Neal Street in Covent Garden. And that is where I went this morning.

Neal Street
Neal Street
Neal street leads you to the heart of “alternative” Covent Garden

I started out quite early, hoping to get the shopping done and leave the rest of the day free for other things I had to do. I took the Piccadilly Line from King’s Cross to Covent Garden station (see above). Even though I was in a hurry, I couldn’t visit to Covent Garden without having a little look around.

Still closed
Still closed
I’m too early: the shop doesn’t open until 10 am

There is a slight sense of nostalgia because I worked in Covent Garden for a few years. I was a bookshop assistant for a chain called Books etc which occupied the premises on the corner of James Street and Floral Street which is now a branch of Dune. The chain was taken over by Borders, and this company collapsed a while ago so “my” bookshop no longer exists.

To fill in time until the Tea House opened, I went on an erratic tour of the area, often crossing back and forth over my own tracks. Here are some of the things I saw.

Seven Dials
Seven Dials
So called because seven roads radiate out from the centre marked by a clock tower which is currently in swaddling;
let’s hope it recovers its rightful place again soon.

Eterno coffee bar
Eterno coffee bar
I love the optimism of the name: they obviously expect to be here for quite a while…

Your skin reborn?
Your skin reborn?
Can your skin be reborn? Is someone awkwardly mixing metaphors?

The Astrology Shop
The Astrology Shop
Religion and magic (is there any difference between them?) find a natural centre in Covent Garden; it is all too easy
to delude those who already delude themselves

Mysteries
Mysteries
With some mysterious people looking in the window

The lights are on
The lights are on
Back at the Tea House, the lights are on; they’re open!

My walk filled the interval nicely and prevented me feeling that I was wasting my time while waiting. Inside the shop, they are still vacuum cleaning the carpet and tidying up. I step over the trailing cable of the cleaner and go to the corner where the packets of tea are kept. I make my choice, peer at the pretty tea sets and the exotic tea pots and then make once more for the tube station, safely provisioned with tea for the next few weeks.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Posted in Out and About | Tagged , | 4 Comments