Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Yesterday, I awoke to the sound of some New Labour Harridan braying on about how divisive exams are. Apparently they exclude kids who don’t know the answers and it seems New Labour is against all forms of exclusion.
My best option seemed escape, so I decided to get out and see how Spring in the countryside was doing, besides I also needed to check that the Government hadn’t banned it because it discriminated against people who live in towns.
Around here, some of the first, or at least more obvious pointers to Spring are provided by the willow and the humble hawthorn. Down on the Cheshire Plain the hedges are full of leaf, but here progress is very patchy and limited to sheltered corners. Spring comes late to the Staffordshire Moorlands because of its height above sea level. Every time I see fresh hawthorn I am reminded of my grandmother, who used to tell me how a hundred years ago in Gloucester the rural poor used to eat the leaves when they were hungry. Hence the bush’s alternative name – the bread and cheese tree.
My destination this morning was Alstonfield which proudly claims it is one of the best kept villages in Staffordshire – if not the Galaxy. Apparently ‘Alstonfield is picturesquely seated on a western declivity above Dovedale, ten miles E of Leek, and six miles N by W of Ashbourne. It has a good inn, for the accommodation of tourists who come hither to view the wild and romantic scenery of this neighbourhood, which equals the grandeur of many of the most celebrated scenes in Derbyshire, from which county the extensive parish of Alstonfield is separated by the river Dove.’ Not that your countryside correspondent was swayed by that kind of balderdash.A green lane led up from the carpark to the village and my arrival was carefully noted by a farm dog.
The village seemed to be well signposted, although it also struck me as slightly pretentious. The houses are built of limestone and while it is an excellent building material it always makes for a cold and austere feel. Despite the sun, it was cold and there were very few people about. Occasionally, as I paced the main street the odd curtain twitched but nothing more than that.
Nevertheless, the daffodils were in full bloom. A good sign, which suggested that Gordon Brown hadn’t yet fathomed that such things can give people pleasure. Alstonfield is also one of those villages peppered with large numbers of seats, all dedicated to people who used to like to sit here. I suspect these days that the tidy village may well consist of second homes, but the usual clues like Range Rovers and Beamers parked outside were absent.
Like many English villages some of the buildings were of a brave age.
Clearly I needed a plan for the day, so I made my way to the George. What could be more English? Unfortunately the George was shut, not an auspicious start to the day. A lone, mutley dog peered out of the window. [To be continued]
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The pictures were taken in Georgetown, PEI last summer, - it is the capital of Kings County and used to be a very big shipping port in the late 1800s early 1900s. Now it is a small town, well village really, used by fishermen, lumber boats and gravel barges. The stone building is the Georgetown courthouse, still in use, and where Howard had his office when he was sheriff. The other is the Kings Playhouse, a jewel of a theatre used only in summer. The gardens you see are actually between the two buildings and are beautiful in summer.