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August 29, 2007

Amongst Friends

To say that the LOrd has Blessed my life in many wonderfull ways..............is well, and understatment. I mean from my wife to my kids, to great clients, to the place I get to live and the places I have had the chance to see. These are Blessings to me, and incase you are wondering or maybe you noticed, that I didn't mention money in all this............well, because to me money is a very fleeting thing. Certainly it is needed to get by in life, but how high the stack is not the best way to count our Blessings. Hard to put a value on the things in life that really matter, have you ever noticed.

Over the years I have had the chance to teach and share what I know, okay okay, I will admit it may not be much. The teaching and sharing have given me one very discernable Blessing. That is FRIENDS, wouldn't consider trading one good friend for a new Belt Grinder, and certainly wouldn't swap even one for a thick stack of cash. I like to think that most of us within the cowboy culture would fell the same, maybe that is why the cowboy culture is so rich in character..................and when we have a gather we show up in pickup's not Maserati's.

I recieved a very nice email tonight from a fellow in Texas. Maybe it was just an opertune time to recieve the email, funny how God knows when you need to hear some good news.

-Amongst Friends
it started along time ago, bout 30 years
at a shop on a ranch, cause a town wasn't near
wanted a new bit, but the price was outa sight
so he worked, hammered and filed, till late at night

that was the first one, and now thousands more
God gave him a gift, and that first one opened the door
with a love for God first, and his family always
in this perspective, he followed the way

on to saddles, videos and tools
tig welder now, and his bonny doon
band saw and grinder, a mill and lathe
building a legend, ain't that the cowboy way

just one bit, got the whole thing rolling
but by going ahead, he made quite a showing
from the ranch to arena, the work is put to the test
striving always, to do his personal best

to further the art, and what it means
helping other artists to follow their dreams
good luck cowboy, may your days be blessed
out there in california, which is way out west

tommy d
livingston, texas
august 29. 2007
4:30 pm

August 28, 2007

Blog Day 22- Blenheim to All Souls

NOt my photo, I had to borrow it, good aerial view of Blenheim and grounds

England had long suffered militarily at the hand of King Louis XIV of France . Too the man who would prove to be the King of Frances victor goes a just reward you could say. That person came in the character of a young man 1st Duke of Marlborough, an academic scholar and a brilliant battle strategist. It should come as no surprise that the young Duke actually worked for King Louis, before he became his conqueror. Now King Louis did not in the end loose the rule nor occupation of his country, but he did give over the supremacy of the high seas to British Fleets, and he no longer held that position of power with his continental land troops.
Wrought Iron gate within Belnheim, thru the gate to the Victory Obelisk
Front door is what we call it in a trailer house, but these folks call it a Grand Entry way.........I dun'o seems like a lot of letters used up for the same thing.NOT MY PHOTO
Heres the outside of the Grand Entry way

As a gesture of gratitude to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, the King of England made a special gift of a Castle on an Estate. Not just any castle mind you, but the Castle Blenheim which is a very grand statement of architecture for sure. There is a little unknown history that comes with this whole story, and it plays a role in one of my own favorite hero’s, and that person is Sir Winston Churchill, who is of the Marlborough family line. Mr. Churchill was born in Blenheim, and also wed at Blenheim.
This is a sitting room............but dang you'd be afraid to sit here after a branding. NOT MY PHOTO
My crew at the front gates of Blenheim
Just take a look at that Library, what a magnificent collection of books it contained..............and ther wasn't even one Hank the Cowdog. NOT MY PHOTO

It was time though for us to move on and get to All Souls College in Oxford before it closed, it was a stop of major importance to the young scholars in the back of the road rocket in which we rode. Both seem to hold this Oxford in some sort of high regard when it comes to education, far for me to say if it is or is not a bastion of education. The campus was shut down for the most part, no more tourist walk through, mostly due to a tightened level of security etc. SO we did manage to get permission for a security guard to step into one alcove by the front gate a snap a quick picture for our “posterior’s” sake.
From Whale jaws to T-rex skeletons, boy howdy they had it all at teh Natural History Muse
Gardens and fountains at Blenheim. NOT MY PHOTO
JW loves butterflies, not sure why, just fascinated with the colors and patterns. This was a tiny portion of a huge cool exhibit. We didn't have a lot of time so we had to flutter through.

Next stop the Pit River Museum of Natural History, and what “muse” this was, boy howdy I would have loved to have my older brother Bill with me on this one. He and I both love the Natural History type Museums, and this one was a dandy. A total of 4 floors, if I remember right, but only the 1st and 2nd have collection open to the public. The third floor is under renovation at this time, and is due to open in 2009 I believe. This was a collection of natural history items with a little Ethnology thrown in for fun. We had about 2 hours to make the tour and then onto another Muse.
More Gardens at "the back of the house", mind the lawnmower says the fella. WOW-NOT MY PHOTO
Yes, the security and the janitor were all a little concerned as I lay on my back and took this upward view of T-Rex...........even the little kids asked me "aure ewe allll right Sir".
Folks these are the wildest set of jaws I have ever seen, and as much as JW loves all things dead and hairy I am determined to have me a set of these...................DANG, I hate getting old, can you tell me who they belong too??
A new twist on Dead Critter Walking, over 90 feet of skeletons come marching past in zombie like fashion

This time around we are at the Ashmolean Museum, which holds the record as the first Museum to charge a fee, but also the oldest collection put forward as a Museum,…….so in Rio Linda, you would call it the first Museum.

A row of pillars that surround the second floor mezzanine, the light was just to cool to pass up
The Pit River MUseum from the second floor
Some very intricate wire work showing here on the handle of a Pistol
The Asmolean, as it appears, with cases too numerous to count. Each filled to the brim with artifacts from every continent, and from every culture............except COWBOYS
No, this is not the KETTLE section form the ZZ Top tour band. It is a kettle section from a Shinto Shrine in Japan............close though because Japan and Texas are on the same planet which is something that beautiful young girl in South Carolina may not know.

This was a spectacular stroll, in amongst the Renoir’s and Matisse, amongst the cases housing “Straddle-various” Violins and Viola’s. The collection of musical instruments would cause the socks to roll up and down for a guy like Scott Brown or Julian Tubb, who both used to be fine saddle makers but now have turned their talents to Luthery. This was a collection of everything cultural and many things natural, but its interest was that of Arts and Culture. I loved it, but I could tell the kids were getting a little burned out on things older than Brittany.
Walking the foot paths to All Souls "Collage"
NOw this will make yer sticker peck up. A sound hole in a Lute, it has a total of 7 layers of delicate wood fret work counting down inot the center, and a spiral stem sticking up from the bottom that is 9 layers. It was behind glass and a tough shot, I hope you can see it well enough
An Ivory and Rosewood Octagonal box...............wowzer Grommit this was a nice piece.
Without doubt the crooked-est house I have ever seen. I bet that the third floor leaned over by more than 3 feet........its amazing it is still standing after all this time. Built in 1295 and in constant use as a bar, with Disco Dancing on the third floor.

We walked quite a bit, as the kids blew off steam and done a little shopping in various stores along the busy streets. We seen some strange signs downtown, warning of Humped Pelicans???? Not sure just what it was all about, but we kept a wary eye out. It was getting on, so we found our VERY funky Hostel for the night and took refuge, by luck there was a grocery stop close by and we bought something to cook instead of dining out. Just simple stuff, some Pasta and Bali Sauce, a little corn and peas and yes I musn’t forget we had a package of cold pancakes and jam for dessert. Pancakes in a package are a very common item over here, easier to find than pancake mix matter of fact.
My crew JUST inside the gates of All Souls College
A very busy street in Oxford, say, isn't it almost time for Tea??

Good Night and God Bless

August 24, 2007

Blog Day21- ode to the Knackerman

The amazing roof in Canterbury

Morning Folks, I am running just a tad tired today I just got back from a ZZ Top concert, as you must know by now I am home in California and finishing up the final days of the trip by referencing my wife’s diary.

This was just a must, all that LAvender and a paint horse on the hillside..........

Believe it or not ( Do I sound like a Ripley’s commercial) I will tie this days trip into a little unknown history about my own little Company we call JWP, you will notice that I pay tribute to the “Knackerman”, which is an English term for a man who slaughters horses by profession……………..now, now. Before you throw your hands up in disgust let me say this, that some of the best tasting horse I ever had were the ones I could’nt ride. Regardless, if it hadn’t been for this certain fella, JW may have never had the chance to get his start making bits and spurs. Fuggedaboutitfernowwwwwwwww…..

Walmer Castle dry moat

Deal Castle wall

The day started with a walk about at the Castle Walmer, which had a huge moat of the dry type which is also quite common to Castles meant to be more of a show piece than a defence. Such is the case of Walmer, but it was a good walk for us all, except for Nevada who was sound asleep in the car………….too much poker and whuskee the night before?? We had a small cannon problem at Walmer, seems that someone left a cannon ball in one cannon and not the others.

Hey Dad, take a look at this..........somebody left a Cannon Ball in this thing..........

Whaaaaaat................lem'me see that...................sure enough as luck would have it I had a camera and managed to catch the whole crew with thier heads stuck deep in a Cannon

Onto Deal Castle, this was a huge fortification at one time, one of the 5 main port/harbour combinations meant to protect the southern English coastline. Some of the Castle was closed for renovation so the tour was a short one. The sky was actually looking like it would break and allow the sun thru. The small amounts of sun would shine on the sail cloth of small boats down along the shore and I would keep trying to get a good shot. Sadly, the sun moved in and out so quickly that it proved very tough to do.

Bridge over the dry moat at Walmer

What a teenager does best................contemplating the merits of getting a job........seconf thought, maybe not.

There was a bit of a street fair going on in the small town where Deal is located. It looked inviting to us, so we walked and shopped , we strolled past many Bakeries and did not fail to walk into each that we walked past…………….does that sound like a 10 pound sentence? Just gotta try a few Sultana Pies, and some Blimpie’s, a Welsh Cream Cake………and hey look at this Pine here’s that drink Company we like so much. These folks are the ones who make the Curious Cola, and Dandelion & Burdock Cordial. This time around we tried a Shandy, and a Ginger Jump-Up, now Pine and I liked both, Darren looked like he had just swallowed an earth worm…………and Nevada looked as if she agreed to taste the worm right after Darren spit it out. Noting their disgust we purchased something very generic and safe for the lesser beings amongst us whom lack taste buds, and we enjoyed a new buzz in life with our pastries.

Just some very cool building walking thru town.

A very classy delivery truck, it would look good at any car show

Our days drive would take us out east of London and around to the north side of the sprawling city. So we beat the streets for Canterbury Cathedral, this is one of the primary stops for our young friend Darren. It’s a Cathedral with an intriguing history, a story that could be a movie., and has been a play, as well as one of the best known works of Chaucer who wrote Cantebury Tales.

We are in an area of England in which you will still see quite a few "Thatchy's", houses with thatched rooves, very neat and very thick. I would guess that the thickness is 18-24 inches.

Another cool Thatchy

Canterbury at the front entry

Lets begin with the cast of characters here and we can watch it play out before our eyes in textual form. We begin with a small Abbey/Monastery in the English countryside, with not much going on except for the work of the Lord. The teachings and spiritual leadership at the time was under the guidance of a fellow named Thomas Beckett, who it proves was a man who was steadfast in the WORD of the Lord and not simply the actions of a religion. Then we have the character with the title of the King Henry II, who desired a divorce from then wife. It seems that this granting of a divorce fell on the improper side for our man Beckett, and in doing so he quickly found himself looking at a very serious adversary when LONGEVITY is given consideration.

One wing of St.Albans Cathedral



It was an utterance made by the King that spawned the series of incidents that follow. His murmured wish became the voice of action for four of his most Loyal Knights who upon hearing the King ask of no one imparticular………”Who is it that will rid me of this petulant Priest who would dare stand before my authority as King, Who I ask?”. Those quietly spoken words caused four men to mount their steeds and embark upon a stealth reprisal undertaken upon the Kings words as if it were an order. The riders black Capes had taken wing in the chill night air, pounding hooves met damp cobbles the resultant sparks falling short of life, whinnies, neighs and dashing horsemen caused a riotous commotion in the torch lit court yards of Canterbury Cathedral on that ominous night so long ago. As four loyal henchmen approach the solid Oaken Doors and demand entrance to speak…………..but their destiny was not caught in speech but rather it lay upon the sharpened edge of swords. Thomas Beckett was murdered, as he sat quietly Praying within the Monastery walls at the very altar over which supplication passes even to this day. When the footsteps of the murderers finally recede into the darkness of that moonless night, Thomas Beckett not only lay brutally slain amidst the Monks that he lead, but he lay headless by way of a single clean murderous swipe of razor steel.

Canterbury Cathedral


The ribbing of the vaulted cieling at Canterbury

Wall plaques denote the graves of those buried under the floor of Canterbury

The attending Monks hurriedly bound up the body and the head of Thomas Beckett and stowed his corpse away in the secret catacombs under the Abbey. He would be lain to rest, and made immortal by way of attaining Saint Hood. Not only did Thomas Beckett become a Saint over this entire affair, but he was immortalized by his followers Monks and parishioners alike. The Cathedral was then built to become one of the Grandest in all of England, as a testimony to the acts of God committed while Thomas Beckett was alive, the Cathedrals Stained Glass windows vividly portray to this day the mercy befell those under his Godly care. The largest footpath in all of England, led followers of Thomas Beckett as if by a magnet right to those cobbled courtyards which had seen murder so many years ago. Over time, the spirit of Saint Thomas Beckett, would once again rise to challenge yet another King of England.

The courtyard in which the murderers would have parrallel parked thier horses before entering



Some 300 years later the popularity of the Saint Thomas character was indeed a real problem for then King Henry of England. So popular was this Saint Thomas, and the throng of parishioners who felt it nessassary to pay homage to this Saint who was slain. Such a stir, that the King decided it was time to actually break the Godly bonds that Thomas Beckett’s soul had upon the Canterbury Cathedral. The King, done the unthinkable, he ordered that the body of Thomas Beckett be dug up from its Holy resting place. And to further exact shame upon the Cathedral, the King then order the bones of Thomas Beckett be scattered across England as a testimony of the lack of validity which had been given Beckett by his Sainthood. The King was an avowed Protestant, and the Canterbury is Roman Catholic in its faith. Well enough of the history, lets get on with the tour. NO doubt about it this was a very cool Cathedral, very ornate but in my estimation not quite what the Bath Abbey was. Another very neat aspect of our stop was that during the day and various times, the Church Tours would come to a halt and you are invited to Pray with the Father………….or leave take your pick. The Prayer was for “World Piece” and that was followed by the Lords Prayer.

Looking out of the Cloisters at Canterbury

The Cloisters, Canterbury

The part that really amazes me, is that if anyone of the fellows that built these arches was at a street corner today, we would most likley drop a coin in his hat and wish him well in life. No formal education, no engineering manuals for stress and load etc.............and it all still stands. Its a good thing they didn't have to walk across the bridge in Minnesota each day to get to thier work

A very busy street out in front of St.Albans

Hate to say it but it is time, we have to hit the largest major highway so far, the ring road around London. It’s a 6 lane affair with cars out the Ying Yang, and a batch of multilane traffic circles just to make it all interesting. I have to say this, not sure I should, but you know me…………have lips why waste them, right! Tow things would seriously help with our traffic here in America. First and foremost, I believe that American drivers are spoilt rotten. Spolit by the fear of lawsuits, we can no longer have livestock along the road for fear some idiot runs into them and kills himself, we scatter signs and flagmen out forever across the roads of America for the same reason because some idiot NEEDS to be told that “the reason you are catching up to a BULLDOZER is because some one is working on the road……………DUH. I noticed that you seldom ever see a flag man, nor a warning sign along the roads of the UK, sure you will on the real major roads, but the little roads you are on your own. And then the traffic circles, once you learn how to navigate them they are so much faster than all those darn lights. You don’t have all the start and stop stuff. Hey just a thought, run it by ya and see how mad it makes you.
Boy Howdy, can you imagine how screwed up California would be if we got Traffic Circles and Jerry Brown for Governor……………Poochy Maggie I better shut-up before some black-op takes me out.

A street Gypsy, doing some ball juggling and spinning

JUst a quick snap of what the ring road around London looks


I did manage to navigate my way around the ring road of London and would never have made it without my little garmin next to me………..yes Colleen and the ever present map. Which by the way, is also on the front seat of every European vehicle. Its getting sort’a late and we still have the St.Albans Cathedral to go thru. We find the Cathedral, but sadly it was locked up and our tour was shortened to walking around it in the rain. We decided to head on down the road and came to Hemmel Hempstead, a town that I had only heard of and never knew much about……………….matter of fact I still don’t know much about it. So, why you are wondering, why am I even mentioning it. For two reasons, we had all wanted to see a game of Cricket, and just happens we came to a road block that was detouring traffic around a huge Cricket Field. Hey lets go watch, which is exactly what we done. Parked our road rocket, and headed to the cricket field……….but only to find that the game was just winding down and they had a couple more swings left and the game was done.

Some sort of serious discussion no doubt

On the streets of Oxford, we seen it, we recorded it..........and still wonder

Lucky for us, the Cricket match was held in conjunction with the largest Car Show in England……………hey, that’s how they advertised it. Well, I mean how would I know, yes you could be right……….they may have hired some guy from Texas to do the advertising……………….but then again maybe not, because I didn’t see any Bar B Que anyplace. So, NO, it must have just been the largest in the UK. Non the less, it was big, and had plenty of very nice cars in it. I am not really into cars, but these vintage Euro models are very cool. There were a few vintage pieces of Detroit Iron to go along with the little putters from Euro-Ville………..we had our Challengers, and Chargers, along with a few Vettes and a couple old Mustangs. We had a very typical car Show dinner that night, with Fish& Chips and Bangers with Brown Sauce and Chips. Was just fine, kids loved it.



Common Jeremiah, your killing me, what the heck is the deal with this Hemmel Hempstead place? Okay, it goes like this and has importance within the history of my little JWP bit & spur Company. When I first moved back to Canada, I worked for Chuck Stormes in the saddle shop. Now I could have afforded a small apartment etc, but really it would have been a waste of time because I spent all my time down at the shop. SO Chuck and I came up with an agreement, which was I could sleep in the Saddle Shop in exchange for doing the regular cleaning around the shop…………..yes, all of it. Wash the floors, wash the John etc. SO I slept on the floor for just over 4 years and thought it was great………….you know sometimes having a diminished mental capacity is a real Blessing!

Along about the 2 year of living in the saddle shop, I began to do some steel and silver work in the evenings just to keep me fired up on learning new things etc. This was all with Chucks consent and encouragement, for he feared that I may burn myself out on the saddles if I was not careful as well. As it happened in came a fellow from Hemmel Hempstead, a cherry Limey as I came to call him. He was one Ralph Lane, a former Knackerman, from England whom had just moved to a small acreage just south of Calgary. We became good friends, and it came to pass that Ralph wanted to learn how to make bits and spurs as well, and out of that conversation grew the idea of having a shop together. A place where we really could make some major pieces, maybe even build a few Trophy items for the numerous Rodeos around. Not very long after that, we built a small shop and opened as partners with the name of Kingfish as our brand name. Now as it all worked out, Ralph never built any bits nor spurs, he went on to do other things that made him more money and a living for his family. After about 3 years of having a shop out at Ralphs, I moved my portion of the Shop to Black Diamond, Alberta and began marking my product with my own name instead of the Kingfish name.
SO, there you have one little trivial detail about a happen meeting with a man from England, and out of that here I am some 30 years later doing the same thing. Not only that but Ralph and I are still friends and have a laugh about those days whenever we visit.
It is getting rather late so I better turn in. Right now the Snaffle Bit Futurity is going on, and I have another Bit & Spur Making friend holding down MY bedroll and my living room floor. That would be Delwyne Treftz, he is one of the most talented fellows that I know, and its an honor to have him stop by. We didn’t get a chance to visit for too long, he got here at about 9pm, we talked for a while in the saddle shop and then Mom fed us some supper and Delwyne headed for bed.

So I say Good Night and God Bless


August 19, 2007

Blog Day20- a morning run and sunshine

We wake to bright sunshine, it bathes the flowers and houses along the street on which we had stayed the night before.

At some time I will write a little update on Colleen and Nevada’s first ½ Marathon which they ran back in October. But now is not the right time to get into that facet of home life. However, due to the fact that Mom and Nevada are runners, I begin the title with a good day for a run. For me, its never a good day to run…………unless some one has a gun and is chaseing me……………however, by the third mile of the run I may beg him to just up and shoot me instead.
Hearst Monsieux Castle

The long walk over the moat bridge to the front entry of Hearst Monsieux

A view of the bridge over the moat at the Castle, water lillies and golden Koy abound

Lordy, I say Lordy, it is sunny and I can feel His warm smiling face bearing down upon me and my family, we have been looking forward to a good bright warm day with no clouds. It strikes me as being rather funny really, my kids always complain about the fact that California where we live has no cloud cover from about May thru October, and when we first hit Ireland they would get up in the morning and just revel in the cool weather and cloud. Hey what gives I ask them over the last few days, you guys are mopping about like a “just kicked” hound, why the long faces I ask? Gee whiz Dad, there’s never any sunshine over here……………..blah,blah,blah blah goes the brain of a youth. Lordy I say, take a look outside boys, its so nice out there this AM, that Mom and Nevada have already went out and had a good 4-5 mile run.

The knarled trunks of Chestnut trees planted way back in 1770

Our B&B gave us a hearty Ulster Fry send off, told us a little about the local color and culture. That Brighton is a town known for its sort of edgy lifestyle, where weekends are punctuated by weekend flings, and its sort of a sinner’s paradise. Nightclubs abound, and health spas are the order of the day, high fashion stores, not just any old brand Outlets. So I figured no sense me hanging around, since I doubted I could find a good pair of Wranglers nor Levi’s, no button collar white shirts from Good Will, nor wild rags from Cap’s………………so hey dude, I and the crew is out of there and down the road.
NO, Colleen is not arguing the cost of admissions, she is discussing the Canadian ownership of the Castle and what is being taught to these young people who attend.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist this old gate that lead to the gardens......too much character.

We drove a beautiful stretch of country that follows the coast more or less, and in time we arrive at Hearst Monsieux Castle. Now this is a very handsome Castle as they go, and this particular Castle was built at a time when it was stately to build a Castle but not at all required nor shall we say necessary for defenses. None the less, we have a huge Castle here that has been well maintained over the years. Having a full moat surrounding it that is some 25 feet deep at is deepest, and a goodly width for a COWBOY to swim, in some places as much as 100 feet………………so, you can clearly see the danger of an attempted Cowboy Crossing.
Just one of many paths that lead visitors around the abundant gardens

A huge sundial in the gardens

Hearst Monsieux is today, owned by the Queens University, Ontario Canada. This Castle, and the surrounding grounds have been converted into a foreign student exchange program, that invites students studying Agriculture, Horticulture and the Environmental Sciences. The Castle is now the office for the School, as well as housing some of the smaller lecture labs that take place. In addition to the Castle as an exhibit, in a separate area on the grounds they have a hands on type of Science Exhibit that was really quite fun. The kids made a full loop around the small lake which makes up a portion of the moat, and while on the walk, they gorged on the fresh wild black Berries that are in abundance around the Castle. The gardens are massive, and always have been. But since the school also engages in Horticultural teachings, they have added to the gardens as a part of the classes. Along the eastern side of the Castle runs a long row of what must be 50 or so trees planted in 1770. All are still alive, however some are beginning to look pretty ragged, the Chestnut trees have survived beetle blights, drought and flooding. They stand as a good testimony as to the sturdy design of their creator.



From there we move onto the location of the Battle of Hastings, an epic Battle that I guess few school children have ever heard of in USA or in England. In 1066 William the Conqueror made his stand here against an invading Norman force, obviously he won the battle hence the moniker (name) that he was then given. Can you imagine if it had gone badly, we would have William the Walloped, or Wiped Out Willy, but the worst would be Wun Willy Wun. All joking aside, it was pretty cool to look out over that low valley thru which runs a small stream, flanked by tree lined hills to each end of the Battle field……………..to look out over that half mile of ground, and know that some 20,000 men met in a clash of gleaming sharpened steel and a hail of arrows and cannon shot over the right to be free men. It makes you keenly aware of what men around the world will do to keep their freedoms, or attain freedoms that have been withheld from them.
A science class, in which you reach inot a hole that has a curved mirror laid inot the bottom and the reflection of your hands appear to be reaching back out at you, pretty cool.

just proof of my shocking personality

Hastings Castle

The Castle, Hastings Castle has been turned into a Tourist site now at one end, while the housing portion of it is today a Private High School and Boarding facility. It was a very pretty town with many homes which had been dated for the tourist to attest to, bearing dates as far back as 1066 when the battle took place. Most however ranged from approx. 1275 and forward, the downtown was a busy place with many shops for tourists, and a number of shops selling the everyday wears required to stay alive. I was sent in search of those items required to “Stay Alive”. I found a great Bakery, bought a Potatoe Farm Loaf, which weighed 65 ounces, having a total length of about 16 inches and maybe 10 inches tall. Quite a loaf of bread with a good thick crust on it, cooked right there in the 600 year old stone oven. I topped of the bread with some homemade Lemon Butter, which as I have said before, the preserves over here are less sweet and more tart in there making, usually having a slight rind when things such as Lemon are used. I also bought a little cheese to go with the meal that we would eat while we are driving to the next stop. I have to take a slight detour here, and ask how many of you are avid Red Wall Abbey readers with your kids, these are books written by Brian Jacques who hails from the UK and are just the greatest books to read aloud with your kids. Anyways in reading the books, you will find mentioned such drinks as “Dandelion & Burdock Cordial”, which we had always taken as being one of those items that live in story form only. Well not so, as I found out. There on a shelf in the cold drinks of the Cheese shop was a bottle called “ Dandelion & Burdock Cordial”, well by JO, I was not going to pass that up. I got to looking and noticed that the Company that bottled the Cordial also bottled some other very unusual drinks such as Curious Cola, Ginger Jumper etc. Well we had a small selection to sample for fun.
A home built in 1410, called a half timber and mud type.



This is the actual Battle Field of HAstings as it looks today

We are headed sort of East by North East now, to give you a little Nautical lingo since we are along the southern British coastline it only seems fitting. The Castle Dover is our intended destination, and we are passing thru an area of England with huge grain fields that are ripened and ready for harvest as soon as the weather co-operates. Its picturesque country, rolling on over these low lying hills like a gentle roller coaster, passing thru waving golden grain which is so close to the road they brush you car as you pass. When ever we pass thru what you may call a small settlement we usually see a single building with a tall white cone shaped appendage off of one end of a roof line…………..and I am wondering what the heck is that for. I finally can’t stand it any longer and decide the time has come to get a picture and ask someone just what this strange building is used for.


He is contemplating the value of Socialized Health Care, 9 months for a Hospital bed and 1.5 years to get inot an old folks home.................its enough to make you scratch your chin over.

Well, they are called Aust Houses”, and the cone is a vent port to allow smoke to escape. Each tall cone is mounted on a turntable affair that is unseen by the passersby, but to each cone is also attached a long tail such as you would see on an old type windmill. When the wind blows, it catches the tail and in doing so it then sets the opening away from the prevailing wind. Inside the Aust House, the local farmers gather there HOPS, and place them on screens or racks that fill the house and the cone to the top. Under all of this the farmers then light a small fire using peat, and they basically dry and at the same time infuse a smoke flavor to the hops being cured…………..not a lot unlike the Tobacco Farmers I stopped to visit back in Tennessee. There you have it, and are now a little smarter about the “OOST” hose as it is pronounced.


Do you smell that sea air, I do. We actually took a bit of a detour at this point of the trip. AS many of you know, England/France has jointly built a tunnel under the English Channel thru which vehicles pass while being piggy backed on a low slung rail carriage. We stopped to look into the cost of crossing over to France for supper, maybe staying in France for the night and then return in the morning. But our lack of pre-planning made it financially reprehensible……………in other words to cotton picking expensive for this buckaroo. So on to Dover Castle we went.
This an actual train station we passed out in the country side, they had parked the older cars as places to wait in case of rain. It was a pretty quaint affair, and take a look at that deluxe Pram. Thats a keen set of wheels for a baby buggy.

This is an Aust House, pronounced "Oost" House

What a huge Castle, which by the way you can see for miles off, as it sits jutting up into the surrounding skyline. The Castle is a huge on, and was of strategic importance for the defense of England during the days of the Tall Ships and the wars with France. We park and head out to explore this vast stone fortress, which runs for some ¼ mile of length along the coast. No telling how many men are crippled from packing all those rocks to the top of the imposing hill on which it sits, with the beautiful green/blue waters of the Atlantic to the south, Gulls mew and waves break along the Limestone cliffs. To the north, lay rolling wooded hills. To the East and West are steep hillsides, and at each valley runs a rippling stream which empties into the Atlantic. This is Dover Castle. It houses within its walls a Regimental Museum, dedicated to portraying the campaigns and artifacts of each British Regiment. It wasn’t a Museum that was filled with Armour and the like, but rather a Museum that contained Regimental Standards, the Regimental Field Drums, the Bugle Corps Uniforms and Bugles. A full description of every Medal of Honor , Campaign Service Ribbons, gifts from a far off Regimental Outposts, things like silk handkerchiefs, Indian Tea Sets and Ivory items from South Africa.


We are on the coast, over a place which is well known to all of those pilots who flew during the War and longed to see upon their return home from a bombing run over Germany. We are standing atop the White Cliffs of Dover, huge Limestone cliffs that fall precipitously into the Atlantic Ocean below. The Limestone that breaks away and or erodes over eons, does strange things to the color of the water along this portion of Britains coast. The whiteish sediment from the Limestone imparts a soft green color to the chilled waters, making it look much more tropical than you may expect to find. I and my family stand amazed at how pretty these white cliffs are when seen in person. I try to imagine what they would have looked like if you were approaching in a sputtering fighter, or a Bomber which had been badly shot up by German anti-aircraft fire……..just the sight of them would give you a bit of moral boost.
The Chaple as it sits in the very center of Dover Castle on the highest piece of ground within the stone wall compound.

just one of many stacks of drums used at many British Campaigns around the world.

We headed into town, and easily found our guest house for the night. Not a bad spot, not to far from down town and not to far from a nice walk along the shore. We dropped our luggage, and headed down to the car to hire 4 fella’s off the street to help with carrying Darrens up the stairs. If you have ever watched Toy Story, Darren packed a little like Mr.Potatoe Head………….a plastic pork chop, some red rubber keys, a twisty tie, and monkey chow just in case. We head out for a nice walk along the coast, the sky is going to be just gorgeous tonight with the high cloud forming out to the west and the clear sky over head, it should be perfect for the painters.

I just loved the soft light that came thru the windows in the Cstle. MOst of the panes are the hand poured glass panes, and the light does not go thru them as it does our new glass.

It’s a busy little town, this Dover is, and the streets that run down to the Atlantic are lined with shops and Restaurants. The path that you walk is about 100 feet or so above the actual coast, the beach is at low tide and the water along the shallow coast is a fair ways out. Many gulls are busy finding what ever it is that they find to eat out there along the surfs edge, still others sit idly by waiting instead to be fed by the strolling tourists. Reminds me of our city streets, while some portion of its inhabitants spend their time working to live, others have found an easier existence in simply begging for their daily living. It gets me to thinking……..maybe, just maybe, man has descended from Sea Gulls and not monkeys after all…………I mean, I have never yet seen any beggar trying to hang by his tail, but I 've seen plenty eating out of dumsters like the Gulls??


Our walk takes us the length of the Pier district in Dover, and then almost back again. The hungriest one amidst the crew, most often Nevada, asks the most poignant question of the day………………”My God, when are we going to eat”? Well what do you guys want Mom asks, shall we find a Pub, shall we try another Tandoori (Indian Cuisine”), how about Chinese ………………..say what about Italian. Now I voted the Italian thing down, since for most teenagers’ Italian means……….something that tastes and looks like a cardboard box with pepperoni and cheese on top…………..sorry my Italian friends but that ain’t this fellas idea of a meal. Okay, Okay, I get the picture, I understand, just back off Mom or I will forced to go into evasive action here……….YES I will eat Italian. Dang I hate losing a battle with that women, now i'll have to eat my Crow with tamatoe sauce on it......
L-R, we have Nevada, Darren and Pine. Standing on the very edge of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Me and my darling bride of now 25 years, couldn't think of a better way to celebrate it than with my kids & Darren............thanks Mom for getting us there.

Bon Jour No, booms a loud voice ........ come’onna in and seet down, what a you gunn’a eat’a tonight hey? The big burly fella was just plumb full of smiles and conjoviality, he had the kids number in about 10 seconds…………they were on him like Budgies on bird seed. This guy could’a fed Darren Anchovies on a sweet roll and kept him happy. Le’mme getta you a glass of wine for da leetle lady…………….okay its starting to look bad for me, cause he just won my wife over…………I am totally on my own here it seems. All I see are smiling faces looking back at the large Italian who swept them off their tired feet and settled them into his culinary concern with his conviviality
Soon enough we had drinks around, mostly Ginger Ales, and a Burgundy Wine for Mom, and at this fellas recommendation a fine red from where else…………….slap me and tell me I am lying…………yessiree Bob, from California. “Somm’a da besta Vino ee’s coming from Cowleefornia no” ...........I took a close second look to make sure this was not Arnold moonlighting. Mom tasted the red, giving her nod of approval, which seemed to delight him. So, ( long pause for theatrical effect) now whats’a you going to eat ya, let me help you jus a leetle becuss’a we hav’a some house a’specialtees no! We take his advice and order Pizza……………just kidding. Kids had Calzone, with carmelized Onion and ham. I think Mom had a Bowtie Pasta and seafood dish in Garlic & Safforn Sauce which she claims was better than Macn’Cheese………….I know, hard to believe but hey she’s my wife right. I had a Cannelloni dish which was also just great. Now I am thinking that I have seen the best from this guy who sat us, as he made quite and effort to sell us on what are dishes that he felt were special only to his fine Restaurant, to his credit he made a huge effort.


We begin dessert with a feinting appeal on his part, a smart marketing ploy for someone in the food business, and it goes like this………. You guys’a look so hell’ty no, jus look at dose tall strait’a boys no. And da girl she hass’a such long’a hair no………….I guess you don’a eet a deesert and luke like dis no. My boy hes’a smart boy to eh, heer you like’s look at’a my boy…………hes’a go to skool in’a Ocs’furrd………….luk’a him he weel be a La’wyer next’a yeer no. Heer, let me show yu’s hee’s best’a dish…………..right heer eh…………dis is a Teera-Missu dat will jus melt’s ina you mouth…………..das right, my boy hee comes’a home jus to eat his Daddies Teera-Missu. ( great flourishing of the arms, and finger waving, I can't tell if hes a cook or a THESPIAN ) ee’s da best NO..........and he looks at me...... Shoot, how do I know how to answer……..one slip of the tongue in my answer and I could be in a fist fight or in bed with this guy. Okay, you lik’a dat for desert’a eh, lemme shoe you somting maybe just’a as fine no. Now dis, it falls from heaven no, dis is my brothers’a Chees’a “K”ake no, dis is make wit only fresh milk from “K”ow no, he makes’a to peek only wild’t Strouw-beree’s no…………..ya look heer, you see yes how small are StrouwBerries no.
Black'a Bearee Truffle'a.......... NO

Da best'a Leemown Tart'a you ever eet ..............NO

Okay,okay, enough already, just give us one of each along with a four-up of coffee. This guy blew smoke up our tiny hinny till we were fully digested and ready for something else to eat. We bought 4 deserts, when we only intended to buy 2 and do the “poor boy split”. I want to tell you though that the visit was real fun, the kids just ate it up like they did their meals. He made our entire meal for the night fun and entertaining, he was in no way obtrusive in his selling of the deserts, he just wanted to emphasize how good each of his deserts were. And they were, just as good as he promised they would be. Darren even got by the fresh cream that was poured over his dessert. An ample application of fresh cream is something that you are offered a lot of over here in the UK. You can ask Darren today, and he will attest to what a great addition to an otherwise great dessert it was.
Leetle leady, dee's da best'a Chees'a K'ake wit wild StrouBerrey ever......NO

Its almost 11 when we leave the Italian Restaurant that had been our sanctuary from the toils of being a tourist for the day, the only real meal that we ate out and it was one we all enjoyed. I work on the Blog for an hour or so, Mom and kids have a cup of Tea and call it a day

Good Night and God Bless

An dee's a for da best'a yung man too-day no, He's a fin'a boy NO. For you da Teera-Miisou and some'a Kow Kream NO

August 18, 2007

Blog Day19- a shopping day of sorts

The very first panel of the Over Lord Embroidery Project.

Our day would commence by Jeremiah heading to a Lebanese owned Internet Café and working on the BLOG for a 2.5 hour stint. Most of what I done was down load photographs, since it takes so long to attempt to download from my laptop and air card. I wasn’t to worried about the text, since I could type it any time and throw it all up later. While I worked on my Blog, my wife and kids found a laundry and washed a few clothes, so that we could have a few clean ones when we hit London.
Overlord Embroidery Project.

From the Laundry, we began the day by heading to the Over Lord Project, which is a Museum dedicated to the preservation of honor and education, for those troops who participated in the event that you and I know of as D-Day.
Mom stands in admiration of an immense project, and an honorable group of men whom inspired its undertaking.

Have you ever heard of the Bayeux Tapestry. Most likely not, and don’t feel badly if you haven’t heard of it. I had never heard of it either until I got into Grade 3 History. But then that would take us into a whole”nuther”discussion of education and the equity within education. The Bayeux Tapestry may well be the most famous Tapestry in all of European Museums, and for several reasons. To begin with it is the longest Tapestry in the world, totaling some 235 feet if I remember my Grade 3 teacher. The whole Tapestry was done as a method of retelling the story of the Norman Invasion of England, back in 1066. Now take all of these facts with a grain of salt, because I am too darn tired to jump up and go hunt down the hard facts for you tonight, but this will get you close enough to get the flavor of the story. No matter how you dice it the Bayeux Tapestry is quite impressive.
Over Lord Project.

Over Lord Project

As for myself, being a fan of history and the such. I think that the whole D-Day story is a very impressive one. Moreover it is a story that seems to be lost within the education system today. There have been numerous formats which have attempted to tell the whole story of D-Day and show the magnitude and the awesome character of the men who made it come together. The Tapestry covered all of those, from the lowest Private to the Generals planning, from the French Resistance to the numerous civilian women who volunteered as actual medics. The Tapestry was done by a group of 20 women, all of whom were involved in needle point and embroidery, who banned together to do the actual work of building a Tapestry panel to tell the story. In the beginning they had no intention of making a project as long as the Bayeux Tapestry, that came as the story unfolded before them from interviews etc of actual soldiers etc on the field.
Over Lord Project

Walking the streets of this small town, searching in Antique Shops for items to add to our collections.

In the end, they concluded a Tapestry, known as Operation Over Lord, the actual code name for D-Day, that was longer than the Bayeux Tapestry by some 15 feet and wider by about 10” per panel in height. Now I have to say that JW is not exactly an EMBROIDERY enthusiast, but walk into this dimly lit room and take one look at any of the 95 panels which by the way are continuous in there manufacture and you will be impressed. The detail and effect of the many types of stitch as well as the use of fabric color and print creates a very believable account of the events. Along with the Embroidery exhibit, there was also a very good artifact museum alongside which gave further evidence as to the magnitude of this battle front. You cannot come away from an exhibit like this without having a huge appreciation for the thousands of men who gave their all for the very freedoms we now enjoy in the free world………………and our kids will take another year of Malcolm Who X?
Even the back alleys held treasures

Oh well, don’t get me going on the darned education thing, not tonight.

From the WW Museum we head for Arundel Castle only to find it closed for cleaning…………oops, just closed. That was the line I used to tell my kids on why we couldn’t go to the beach when they wanted too. But being as how the Castle was closed, we could still explore the small town……..right. SO, my boy Pine had his heart set on finding a good quality Dirk before he left the UK, and we started to search out the Antique shops for such a thing. Now its really quite amazing how a simple conversation can lead to so many interesting things happening in ones life. But just that, a simple question began this hour long opportunity to visit with a shop owner who knew an Arm our Collector. Over time, when he finally realized the Pine was serious, he then agreed to call his friend down to the shop and introduce Pine to him. It was neat, the fellow was a very well known collector of high end items, and gave Pine some valuable tips on spotting the real thing from the fake, also a lesson on price ranges for the quality of item he sought. All in all, fun and learning was had by all. Pine and Darren are both quite interested in Numerology and as such each bought a couple of old coins. My daughter, Nevada, has a growing Tea Cup Collection and the accessories that go with it, so she bought a 1785 era Cream Pitcher. We moved on down the street to a second Antique Shop that had been recommended to us, and the boys found a few more coins to go with the collections.
The Broghton Royal Palace as we approach in the rain, the clouded sky does nothing to enhance what is a beautiful exterior to this Palace.

It was now time to head to one of the strangest of Palaces. This was a beautiful building there is no doubt, but just very unusual for an English Royalty Palace. It resembles something Arabic on the outside, and very Oriental on the inside, and very English in its pomp and circumstance, built in 1780 or so for King George the 4th. The palace grounds are large enough in case you were wondering about the lack of shots, it’s just that it was pouring rain and I was wanting to get inside. But upon entering I then found it was another of those no camera Museums, so it became an audio tour and a few shots to keep the lens dry.
Looking for the entryway inot the Brighton Royal Palace.

Brighton Royal Palace to the southwest side.

There is no mistaking the majesty of this building, it was a very fresh approach to decorating, that is incorporating the arts from the Orient. Sort of like our “Feng Shoe” that is sweeping our homes today, why we have even done a little “Feng Shoe” in the barn and I think our horses are more at peace. There are several rooms within this low slung Palace that are worthy of consideration as the neatest, but for me it’s the dining room with its 2 ton, 20 foot silver Dragon Chandelier. I am telling you this beast just looks like he is about to leap off that Walmart Light fixture and eat your Chicken Fry, then drag his whip like scaled tail down the table to the last of the Cobbler and eat that as well. The table was set as it would have been in the day, with sterling plates sitting atop the gold trencher which goes underneath………..shoot, I would be happy with just one plate. Then there are enough different knives/forks/spoons for at least six folks to eat with………..and there all set at one place setting. The center of the table had huge sterling dinner trays, and huge soup Tureens that would hold gallons of soup. The ladle that was used to ladle soup to guests was a huge Conch Shell, which had been silver mounted and fixed to a two handled ladle…………I am telling you this was serious soup serving equipment. The kitchen was considered the MOST MODERN in all of BRITAIN, with automated meat rotisserie, and a rack of wall ovens burning wood underneath, running water and live steam ports in many locations. There were enough solid copper pots around that kitchen to re-roof the entire Canadian Parliament buildings.
The onion domes associated with middle eastern architecture dominate the roof line at Brighton.

It seems that our King George loved the extravagant life that came by living in Brighton by the Sea. It took a toll on his life though, as they tell the story in the audio guide, he became somewhat of a recluse and longed to be left alone by the end of his days. In the end he was a very ill man, having diseases that come from an early promiscuous life, he was very depressed in his later days and as it is described he died a very lonely man.
>>Cowboy Wisdom, says live in a single wide in Battle Mountain and be happy, Palaces must affect a mans psyche.>>

Our accommodations for his evening are really posh, by our standards at least. We had a very nice Bed and Breakfast accommodation that was only a block away from the Atlantic Ocean……………..but it was raining so much nobody really wanted to get out to the beach for a walk or swim. AS it is with all the bed and breakfast stays, you get breakfast but do not have any access to the kitchen itself. So for an evening meal, you must go out and find it. We had decided that what we wanted to find was just a good home cooked meal, didn’t have to be fancy nor exotic…………..just home cooked. We ended up right down town Brighton, and a small Café with a sign that read what else but “Home Cooked Meals “ our specialty. Now did I tell you how much I hate Liver. MY thoughts are that this is the one thing we could feed to prisoners to force confessions or convultions. Man, I sure don’t want Darren to find out that I, hate something………EEEEEEE gads this could be bad.
The dining Hall at Brighton Palace.

The entry to the Library Room at Brighton Palace.

We venture on in, and find a place to sit. Our cute little waitress comes out and speaks to us with a heavy accent of someplace maybe eastern Europe……….not quite sure but not English. We all order a Ginger Ale, Mom gets 3 glasses of Wine since she is not sure how quickly the waitress will come by again…………….we finally talk her down out of the tree and assure her she can drink her Wine one glass at a time like every one else. With our drinks comes a Menu, and we slowly go thru the whole thing looking for that item which appeals to us……………until Nevada spots a dish having Liver in it and that sparks a conversation that revolves around Aunty Elaine who will actually order Liver &Onions when she could have Steak………………….my Dad hates liver says Nevada as she is leaning over the table to emphasize the fact that DAD hates some food thing. So what are you ordering Mr.Watt, says my young charge Darren, with a huge Cheshire Cat grin on his face.
This is a view down the entry hall at Brighton Palace.

Mom order something she liked, Nevada ordered something that she liked, and Pine ordered something that he liked as well, I noticed Darren done the same as Pine…………and Jeremiah ordered the Liver in Red Onion Gravy. WHAT……………Your going to WHAT MR.WATT, order LIVER………..but I thought you hated LIVER, MR.WATT.
20 feet in hieght and 2 tons in total hanging wieght, this is quite a piece hanging over the Banquet Hall Table.

Folks, her is what I told my young friend. Gag or not I will try it…………..besides, didn’t you notice that the guy who owned the B&B had a dog……………I can always feed it to him. Besides, I live my life looking out the front window not out the rear window, I would sooner blaze a new trail that follow a mundane path………………gag a maggot………….bring on that Liver.
This Sterling silver, slithering denizen of the Dutch Oven, haunts every meal served, with his skulking presence over the heads of diners.

This may never happen again, but this liver was just amazing. Now lets be honest here since we are all friends, I mean if you remove KETCHUP from the table………..nobody eats LIVER……………..am I right……………common now brother, gimme a high 5 for truth…………right. I ate my liver tonight sans ketchup and loved every bite of it. I will put it down as one of the best meals I ate while in England.
To the parlor we go, after partaking in a fine meal in the Banquest Hall.

The Liver was seared, and doing so made the outside crisp and very flavorful, it actually had a little tinge of pink in the center so it lacked that tuff a sole leather consistency. It had been covered in bacon after the searing step, and then nicely browned and topped with a deep red/brown Onion gravy along with some mashed Tatties and Neeps. Very fine and my night of eating CROW turned out to be just grand after all. We had desert, some sticky puddings and custard, along with a Chocolate Pudding Pie which was also very good. Over a strong cup of Turkish Coffee we sat and talked to our waitress who as it turns out was from Poland. Matter of fact, while we visited Poland some 2 years ago we ate at a Restaurant called Perogianna which I highly recommend, and she knew well of this eating establishment and of the Wetzl Ice Cream shop that I mentioned over on my web site in my R2A Library and our little travel books you can download.
Just seems that a ceiling cannot get any prettier than this for example.
So it was a fun day, its rolling past 10 pm, and we are looking for a clean bed and some rest.
Good Night and God Bless
Thanks to a postcard, we found some sunshine over Brighton Royal Palace.

August 14, 2007

Blog Day18- Cheddar Gorge to Roman Baths

The rugged side walls of Cheddar Gorge, Englands Grand Canyon.

Gypsy encampment

We took our breakfast early at this Hostel. It was ushered along by a matronly Grand mother who was busy whipping some respect into her apparent grand-daughters who didn’t seem to enjoy serving/cooking/cleaning………….or for that matter, being awake at this time of day.
Very tight turns, and rock walls with plenty of full cover mark this road as being gorgeous too drive.

Looking towards the rear wall of Bath Abbey as we walk in that direction.

The domed cieling of the entry inot the Roman baths

First stop is Cheddar Gorge, the home of Cheddar Cheeses that now surround the planet, and also home to England’s version of Carlsbad Caverns and maybe our Grand Canyon. Although both of the later pale by comparison to the size and splendor of our own natural wonders, non-the-less they are quite pretty. The gorge is an ancient Volcano and run off creation, they say……….funny how many things rely on a heavy run-off of water for their ultimate creation………………..it’s almost as if there was this huge FLOOD at some time in our history.
Roman Baths #1

Roman Baths #2

Walking the streets of Bath

The Gorge runs for some 3-4 miles, and its walls are at times sheer rock formation spanning some 500 feet in width and 800 feet in height. In several places the rock walls of the gorge are grass and brush covered, in these places the park service has employed Goats to aid in maintaining the equilibrium between grass and brush encroachment…………………….I am fairly certain that here in USA, we would have to remove the Goats to safe sanctuary in case a “height challenged” Goat should fall. And ,of course we would all wonder and spend money on studies to conclude the reasons for advanced brush encroachment and what could be done about it.
The busy streets of Bath, vendors and entertainers blot the path

Deep in the bowels of Cheddar Gorge

Just one of several underground lakes within Cheddar Gorge.

There are several very large caverns that lay hidden under the lip or banks of the Gorges walls, each created as was Carlsbad by the introduction of acids emitted by the Volcanoe. The released acids eat the Limestone rock, and create huge twisted, gnarled caverns with smooth walls and folds and pleats along each foot of wall. The Folds & Pleats of these cavern walls is what make them different than those we have here in America, or for that matter the rest of the world. Isn’t it amazing how God knew way back then the eventual importance of Tourism would be to the majesty of what his hands had created………just amazing. They often refer to the larger folded formations as a curtain, and indeed when you see them in person along a wall in these caverns they do look like a huge curtain or drape. There is a fairly interesting natural history presentation at the end of the Cavern Tour, it explains all facets from and evolutionary aspect. The finding of an Ancient man, with a full set of teeth……………….concluding he didn’t come from Arkansas nor Virginia. But he was old, and we know it because he was in there when we found it, making him older than the explorers. And thus ANCIENT.
A tumbling human skull was a part of the coming to life exhibition at the exit of Caves.

This is a pure luck shot of the strobe lit Dragon the ends your tour of Cheddar Gorge.

The tiny river that runs down through Cheddar Gorge and makes up the source of water for the Cheese making that has existed in this gorge for such a long time.

We walk the touristy town of Cheddar, sample many forms and types of Cheddar. Funny how most of this Cheddar is white colored and Sharp tasting. While our US counterpart is always yellow/orange and tastes like eating a candle from the Thanks giving dinner table. We sampled it spiced/ fruited/ marbled/ crumbled/ on crackers/ even sliced & original which was pretty cool. I loved it and the kids all gagged.
Bath Abbey and a tribute to an Emporer

We head up the Gorge on our exit over the top to find huge rolling grass hills as the circumference of the Gorge, each with an ample amount of grazing livestock to keep them healthy and productive. As we drive this very narrow piece of road, we pass what is certainly a Gypsy camp. It is right on the side of the road at a place that seems convenient to them and without care nor concern for those who may happen by. I am wanting to stop RIGHT at the road side by their many brightly colored horse drawn wagons, which are reminiscent of those wagons pulled by our sheep herders so many years ago. But the size of the fangs on the lone German Sheppard I see makes me come to my senses and leave a little distance between the cheeks of my butt and his jaws.
A small portion of what would have been an exquisite tiled floor within the bath area.

All of my crew at the side of the Roman Baths of Bath England.

I have always wondered how you discern a "Dummy " from a "Mannequin"?

Outside the Jane Austin Tea Room & Museum

Snaking our way over hillsides covered in grass, we roll along in the quite air conditioned comfort of our Swedish Rocket. Those narrow B lanes, and the constant presence of ivy lined rock walls built a deciduous tunnel that careened us strait into the city of Bath. A welcome refuge for most of the day, as there are so many things to see in this beautiful city. We will begin at the Roman Baths, the Emporer’s version of a Holiday Inn to the north. Built by the first century Romans, 100 AD. Complete with a 125 by 90 bath, filled with healing hot mineral waters that refurbish and heal the limbs of a conqueror. It had to be the scene of opulence and luxury in its day, if you consider the _”mud hut makeup” of this area prior to the arrival of the Romans. The Romans brought with them arrows, catapults, cavalry and well trained ground armies that could devastate the hunter gatherer armies that stood in their way. And over time, when the battles were done, the generals and politicians could relax and console one another around Baths and Parlors the likes of which the peasantry could not even imagine. Darren is really into the whole Roman history……………..not sure if it ties into his Italian heritage or not. Darren insisted on his having a picture beside the Roman Baths, it was a crowded place on this day, but folks gave us enough time and space to get the shot.
The Royal Crescent

The spectacular Vaulted cieleings of Bath Abbey

The light that bathed the interior was more golden than it was white, it hung like a drape acorss burial plaques as old as the year 1122.

We make our way through the Museum display, which gives us a sense of how majestic these baths would have been in their day, with the tiled floors, and lead piped which carried water every where. Giant hand pumps that are used to transport water to higher and further locations from the source. Places to lounge and be fed by hand by servants, wine in casks, and places to store fresh fruits and Mead etc. In general, a whore house for Conquerors.
The sweet melody of a trio of Violins greets our ears as we exit the Abbey

Tight, fast playing punctuates the air as we sip our Latte.

Looking back on BAth as we are headed towards Stone Henge and our days end.

Out in the local streets we make our way to the Jane Austin Tea Room, you know the old heifer that came to be so famous in the movie known as Pride & Prejudice. The only thing that makes this epically boring tale work, is that they hung the story line around the frame of Keira Knightley………….had they given her the frame of Rosie “O” none of us would have watched it. It would have been called a Dog Catchers Debate. But , my daughter just loves the story and because of that so do I. Nevada wants to have a cup of Tea from the land mark establishment, but for some reason the Tea Room is closed. So she finds herself a Tea Cup instead from this literary edifice of English Culture.
Sheep graze amidst building thunderheads on a distant ridge.

From there we head somewhat north to the Royal Crescent, a half circle of housing for the well to do of England in her day. The huge circular form of richly decorated buildings is quite a sight, the blue sky peaks thru and allows a little sun to adorn the taupe walls of this 18th Century structure. From there we walk the short distance down too the Royal Gardens, which encompass some 300 acres and prove to be too vast for our sidewalk weary legs. So our Garden tours are shortened so that we may walk back and take in the Bath Abbey before it closes for the day.
The time worn formation we know as Stone Henge is much more impressive in person than in pictures, I guess becasue you get a better idea of the massize size of this rock moving enterprise.

This decision proved to be one of the smartest we had made on the whole trip. It goes without saying that the Abbeys and Churches over here are just astounding, this Abbey known as the “Light to the West” is without doubt one of the finest examples you will find. The huge high vaulted ceilings all done in white limestone, the abundance of windows on every wall that allow in a burst of glowing light from every stained glass transom, it baths the time worn white rock walls with color only Angels can sing of. The deeply carved wooden Pews, each with an entwining Ivy leaf decoration on its end, all done in rich brown Mahogany, offset by the dark marble floor tiles that lead you to the Reredos and Altar under the adoring gaze of a Crucified Christ on the Cross. For myself, I have seen many Catherdals and Abbeys over here in Europe and UK, but none seemed to have the sense of majesty that this had. If you are ever here, your trip would be less important if you did not take it in.
Just my crew, happy to have seen Stone henge, happy to be done for the day.

We sat outside of the Abbey, on the street at a Bistro and had coffee while some young musicians played in a stringed ensemble……….” Known as a group of Pickers in Elko in January”. They played it all with verve and gusto, from “Shopin” to Mozart, a little Beetles and a little P-Diddy. It was fun for the kids, too sip a Latte and be serenaded by three young people not much older than they were, and they done it with such flair and zeal it was enthusiastic. We walked the streets for some time before we mounted our method of conveyance onwards to the city of Portsmouth which looks to the south and the Atlantic Ocean.
Fields full of grain await enough dry time to be harvested...........

We are in Stone Henge country and the wonders of what all this primordial edifice to the Gods is really supposed to be or do. There is no mistaking how massive an undertaking it must have been for the primitive man that built this monument. I have , like many of you, seen countless images of Stone Henge. I can say with honesty it is fun to see in person, and the significance of its size really drives home the importance of its difficulty in creating. As to exactly what it was supposed to do for the indigenous peoples of this area...........well, specualtion runs the gammut. One thing that we did notice is that even though the materials used to build Stone Henge are different, the actual layout is strikingly similar to some of those first mounds we visited in Ireland a few weeks ago. Within seconds of snapping this picture thru a "Chain Link fence", yes I said a chain link its true. A huge Buss pulled up, and dumped out a load of tourists that swarmed the monument like conquering Roman soldiers removing any chance of a second more interesting shot. Oh well, we came, we saw,we climbed on is the tourist motto.

I think we must all have been sort of restauranted out, because the suggestion of Mom cooking at the Hostel comes with a great deal of acceptance. So we have some sliced meat and Cheddar cheese from Cheddar on crackers, Mom cooks Pasta and some kind of Vodka Sauce. We sit back with some Tea and the kids play cards while I work on the Blog again

Good Night and God Bless

Once again Luxury accomodations await us, hardening us for travel in the unknown

August 13, 2007

Blog Day17- Stomping the ancestral grounds

The Farmhouse as it stands after we leave.............not sure after that

We make our way back to the Farm House the previous night with some degree of trepidation since the Pack Horse bridge is said to be as deep/flooded as any citizens under 100 can remember……….we are most worried about getting out of this little Welsh valley on the only road left open to us……………….

We ask our host, Connor to rouse us just a little earlier hoping that we can have some time to make our way out of the rain drop dilemma. The breakfast greets us with yet more rain, and two guests that we had as of yet not met. Apparently this young just married couple arrived while we were at the pub eating. They told us of their own struggles with making it this far up into Wales coming from the south. About how many roads had been washed out, and how many river banks had run their confines only to spill out over the road ways and leave motorists stranded and looking for lodging rather unexpectedly. The news they brought to our tympanic membranes was not a welcome one I can assure you. I guess thie was also the first day in which an Ulster Fry had lost its charm, and without saying it many of us felt it………..we are ready for something different.
This will give you a good view of how swollen the river had become.

Wew found the going from this small farm town to be rather shall we say, drenched. As we can see the Pack Horse bridge has been overrun with the swollen waters of this tiny river. The houses that lines its banks are busy pumping some 2-3 feet of water out of the lowest floors. Like every one else, we stood around like tourists, and watched the river flow swiftly by us, as Land Rover after Land Rover made its way across the bridge and up the street……………….causing further flooding and angering the house owners, till somebody put up a road block.
The situation is rather dim for all the houses that flank the fast rising creek/river.

Finally we are off in a spray of rain drops and muck from under the rear tires, and from here we are headed to a mythical place known as Penrose Farm. It was 1895 when an English Farm boy packed his meager belongings into a swag which he mounted over his shoulder and made his way from England to the “Promised Land” and the homesteads that were being handed out in Canada, to be more precise, the Province of Saskatchewan. This 17 year old boy would in time become the Great -Great Grandfather of my wife Colleen. The brother to this same young man, at the age of 16 would later cross the Atlantic on the Lusitania before it would be sunk by the Germans. He would farm in southern Saskatchewan for his life time along side his older brother, and would live to see 106 years of age. This is a testimony that speaks of the strength not of these two men, but rather a testimony to the strength of character instilled in many young men at this time………..and today our same young men whine about having to work in the summer and not having the newest latest wildest video game……………WOW, have we ever blown it.
For this poor fellow its a day or more of water pumping ...........too bad.

Penrose Farm, the original house, and the original farm still exists today, a testimony I guess in some ways to the saving ways of an English culture, one in which old is cherished and saved and new is introduced into that which is old. The house today is occupied by a young couple with “chillen”, and certainly it takes on a new demeanor from the days that GGGF left it, yet, it stands as a testimony none the less. Sitting high on a row of barren grass covered hills does this small farm, with rock fence edifices that stand even today stating its willingness to contain and protect all that are placed in its walls. Clouds skip and skim like Frisbee’s over the hills, rain rivulets run wild, replenishing the life which sustains the life stories of who knows how many generations going forward from here, each with a story to tell, each as compelling as the other. My wife would loved to have taken a look around the inside of the house for “posterities sake” but she simply wouldn’t fit through the bathroom window!
Free and clear at last to unleash the Swedish Road Rocket on the English countryside.............rev er'up boys and crank the ZZ Top

Poochy Maggie, if there was a way to make a living, JW would be here

On our way from Llandrindod Wells, to Trent-Tower Castle Home. This stop proved to be rather a fun one since it was a living history presentation and not just a walk and look stop. The rain pelted us from Parking lot to Belfry, we covered the items we wished not to get wet and made the dash for the front gates and the warmth of a hearth fire. As we made the dash from our 1 car parking lot, room for 200 or so more, but just us today, we are greeted by the sounds of a Mariachi………………oops, scratch that, just some English in Sombreros playing the typical music of the day. You know some Queen, and the Who, with a little Beetles thrown in for fun. The multi-stringed Lute, and a Flute backed by a Bodram made up the majority of the instruments today, the dancers are doing a Quadrille on 4 pairs……………..if this music was played in Arkansas we would al be doing a Hen&Rooster Scratch, or maybe a Shotiss. Those folks in the south really butcher a fine French word.
Some farmers moving thiere little band of sheep.

I walked to the kitchen area, where four cooks are working to prepare a meal that would be the type served to a Lord from this kitchen. We had a couple of salads, and a serving of meats like Rabbit, and Duck done on a spit in the fire place. Along with this was new potatoes done in gravy, and some fresh bread with sprigs of thyme in it. The kitchen was huge, and the fire place some 10-12 feet in width , having a central fire and from that a cook would remove coals as needed to heat the bread oven, and bank coals to roast meats on the hand turned rotisserie. Chickens and what not dot the lawns about, even venturing into the kitchen area at times, only to be chased out by the cook till some later date when there services would be needed.
Angus and Hamish, farmers amongst the Yorkshire Dales

I will tell you now that I had one real goal for myself, while I traveled in the UK. I wanted to see that typical scene from the travel books, one in which a car is halted on an overly narrow road by a man his faithful dog and a band of sheep. Today would be my closest encounter of that type. A band of sheep was being moved down an excessively narrow road, by two men in a Tractor, along with 2 dogs sitting in the tractor with them. Just had to stop and talk to them as they ran the Ewes into a new field through a Stone wall gate. I got out of the car and introduced myself too Hamish and Angus, my God what great names. Can you imagine if you had twins over here…………..why you could have Hamish & Haggis…………..or you could have Aberdeen & Angus.
My wifes ancestral home, at least one one side of it.

I had a good visit with these two heavy handed individuals, you could see the effects of hard work on every part of there substantial frame. There was no pudge attained by Mall walking on these two, these guys walk plenty of hills, and lamb in the open Fells of this area. They restack rock walls that fall from age or the indiscretion of teenage youth, they follow the black& white ruff of a darting Collie dog thru river and Gorse to tend their Sheep and move their cows. Two brothers on one farm, some 435 acres, this they tell me is rather large for these parts. They run 1100 Ewe’s on top of this they run some 150 head of cows and calves. They hold over all of their calves till they turn 2, and fatten them on grass in the high country up in the Heather and Gorse, this helps keep the hills in deeper grass they say. On top of all that, they produce almost all of their own Haylage and grain on this acreage. I am totally amazed at the productivity. They put down no artificial Nitrogen, but spread liquid manure every week. They own no motor cycles, nor quads, nor horses, they preffer to walk and move livestock by way of dogs, which they each keep some 4-5 of at all times. Apparently the Gorse is tough on the dogs paws, and each needs to take a break in the summer months. By the way, the dog that is being held onto would have gladly eaten my leg if not held………….thanks Hamish.
The Hen & Rooster Scratch dance................olf English RAVE party.

The skies break and we roll right into Carephilly Castle, the largest Castle in southern Wales. It has amazing Motes around it, some as large as 100 or so feet in width and 25 feet deep, lined with rock and hand dug. The problem is that on this rain laden day, there is a Wedding taking place, and when the clouds momentarily part, it is beseeched by Wedding Photographers. We are simply out numbered, and out of respect for their day of bliss, we make our way out of the castle and on down the road.
The cooks working up a few salads and a rabbit dish.

Making our way south towards the river Severn……………not sure if I swam in this one while riding across Utah last year on my bike or not? We stop to take in the Cardiff Castle, in Cardiff by the Sea, and what a gorgeous Castle this was. I think the rock wall that surrounded it, with the imposing stone animals that had mounted the wall to GLARE at all passersby, their goal to intimidate and cause fright, was the most impressive feature. Each animal was so lifelike, each having colored glass eyes, each with hackles raised and teeth barred…………very realistic.
Butt up and head down, slaving over a hot hearth.

Cardiff Castle was a guided tour, and a no camera Castle. Well maintained with plenty to see that was impressive. The tour took a total of about an hour, it was fun to be able to listen to the tour for a change, rather than having to keep my camera going. We walk the streets of Cardiff for a few blocks in several directions, but nothing caught our eyes nor our Wallets so off to Bristol we go making our last stop in this harbor town for the night.
Very little of this huge castle has been tore apart by the ravages of war, except for one of the watch towers as you can see here.

We find our Hostel first, not bad and pretty clean as Hostels go. It’s a 6 man room that we have all to our selves tonight. The extra bed proved to be a good place for the kids to lay out their considerable stash of LOOT, with countless key chains, Shot Glasses, Wool Blankets of numerous Tartans, woolen scarves of Footballers colors, Sghian Dubhs and Tams.

Poochy Maggie, am I hungry. So, I ask my young charges if they are the same and if so are they up to a walk towards city center so we can see the night sites of Bristol and get something to eat. We are off with very little complaint, and mostly empty bellies. We walk some 8 – 10 blocks and make our way down to the rivers edge, now at low tide at the oceans edge, so the river looks to be rather empty of water. City center is a bustling place, full of high heels and Clubs, long legs and colored lights…………….makes me glad I don’t have my nephew Walker with me. We check out several Cafes and Restaurants as we walk, we have nothing in mind really as far as what we want to eat tonight, so the walk is a much fun as it the guessing as to where we will finally come to roost and eat.
Rock walls and moats, make this an imposing edifice to conquer

Beasts that protect and threaten the weak hearted who approach

It’s settled, we will sit on a barge so to speak, out on the river Severn. The Spy Glass will be our place of culinary refuge for the eve, now lets see what we can have from this manu. It appears to be a very HIP/CHIC place to eat, we see many young couples show up in Club outfits a little more daring than what my wife wore on her Honeymoon night. Sorry, I was a little distracted I really didn’t intend to sit in my fish when I came back from the bathroom. We had Duck in Saffron Sauce, some Lamb and Tunisian Rice, a Seafood Salad and ,Fish and Chips. Topped of the supper with a cheese cake for Mom and I to split and the kids shared a Chocolate Fondue and fruit plate. Was a good stop, we enjoyed the ambience, had a cup of coffee each and took a leisurely walk back to our Hostel Room at about 11.30. Believe me; sleep came easy for all of us.
Cardiff Castle as it is seen from the rock hold.

Good Night and God Bless

The Bristol Cathedral as it can be seen from the high rock walls of the Cardiff Castle

The busy streets of downtown Bristol, by 10pm the clubs are just starting to pump life into the limp bodies of the clubbers who arrive

The walk along the river was a real pretty one, even though it was raining a tad

August 8, 2007

Blog Day 16- the labour of the Lords workers

My crew and thier friend Ari.

About a week before we left on our holiday trip, a good friend of my kids had left on her first Mission trip to Wales. And so it has been in planning for quite a time now that we would stop and try to visit with this friend Ari Griffin if at all possible, and that was the primary goal for this morning adventure.
Heavy rain filled coulds are the "sky du jour"

Not even sure now why I took this picture, so I put it up here to see if you can remember why?

We had the English version of the Ulster Fry at the Hotel at which we had stayed. The fellow who runs it is a very large rotund fellow of good humor and just average cooking and cleaning skills………………yes, come to think of it does sound a lot like the average camp cook now that I think about it. The difference is that with the English version, it seems the Sausages are a little softer maybe more pork not sure. Besides that, and when in England you do not get the Soda Bread nor the delicious Potato Bread that has been fried in Bacon drippings. With the English version you will most often have two kinds of bread toasted, usually a white and a whole wheat, and the last difference is that in England you always get a sweet baked beans portion and no potatoes on the plate.
Just a small street, where farmers sell thier vegetables on the sidewalks, and stores sell fresh fruit from sidewalk stalls, meat comes from a Butcher Shop, and bread from a Bakery. NOt like here where you can buy your bread, steaks, lumber, car tires and condoms all in one convienient stop....................Costco/Wal Mart etc

My friend the Butcher, Mr.Petersen

Fresh is the word, cut as you like it, Lamb, Rabbit, Pork, Beef etc

Whilst eating we had the chance to visit with our sociable cook, and found a few funny things out about how at least some of the Brits think about us. It seems that for some Brits the knowledge of our Laws is not shall we say, not very well understood. And then there is the misinformation, stereotype that some fanatics seem to enjoy endorsing. More on that a little later. This fellow and most of his friends believed that for instance the simple act of Jaywalking would land you in Prison for a short stint of a few months. They had come to believe that the ALL YANKEES carry a gun and we still have old west shoot outs on the street…………….he even claimed to have friends who seen that sort of thing in USA and for that he believed it in earnest. Its funny how stereotypes develop, for instance from my first trip to Russia I had come to think that all Russians are unfriendly………………for the second time now I find myself in Russia and my first impression was absolutely correct. IN any matter, we tried in vain to allay his fears and phobias about visiting USA, but with little or no success. Not sure that FAT guy who makes those hate America movies does much good for the stereotyping that settles upon the Euro-Mind.
The Pastie of the day was a Ham & Leek with Stilton Cheese, wowzer Grommit t'was fine.

The roof of the St.Marys Cathedral is done in Pine, a marked difference from most Churches of this age.

Dwon the 200 feet or so to the rear most wall of St.MArys Cathedral. I have found out that this wall is commonly called the Reredos.

The only repair that was required in this Abbey was the arched stone wall that you see here, repairs were done in 1765.

Off we go to the small village at which our church going friend was staying, her place of abode was an old farm with a few small cottages and a main house, the actual barn had been turned into a dorm of sorts. This proved to be a “no frills” missionary trip, and one in which the kids are engaged in hard work that has no benefit to them but can and will have a lasting act of goodness for those who will eventually make use of this retreat for battered women and separated families. Ari herself was in good spirits, albeit covered in mud and mire from her hand work on a water system being developed on the spacious grounds. We visited with her team leader and found some interesting things about the basic European community ( stereo-typing at work again ) for example. Statistics say that within the USA we have a 71% Church going community, keep in mind that this is an all faiths statisitic. That same statistic within western Europe is only 2%. Europe is a faithless community, which explains how it is that you can have such beautiful Cathedrals and Churches and only camera toting tourists inside of them.
With all the rain falling as we talk, it has come time to say our good byes, give our hugs and best wishes to a young girl far from home doing the Lords work and spreading his sunshine within a greying community.
Original Stained glass work on the rear of the St.MArys Cathedral

I have looked back and taken a picture of every Spiral Staircase I have been on, and this is a contemporary steel replacement inside of Shrewsbury Abbey.

We loaded up our sleek grey Swedish bitumen culvert and headed into the hills of Wales with a tact that would by days end have us in a rustic Welsh Farmhouse for the evening. But in the days trip we would see many very narrow roads, and many rock fence lines. It has become apparent to even us, that there are many styles of rock fence to be stacked and we can now sort of recognize about 5 maybe 6 versions each with a few small differences. The rock about this area is not the usual round boulder, but more of a flat layered rock more like a shale, so this will determine the type of stacking that will take place. Its raining cats and ducks, and its time to feed the crew, not to mention that Jeremiah needs some batteries for his camera. It was while wandering the streets of this very cute little town that I happened onto the Petersen Butchers & Pie Shop. I struck up a conversation with the owner, over the beef hind he had hanging behind him at that moment and also to ask him about the assorted Puddings that his shop exclaimed as being the best. What I learned was of amazement to me, my daughter being a certified bloody beef eater has had steak on a few occasions and in tasting it we all thought it not only tasted different but also had a different texture to it. I had told her it most likely the difference in being grass fattened versus that of grain/corn fat like USA.
One thing common amongst all of the work done over here, was the phenominal plaster work that could be seen.

It turns out much different, and the grass versus grain fattening has less to do with the difference than more. I learned from Mr. Petersen that he had been to many parts of the western USA and in doing so had sampled much of our beef, which he liked but felt in all cases it was a tad on the tough side. “We still hang our beef as they did in the old Chicago Butcher Yard days” exclaimed my butcher friend. Is that right I reply, and follow on with just what is the time frame that you folks here in England would hang a beef carcass? Well he says, in most USA shops 10 days is the normal time of hang, and in some areas they may still go as long as 14 days. But here he claims, a minimum hang during our busy time would be 30 days and most of our cut and serve carcass will hang 60-a premium hang of 120 days. As far as he is concerned that is what holds American beef back form having its full potential. I know for a fact if I told my good friend Gloria that is what she should ask for at the Butcher shop, she would cough up her false teeth and her hair would go strait in absolute horror at the thought. It struck me as being somewhat ironic how simple marketing hype can change our out looks and expectations on such things as our food………….we’ll leave the weather thing alone for the time being. SPECIAL NOTE OF THE WRITER< and disclaimer to those who may have thin skin and sensitivities: When dealing with global warming and global drought………….bring a rain jacket.
The side court of Shrewsbury Abbey

Next stop……………oh , almost forgot. I was going to tell you about the Black and White versions of pudding served in the morning so often in the UK. Now I have to say, that I arrived here having already had plenty of warning about eating either of these meals or for that matter Haggis which I found to be just superb. Anyways the Puddings are really more like a typical bread pudding, than that of the consistency of say Chocolate Pudding. The Black pudding is just that, almost Black colored. Made of a little bit of ground liver, along with old bread crusts which have been toasted and crisped to which some spices like All Spice and such are added. The whole thing is held together by a little toasted Oatmeal and bacon fat and beef blood till a bread like pudding is formed all of which is then cooked in a tin loaf and served warm. The white pudding on the other hand is less often served but tastes better to our western tastebuds since it has no blood nor liver in it. It is made with mostly white bread and no crust edges, along with some oats, to which all the scraps from Bacon production are added, then some Ham scraps and drippings with White Wine. Enough to hold together for cooking and serving, warm once again. This stuff is WOWZER GROMMIT< would go great with that Wensleydale Grommit old boy. Time to leave, and in exchange for his forthright answers to my constant prodding for answers, I promised him a fine steak at Harris Ranch back home if ever he drops in. Which by the way, I fully expect him to do.
Lordy, I say Lordy, praise the Lord and bring us rain. Brother does the Lord provide. We are almost too deep for our silver Swedish Rocket to pass thru!!!!!!!!!

Next stop is the Abbey at Bath, which turns out to be just beautiful. It was as much wood work as it was stone work, a nice change amongst the phenomenal Churches of England. Built in , well commenced in 1220 and served a population of some 45,000 people.
It is just puring down rain, and we are having a tough time negotiating the very narrow B roadways that we are on. With all the rain, and the hedge fences it is making visibility rather tough. But we soldier on until……….oh,oh. I m looking ahead at a flood across the road and folks out pushing there cars. This was just the first flooded low corner and we had many more to go. As the afternoon wore on and the rain not abating, we washed the sides of our Swedish rocket ever higher. Finally we are up to that level that is above the bumper and washing into the headlights and I am starting to think about it stalling out right in the middle………………….we are so close to our nights stay that we can almost see it but this village is built right on the rivers bank.
The venerable Pack Horse Bridge

We finally make it, and are glad to see a steep hill that rises to the farm house we will be staying at for the night. But none of this happens before we get to turn at the “Pack Horse Bridge” which is the focal point of town and the water is about to top the bridge. We are greeted at the door by a middle aged man named Connor, and he shows us to our rooms. Mom and I are in the oldest section of the house built in 1604, then the kids are in the new section built in 1630. It has its creaks and shutters that come with age, the smells of centuries hang within the house like invisible curtains……..aromas of musty rock and wetted wood, Oak and Lichen to name but a few. As it is said, if houses could talk then indeed this house could dictate several books on its account of the events that have unfolded in the tiny valley that lays below its antique glass panes. The winding wood and stone spiral staircase leads us to our old but modernized second floor bedrooms. Each is furnished in antique period furniture, and within or behind each item that is old lies hidden a modern convenience like a bubbler or a tiny China Tea Pot etc. The shower is huge and very high tech. It was fun to have a full hot shower for a change with no company on the pot so to speak. The kids are equally well taken care of with their rooms amenities.

We head into town to a local Pub called the White Horse Pub, which came well recommended amongst the pubs of town. There are two, and the other was closed, which raised the recommendation level quite a few notches. Typical English Pub, in that the rooms are old, heavy timber in most cases, with dark interiors that invite visiting and beer drinking. Pubs in England are under attack, and will fade from the local scene in a few short years with the very aggressive smoking regulations that have been put into place. I would not know, but for those who are local Pub goers, the Pubs have taken on a new face and it is not the same local information centers that they used to be.
Its 8pm in a typical British Pub, and we are about to have another very fine meal in the friendliest places in Britain.

With that said we will visit more about the Pub grub we had and less about Politics. One thing we all felt good about was the seeming ease at which children are admitted into a Pub and how every one blends in with the setting. There was a 90 plus year old women who sat directly behind us……………..yes, yes I do know she was 90 because I counted the growth rings around her ankles. While we ate over the course of some two hours this old gal consumed 3 strait up shots of whiskey and won every arm wrestle challenge that came her way………………………..okay, okay I WAS KIDDING ABOUT THE ARM WRESTLING. None of us observed anyone drunk or even looking a little in that way, so it was a fun stop. We ate a very good pub grub course, with pastie pies and fish and chips etc. Then we had the dessert of chocolate cake and some chocolate sauce , and the obligatory Sticky Pudding. Great meal, then off to home before the river rose much more, and we could not cross the bridge.

Which reminds me, the bridge is known locally as the “Pack Horse Bridge”, built specifically to allow a man with a loaded pack horse to cross with out any problem. Yes hand stacked rock, 55 feet long and a total of 8 feet in width, topping a rise of 8 feet above normal water stage……………year of construction…………..1410. To this day it has never been reworked nor tore out by flood damage, a solid testimony as to the skills of those who built it. And we will get to see it as close to being in trouble as any can remember……………..so stay tuned.

Good Night and God Bless

August 5, 2007

Blog Day 15- Time to visit Wales

Our superb cook for the night, Rita................many thanks.

We all enjoyed the stay with Louis, Rita and Francesca, and after a very nice breakfast we are ready to head for the Welsh coast near Conwy for more castles and the such. Wales changes quite a lot from the Leeds are which is more of a marshy plain. While Wales has some huge hills in it, even gets some snow in the Snowdonia area which is quite near the western Welsh coast line.
The whole crew in front of Louis and Rita's B&B.

Up the spiral stairs to what remains of Conwy Castle in Wales.

The outer walls of Conwy

The Castle Conwy, was commenced 1245 and carried on long after that being a place of importance due to its harbor and castle size which was a very difficult Castle to overtake, since it was not just a walled Castle but also a fully Walled City the largest of its type in all UK. We walked and shopped and then headed for Plas Mahr, which is a Tudor styled half timbered and daub house. This was a sort of fun visit, since it was set up as a Museum of the life style of the house in its day as well.
Just one of many stone archways that look to the interior of Conwy Castle.

My tour guide, always ready with a smile

Now here is a character who avoids sticking his neck out........

It was nearing lunch time and I wanted to find some Pasties, the kids insisted on having good ol Fish and Chips. I on the other hand had a Ham and Leek pasty, while Mom had the Turkey and Cranberry. Now these are two very good combinations.
From there we headed out to find Castle Beaumaris, but these danged Welsh road signs and impossible signage have lead us around the proverbial Mulberry Bush three times now and ol Pop’s is getting rather tight…………ta Heck with it I finally say and off we go someplace else. BY then if I could have found the little blighter I would have sieged it myself, maybe torched the castle and ruffed up it citizens just to make my point about signage.
Conwy Castle watch towers

The flag of Wales, flutters over the top of a tower in Conwy.

Conwy housing, a few NEW, many OLD, and by far there are more ANCIENT.

Out across the harbours mouth, and looking towards Ireland some 45 miles away.

The southern shores of Conwy, are in want of a rise towards Snowdonia.

Off we go to Cairnfour, and as it all turned out it was the better castle to hit, since it was both larger and of more importance in every aspect. For this is the Castle in which the present sitting Queen was given her Coronation as will be Charles or whomever comes next in line for Coronation.. Fun stop under sunny skies, and just gorgeous clouds for someone who loves to take pictures in a picturesque piece of country.
Looking thru the walls of Cairnafour.

65 feet to water level of the 15 foot diameter well, hand dug, and stone lined some 80 feet deep total

A not so lucky Nautical craft that sits or maybe lays in shallow waters of Wales.

The moniker of George & the Dragon was every where in Wales

The interior view of a 1600 re-enactment kitchen

The heavy timber construction of solid oak, fitted and pegged in wood 1595

Afternoon light on the meager kitchen utensils of the day

We ended the day at a surprise Hotel stay we had booked. Isn’t it funny how closely the words Hotel and Dive not only sound but in their similarity of spelling………………….yes you got it the connection is that both use letters but have nothing else in common. It sounded like HOTEL on the internet…………….and again it sounded like HOTEL on the phone when we confirmed the reservation……………but it looked and acted as a DIVE the moment we set foot in it, and as soon as we laid on the beds we rented for a night where as most must rent them by the hour.
The Lords dining room is scented with a tray full of Rose Petals,

Just one of the thousands of sail boats that ply the waters off the coast of Wales.

The streets of Carduff, looking down from the watch towers

The heavy skies over Cairnafour finally break and allow some sun to peak theu the days cloud cover................a welcome site to all of us!

I made an earnest effort to work on the Blog from this fine establishment since I could not get a signal for squat. But as the lord would have it, I no sooner got hooked on and all the power went out in the entire building. That was not so bad, young Darren had just got soaped up in the shower and the warm water quit him…………..poor kid has never had a cold shower before I guess. With that event I was once again done with work on the Blog, so I headed back upstairs to my room for a cup of hot Tea with Colleen and to discuss what things were to happen the next day.
Nearing the end of yet another day at Carduff by the Sea.

Good Night and God Bless

Looking across the bay at low tide towards Carnafour Castle

August 4, 2007

Blog Day 14-off to visit a Cowboy

The crew and I are out of steam, so we get a late start and are not out on the TOURIST trail till 10am. We head to York to see the Castle Howard which was indeed pretty, but a NO CAMERA stop. The castle is currently being lived in so we tourists do not have access to all the house.

The gardens are huge and the house is an equal to the Gardens. The house is under a lot of restoration and renovation, so some areas that are usually open are also closed off till the work is done. Funny to hear from Curator of fine art and Architecture about such thngs as replacement costs and the ability for instance to have Frescos painted that are of the type and caliber from the days this castle was built.

The conversation went something like this, #1: there was a huge fire that burned out the main entry dome and damaged two of the 4 Citrine Marble Columns. To replace the two columns today required $257,000.00. #2, during the fire water was of course sprayed onto the fire to put it out, doing so damaged 3 of the Frescos painted in 1485 the third of the frescos was also in need of cleaning…………and in the curators own words, we do not produce visionary artist with a Biblical understanding these days. Further more the artist of this day are hopelessly impaired with unleashed creativity and cannot work within the confines of what the application requires. The cleaning bill alone was $475,000.00 #3 and last was some plaster work that required being redone and the reproduction had to faithfully mimic that of the existing work which again proved to be almost impossible to bring in, finally an aged artist is found in Russia with the skills.

According to at least this one person, she longs for a Raphealian Resurrgence, similar to that of Raphael himself, or in much later years the Morris Co. of Scotland. Raphael believed that an artist was first to be a craftsman and then an artist, meaning that he needed to have his hands on the work and understand the nuances of the medium and not merely be a conductor of artistic works.

We are done in York and headed to our next nights stay which will be a sort of COWBOY stay, since the owner of this fine Bed & Breakfast fancies himself somewhat a Cowboy. If the title of Cowboy can be earned with hospitality, then Louis and Rita are indeed Cowboy at heart. Louis and Rita Stottard, along with daughter Franchesca live in a Farm house converted to B&B. The Stottards are all involved in the medical profession, with Loius being a foot and ankle Surgeon, and Rita a traveling in home Nurse.

Louis a student of good horsemanship methods, likes to talk about all things Cowboy and would have talked all night had it not been that he also had surgeries to perform the next day. We talked till . The late, but only after a fine supper prepared by Rita, the ladies enjoyed Rita’s homemade San Gria while preparing supper. Darren had a brand new experience this time around since there was more that one set of cutlery set on the table. At first he thought the extra set was a mistake, but we finally walked him through it. Then we had some new food, he had to get bay the dreaded CHICKEN in a puff pastry pie crust with the GRAVY STUFF ON IT. FOUR helpings later and we could have once again fed our pal CROW instead of CHICKEN and he would have scarfed it like a coyote on road kill. But what was even funnier was desert, now Kim I am telling you this kid could starve to death in a grocery store. Rita brought out two deserts, one a simple chocolate cake done very nicely and the other was Crème Brule’. When we got to Darren he froze, and then stammered something only Big Bird could have understood about foods and what he could/would/can/might/ and lastly maybe could try to eat. And in all of that he felt his personal safety lay in eating something he could buy at Perkos like Chocolate CAKE……………….but he also got a portion of Ritas Crème Brule’ and her syrupy sauce over it of burnt sugar…….oh WOW Mrs Stottard that is delicious what did you call it????????

Finally the day had to close, and we turned in rather late but all of us where ready.
Good Night and God Bless

August 3, 2007

Blog Day 13-The beauty of the Lake District



Not much in the world could be more beautiful than the Lake District, I had heard it said before. I had read it as a point of exclamation before when talking to folks whom had visited the UK, and now we are going to experience this beauty for ourselves. We got a little earlier start on the day, and hit the road by 8am, and headed out on the very narrow B rated roads, which is an English definition for a car that is being driven on that sort of road and its not long till it BEE without mirrors. Wow, they make these little fellas very narrow, and when you meet a Lorry( Large truck), then you really feel how narrow the roads are.


We blazed on down the road at about 35 miles per hour, which is exactly what we had been told but just could not believe it……..once again till we experienced it. It’s a lot like what I try to get through Darrens closed mind on food, and Kim you still have a ton of work to do to that extent. Every bend has a quaint sceneic cottage, every field is surrounded by a stacked rock fence and every hillside is covered in emerald green and dots of white sheep. We pull our car off the road in Kensing and find a little coffee and some pasties, and on this day I tried a Pork Tart with a Sweet Apple Glaze……Poochy Maggie now we are talking good vittles here folks make ya leave the ol KC at home.





It’s a rainy day, with heavy rain laden clouds loitering about the high peaks like teenagers with skateboards in the city park, high peaks abound in the Lake District making for fast flowing streams and lakes abound. The hill tops are covered in dense Gorse which is like a springy hedge form of brush with spikes on it, the gorse gives way to groves of Pine and Fir along with Spruce and some Balsam, all of which gives way to a verdant green carpet of grass in the lowlands and any slope without trees on it



Almost every hillside has some logging going on, with most wood being cut in 6 foot lengths, and a few being cut longer if it appeared it could be large enough to be cut in a saw mill. Farmers dot the streets of local towns and out on the road or in the fields, replete with Tweed jackets, Wellies and ribbed pants. Heavy hands, and a stooped gate form the years of toil in the rich soil of this valley, and walking the demandingly steep hillsides after their sheep. We stop in a few of the small towns to walk, but even in this rain it is hard to find a place to park the car and walk the streets. We have plenty of trouble finding a place to park the car when driving, but these English just stop in their lane and get out and take the picture…………..I still lack the intestinal fortitude and Insurance Coverage to try such a thing.




We stop for a break and take in the Kendall, and take in the Cumberland Pencil Company Museum. This is the oldest Pencil manufacturer in the world. NO, there are none as old in Texas………None. It was a very interesting Museum, with plenty of 1st and 2nd World War information, since the Pencil Company supplied many special feature pencils for the war. Then there was the art on the walls done with the pencils, be they color or lead type pencils. Lastly there were the artistic items done using colored pen knibs and creating complex designs by mixing brass and blue steel knibs. Very Cool indeed.




But off we go till we hit the James Harriet country in the Yorkshire Dales, and while driving I see the sign for Wensleydale…………screeeeeech go the brakes, and the smoke rolls by the car windows as we turn the key off. By george, I am thinking of my friend Corky, and how much he likes that movie with Wallace and Grommit and their insatiable thirst for Wensleydale Cheese…………….., I am just crackers about that cheese Grommit. We had the chance to see how the cheese was made, we had a chance to sample all the types that they make, and resample…………wander and then resample. This Company also makes plenty of cheeses that are filled with such things as Ginger, Lemon Peel, Currants etc. We took a break and had Tea and proper Scones with Sultana’s and fresh made butter from non paturized butter………….this alone would make most Americans slap their forehead and fall over backwards in disgust or fear that by this hygene faux paux alone would cause the dreaded PLAGUE may re-awaken. The tea was a real nice break, as in most cases except when you are at an upscale bakery or large city most often Coffee will be of the instant nature. We had a Sultana Cake to sample, and also a Selkirk bannock to sample, so all in all JW needs to ride across USA once again to get rid of the holiday I consumed.

It would be hard for me to decide which area I like the most, but since the Yorkies are a lot less inhabited, and much more open………being cowboy at heart would likely send me to the later.

We had a guest house for the evening, it was a nice break, supper was pretty simple fair since nobody was real hungry. Kids and Mom played some cards for money, Darren had never played poker before ………………so now Pine has all his money. Just kidding, we made him give some of it back. I worked on the blog, but gott’a confess, it is getting harder to stay excited with it since the down load process is so labourious, and the connection is at best slow to medium.

Good night and GOD bless


Thanks Mr. King

Just have to say thanks too all of you who let us know that Don King has passed away as we travelled in the UK. NO sadder news could be had, if you had ever the chance to have met Don, I know you would agree that few people have had as large an impact on saddle making in USA as did Don King.

I cannot write a true epitaph to Don that would do him the justice that he deserves, lets hope that someone does and maybe we will read it in the Western Horsemen etc. I can however write about what I know and remember about what Don has done for me, and what I know he has done for the art of saddlemaking.

We have a style of caarving here in USA that is known as the Sheridan Style, it may be the most popular style of western floral carving today. That is the master work of one Don King. While Don ran the King Saddlery in Sheridan, he turned out not only the finest RCA Trophy Saddles that have been made to date, he also turned out a group of younger saddle makers who carried on the style of carving. Today we know of it as Sheridan Style.

There has been a sort of rennassaince on interest in making saddles as well as making the tools that are required to make saddles, and I think Don King is persononally to be thanked for making that so. It was Don's idea to have that first Sheridan Leather Show, it was a place to showcase the tools and supplies required to build saddles. While Don had his own handmade tools at each Show for sale, he also went out of his way to encourage others to build handmade tools as well. Don was never short on supporting the individuals who attended the Show, in his buying of tools from other makers, but he also was free to give advice to other makers when they would ask.

Over the years that Don has sat at the head of the Kings Saddlery, he has made every effort to move the entire spectrum of saddle making forward in a generous way. From trade Shows to a Museum that houses a collection of tools and saddles that rivals anything else that has been collected to date.

As a fellow who is fortunate to have been able to call Don King a friend, as a saddle maker whom has been inspired by Don's kind words and critiques I would like to say thanks Mr.King for all you have done for this western form of Art. The energy and zeal that you brought to this body of artists and crafstmen will be forever missed.

Thankyou Don for all you have done. And my warmest regards to the King Family at this time of deep loss and mourning.

Good Night and God Bless


MOrning Folks and Friends as you follow along on this trip through the UK. JUst a note here to let you know that we are home now, which may come as a dissapointment to some and a relief to others. I have every intention of finisahing up this full trip on the blog over the month of August. It will be complete as all the other days have been to this point. THE CONTEST will go on.
FIND JEREMIAH, as a contest, will commence in the first week of SEPTEMBER. I am going to go over each day once again and give each pic a NUMBER DESIGNATION. Then begining with the first week of SEPT you can submit you list of which pics on the blog have JW hidden in them. After that first week we will then go over and see who gets the most correct answers and will award the winner his $300.00 worth of product.
We just want to say thanks to all of you who have been posting, and to apologise for not being able to actually finish the blog as we traveled. The biggest probelm is that the whole process of downloading pics is so dreadfully time consuming. We are working off of a phony CINGULAR aircard, which never seems to wrk as they tell you it will but I wont drag or belabour that point any longer. I worked many nights till 2 and 3am and was finally just to darned tired to do it that late any more it made driving the next day rather dangerous feeling.
So please keep up, post and follow along till we have a chance to bring this contest to a close.

Good Night and God Bless

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

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