I suddenly realised I knew a few famous people in the jazz world so digging deep down I came up with these two.
First up is the great Adelaide Hall and a photograph that I think was taken sometime in the 1970’s on a visit to her flat in London. She was a lovely lady.
2. For the next one I go further back, to the late 1950’s when I was on holiday in the Netherlands with Britain’s own Beryl Bryden who sang with most of the UK jazz bands and the top Continental groups, especially the Dutch Swing College Band and the Fatty George Band in Germany. In the UK, apart from the many bands she worked with, she played washboard on Lonnie Donegan’s famous Rock Island Line, the first skiffle success.
Their fame never rubbed off on me but their friendship was valued.
Something a bit unusual I think, for Mama Cormier’s Thursday Trios.
These are total immersion suits that will keep you alive for at least 6 hours in freezing water. I photographed these some years ago when I visited the workshop of Survitec in Sweden. Survitec is the worldwide group that manufactures and maintains rescue craft for ships, planes, oil rigs and container ships, as well as the above survival suits. Chances are that whatever cruise line or airline you are travelling on, its life rafts will be serviced and supplied by Survitec.
It’s something we take for granted, but I saw at first hand how important it is for this safety equipment to be in perfect order and how thorough the inspection is – right down to the medicines for pain, the batteries for the torches, and the bottled water, carried on board. So, a big clap for SURVITEC for keeping us safe, in the air and on the sea, and for the engineers and mechanics who test everything in freezing waters.
I took this photograph last year and just saw it as I scrolled through some ‘countryside’ images. On this very dark, cold, day, it reminded me that tree surgeons are out there working, preparing for the coming of spring.
This week Tina has suggested we choose something for ourselves. This is more difficult that it sounds as too many choices put themselves forward, places and people, themes and tunes, and some just beautiful images.
I’ve chosen to look at a time in my childhood which seemed magical, life was good, the world – and the fields- were full of flowers, and the future was something we didn’t think about. And now I think, Where have all the flowers gone?
That’s me on the right with my four cousins picking dog-daisies on our Sunday walk, way back when. We used to walk across the small mountain area called The Bernish in Co. Down, now a famous look-out point and tourist attraction. I’ve just looked it up and it’s totally unrecognisable now. As for wild flowers ….
Wild broom growing in the Languedoc area, France.
Wild poppies and grasses growing on the lava that had poured down from Etna in Sicily.
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Although most scholars today regard the tales of King Arthur and his Round Table to be legendary more than historical, there are still locations that claim a link with Camelot, the place where Arthur held court and the supposed location of the famous Round Table.
Where was Camelot?
The top four claimants for this honour are Winchester with its round table dating from the 13th century, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall whose claim to the title rests on a 1,500-year-old piece of slate bearing two Latin inscriptions, Cadbury Castle in Somerset where the first reference to its connection was written down by John Leland in 1542 and Caerleon in Wales, one of three Roman legionary forts in Britain, chosen as Camelot by both Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes.
On purely subjective grounds I’m going for Caerleon. It’s a magical place and when I go there not only does the Arthurian legend seem less a fiction and more a fact of history, but the presence of the Roman Legion of 30,000 men that was stationed here in the 1st century BC is very palpable.
The top thing to do in Caerleon is to visit the Roman Baths, housed in an inconspicuous building that opens to reveal the remains of a Roman outdoor swimming pool and bath house. The ancient stone foundations that are on display give some idea of the original building but when you enter the enormous natatio (open air swimming pool), the basilica (indoor sports hall) and the frigidarium (cold baths) it all comes suddenly to life. Modern technology allows the projection of water onto the remains of the baths, complete with sounds and images of people swimming, and this is truly amazing: there is a short, informative, but humourous film to accompany this.
This was where the Roman Legionaries in first-century Wales would come to escape being shouted at by the Centurions or skirmishing with the local ancient Britons. Here, they could hang out with their friends in the immense open-air swimming pool that held more than 80,000 gallons of water, and after a swim they could play ball games, or gamble, have a massage and even buy fast-food snacks. The whole complex would have been much like a modern-day leisure centre/sauna, with a tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room).
Procedure before Swimming in Roman Baths
Before swimming the soldier would have had a bath in one of the lofty vaulted halls next to the swimming pool where he would strip, hand his clothes to one of the bathhouse slaves and enter the frigidarium (cold bath suite). After a cold dip he’d coat his body with perfumed oil and then visit the warm and hot suites in turn. In the last room, heated from wood-burning furnaces (you can look down and see the stacked pillars under the floor that allow heat to circulate) he’d scrape the oil and sweat from his body with a metal tool called a strigil, before finishing off with a final cold plunge.
Bathing was done naked but as mixed bathing was frowned on, women and children used the baths in the morning while the soldiers would use it in the afternoon. On some days though, prostitutes were allowed in and on these days mixed bathing took place.
Thanks to modern technology and film projection, you can see and hear the splash as a Roman soldier dives into the water, and you then see him swimming in the pool. Then watch as women enter the water and swim together.
Replica objects on display testify to the cleanliness of the Romans, tweezers, ear wax cleaner, toothpicks, nail files and body scrapers.
From baths to Amphitheatre
After the baths it’s outside to see the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain, built to entertain the legionnaires and keep them happy in their time off. Walk through the great north entrance to this huge arena build around AD 90 to seat up to 6,000 spectators, and imagine the din of those 6,000 people baying for blood.
This impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema or a massive sports stadium. Wooden benches with seating for up to 6,000, were provided for the spectators who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left the country, the amphitheatre took on a new life as the Camelot of Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
I’m happy to go along with that because I think I saw Merlin flit across the grass one evening as dusk was descending. Of course it may have had something to do with the fact that I was listening to Richard Burton singing/speaking one of my favourite songs from the musical Camelot, Finale Ultimo. https://youtu.be/HmOhwkVFFQM
NB. The Caerleon Amphitheatre, which boasted eight vaulted entrances and a shrine to the goddess Nemesis, is the only fully excavated Roman amphitheatre in Great Britain. It was maintained until its abandonment in the 3rd century when the Second Augustan Roman Legion departed to protect what remained of the diminishing Roman Empire.
The Welsh Government is to be congratulated on this imaginative place and when I was there it was entirely FREE. I urge anyone who is in the area to visit it.
To read a full history of the place and to watch some excellent videos (including an aerial one of the amphitheatre) click on http://www.caerleon.net
And back in the 21st century, don’t miss the Sculpture Park in Caerleon town, a truly wondrous journey through myths and magic and the power of the artist.
There are few people who have never heard of Eton College but the town itself is less well-known as it sits in the shadow of its nearby sister town of Windsor. Situated just across the river from the Royal Borough and accessed via a pedestrian footbridge, the town of Eton, a settlement since at least Saxon times, has a rich and diverse heritage.
The mile-long High Street leading down to Eton College has remained unchanged for many years but the name has always been Eton, or Eyot-tun, meaning ‘settlement on an island’. In the 1086 Domesday Book, the town is listed as ‘Ettone’, with two mills, a meadow, woodland and fisheries and it was concentrated on the higher land. Many royal processions have made their way along the High Street, most notably the funeral procession of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, in 1537.
This elegant little town is an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary retail outlets catering to its local population and a year-round tourist trade, with high-end gift shops, antiques and modern art establishments sitting alongside shops selling traditional medicines and complementary beauty therapies. The traditional shop fronts and the boys in their traditional school dress (often seen around town) give a sense of stepping back in time.
The Thames has always been important to the town which initially flourished due to fish farming, and goods into and out of Eton were conveyed by barge – including the stones used to build Eton College Chapel.
Connected by the footbridge from Windsor, Eton has an importance of its own, and the Eton Walkway, a 2-mile/one-hour circular walk, connecting 18 points of interest in the town starting at Windsor Bridge is the perfect way to find out about the historical importance of the town. This walk is marked out by permanent, bronze, lozenge-like symbols set in the ground to identify the route, the 18 shields marking: The King’s Stables, the Cockpit, Porny School, Baldwin’s Bridge, Eton College, the Burning Bush, Eton Wall Game at the Timbralls, Skinners’ Bridge, Herschel Observatory, the Gormley Statue, Keate House, the Natural History Museum, Museum of Antiquities, St John’s Church, Jubilee Square, the Brocas and Eton Boat House. Information on each point of significance is included on the Outdoor Guide website.
It’s impossible to speak of Eton without reference to Eton College which occupies the whole of Eton north of Barnes Pool bridge and is second only to Winchester as the oldest public school in England. The College was founded by Henry VI in 1440, modelled on Winchester which had been founded by William of Wykeham, and Henry decreed that there were to be 70 King’s Scholars, who were to be educated for free and housed in the College. Outside the College, so-called Oppidans were lodged in the town and received the same education. Originally the houses were run by Dames, but more recently they have been run by House Masters. Today there are 24 boarding houses for Oppidans and over 1,300 boys in all.
The College looks after thousands of historic, artistic and natural objects, and welcomes visitors to its Museum of Eton Life, Museum of Antiquities and its Natural History Museum, which are open to the public free of charge on Sunday afternoons between 2:30pm and 5pm.
So if you are in Windsor and find yourself with an hour or two to spare, just walk across the bridge into another world where time seems to have stood still. The shop-fronts look almost Dickensian but in Eton they are cleaner than those depicted in any of Dickens’ books – this is one of the cleanest towns I have ever visited. You will be amused by the items for sale in some of the shops, the old-school tailors, the haberdashery, even a sweet shop selling long forgotten sweets from jars.
And when you’ve had enough, just stroll back across the bridge into the real world again. Or nearly. It is, after all, the Royal Borough of Windsor.