Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Christmas Tree.....

I know you've read this before but I'm posting it in remembrance of my Dearest Dad, as I will every year.

They were dirt poor, living in a poor neighbourhood but Christmas was always a magical time for Kit.  There was no money for fripperies but Kit needed a Christmas Tree.

"Joe, make me a Christmas Tree" she said to her youngest son.

"What?  How am I supposed to do that?" he asked.

"Use your imagination" said Kit.

Why did she always demand such things of him, Joe wondered, just for once couldn't she ask one of the others to come up with the impossible.   Oh well, there was no use in sulking, he would just have to get on with it and do his best because his mother would not accept anything less.

On his way back from work that day he decided to take the short cut through the park, as for once he didn't have any errands to do for Kit or the neighbours to whom she so readily offered his services.   Busy wondering how he could fulfill Kit's latest request he was not looking where he was going and suddenly found himself flat on his face having tripped over a broken branch off a tree, which had fallen as the result of the storm the day before.   Drat it, he thought as he dusted himself off, then *ding* a lightbulb lit up in his head - he could maybe do something with the branch!  It was quite a big branch with quite a few forks and twigs attached so he grabbed it by the thickest part and dragged it as carefully as he could along the streets until he got it back home.  

Once home he found a bucket and filled it with stones and soil and planted the branch carefully so that it was secure and standing proud.   He searched the cellar and found some white paint and set to work to paint the branch.  Whilst the paint was drying he searched the house for anything that would liven the tree up; bit of tinsel from a previous Christmas, a couple of paper chains Kit's grandchildren had made at school, a small doll one of the grandchildren had left lying about dressed in crepe paper would make a fairy for the top of the branch.  He carefully moved the branch to the front room and set it in the front window, it actually looked like a Christmas Tree he thought when he'd finished dressing it!

"I knew you wouldn't let me down" a delighted Kit told Joe.

Soon word got round the neighbourhood that Kit had a Christmas Tree, something no-one else had, and that's when the frequent knocks on the door started.  Neighbours arrived asking to see the Christmas Tree bringing little gifts to hang on it - an odd earring, another piece of tinsel, a long forgotten fripperie from more affluent times.  Before long the Christmas Tree was shimmering and sparkling and was truly magnificent.    Kit was thrilled and so were the neighbours who claimed part of The Christmas Tree as their own. On Christmas Eve Kit's family and neighbours gathered in the front room and sang traditional Christmas Carols whilst marvelling at the Tree.  Everyone agreed it was the best Christmas Tree they had ever seen and vowed that every year they would do the same thing again.

This is a true story - Joe was my Dad and Kit my grandmother.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dona Nobis Pacem.....

Please join the Peace movement by flying a Peace Globe on your blog with your own message or quote for Peace. Together we can make a difference.

If you haven't already got your Peace Globe please go to Mimi's and get one then fly it with pride and sign the Mr Linky to let everyone know you have participated.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

America/Canada Adventure Part 2....

After an exciting first full day in Boston we joined an optional excursion on day two to Cape Cod and our first stop was at the  National Monument to the forefathers in Plymouth, Ma., which commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims.  Dedicated on 1st August, 1889, it honors their ideals as later generally embraced by the United States. It is thought to be the world's largest solid granite monument, and is the third-tallest statue in the United States.

The right and left panels of the monument contain the names of those who came over on the Mayflower.
Some of the names on the memorial are very unusual - Decory Priest, Desire Minter, Love & Wrestling Brewster, Oceania Hopkins, Remember Allerton are but a few.
From the memorial we went down to the coast to see the replica of the Mayflower,  the ship that transported mostly English Puritans and Separatists, collectively known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth England to the New World. There were 102 passengers and the crew is estimated to be approximately 30 but the exact number is unknown.
Mayflower II, is a replica of the 17th-century ship celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World.
The replica was built in Devon, England, during 1955–1956, in a collaboration between Englishman Warwick Charlton and Plymouth Plantation, an American museum. The work drew from reconstructed ship blueprints held by the American museum with hand construction by English shipbuilders' using traditional methods. On 20th April, 1957, recreating the original voyage, Mayflower II was sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, under the command of Alan Villiers. According to the ship's log, Mayflower II was towed up the East River into New York City on Monday, 1st July, 1957.

We were warned that we may be disappointed when we saw Plymouth Rock,  the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620,
 and we can understand why.  Expecting a huge rock rising out of the sea this is what we saw.
However, the real Plymouth Rock was a boulder about fifteen feet long and three feet wide which lay with its point to the east, thus forming a convenient pier for boats to land during certain hours of tide. This rock is authenticated as the pilgrims' landing place by the testimony of Elder Faunce, who in 1741 at the age of ninety-five was carried in a chair to the rock, that he might pass down to posterity the testimony of pilgrims whom he had personally known on this important matter. Disappointed in it's size we were certainly happy to see such a piece of history.

Another piece of history in Plymouth is Cole's Hill, a National Historic Landmark containing the first cemetary used by the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1620. The hill is located on Carver Street near the foot of Leyden Street and across the street from Plymouth Rock.  
The Pilgrims built their first houses on Leyden Street rising from the side of Cole's Hill to Burial Hill, and the hill was used in 1620-1621 as a burial ground during their first winter in New England. The Pilgrims built their original fort on nearby Burial Hill where several Pilgrims were later buried. The nearby fort housed the original First Parish church in Plymouth and the Plymouth General Court. Cole's Hill was named after either the tavern owner James Cole who arrived in Plymouth in 1633 or John Cole who purchased the hill around 1697. The hill was transformed into a public park during preparations for the celebration of tercentenary (300th anniversary) of the Pilgrims' arrival. Existing buildings were removed from the hill and paths and plantings were added, unfortunately we didn't have time to go up the hill.

On the way back to the coach, a little further down the street from the legend about Cole's Hill, we saw this rather lovely statue, a granite figure of a Pilgrim woman on the 'Memorial To The Women on the Mayflower' which has become to be known as 'The Pilgrim Mother'.  

On the shaft of the fountain that flows behind the statue are listed the names of the women of the Mayflower, in whose memory the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution gave the statue. The inscription reads 'They brought up their families in sturdy virtue and a living faith in God without which nations perish'.

It was time to move on as we had other places to visit and our next short stop was at this lovely place, Sandwich,

 where we were able take photos of this still working Grist Mill.
 Our next stop was Province Town Harbour, Cape Cod Bay, to take some photos.
In 1620, the Pilgrims first sheltered in Provincetown Harbor for five weeks,  where they signed the Mayflower Compact, before sailing across Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth where they settled. 

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was written by the Separatists, sometimes referred to as the "Saints", fleeing from religious persecution by King James of England.  They traveled aboard the Mayflower along with adventurers, tradesmen, and servants, most of whom were referred to, by the Separatists, as "Strangers".  The Mayflower Compact was signed aboard ship on November 11 1620, while the Mayflower was anchored in Provincetown Harbor, by most adult men.

We continued on to Chatham,  a town in Barnstable County, first settled by the English in 1664, the township was originally called Monomoyick, based on the indigenous population's term for the region, according to this monument in memory of the pioneers. 
 A sweet little town, the population was 6,125 at the 2010 census.

We stopped at this restaurant for lunch,

where I had my first taste of fresh lobster, albeit in a bun, and delicious it was too!
We didn't have long in Chatham before it was time to board the coach again for our last stop of the day, Hyannis, to see the JFK Memorial
on the Lewis Bay waterfront which was erected by Barnstable citizens in 1966. The memorial includes a fountain and a field-stone monument with the presidential seal and JFK inscription

There is also another memorial there to the Korean War (the Forgotten War).
 Lewis Bay is truly lovely, I wouldn't mind living there!

After a really interesting and enjoyable day it was, unfortunately, time to head back for our last evening in Boston before the next part of our journey to Concord, the state capital of New Hampshire.   I hope you'll join me for Part 3.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

America/Canada Adventure Part 1......

Well we're back!   What a whirlwind of a holiday, we are exhausted but it was so worth it.   We got to meet up with three bloggers - Linda (Are We There Yet) in Boston, Ann in Montreal and Daryl (Out And About In New York City) in NYC, which I'll tell you about as and when they occur in the installments of the holiday.   We were hoping to meet up with Ron (Being Ron) in NYC but unfortunately he couldn't get the time off work.   We were also able to meet up with my oldest school friend who has lived in Toronto for over 30 years.

We flew from Manchester to Heathrow then onto Boston but as we didn't arrive until evening there really wasn't time to do anything on the first day apart from unpack what we needed for our 3 night stay, get something to eat and sleep. 

The view from our room at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
Our first full day in Boston didn't start off very well, when we could only have a cold shower at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel because the boiler had broken down!   After the shock we had breakfast then met up with our fellow travellers for the included orientation tour of the city, our first stop being Cambridge, the home of Harvard.

Harvard was formed in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It was initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne". In 1638, the college became home for North America's first known printing press, carried by the ship John of London. In 1639, the college was renamed Harvard College after English deceased clergyman John Harvard, who was an alumnus of the University of Cambridge. He had left the school £779 pounds sterling and his library of some 400 books though he never actually visited Harvard. There is a statue of John Harvard in the grounds.

You will notice John Harvard's shiny shoe - the story goes it is tradition for students at Harvard to touch his shoe for luck but our guide told us a different take on the story, she suggested there is a competition between male students after a night's drinking to see who can hit the shoe - I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

Leaving Harvard we walked a small part of the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km) red path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. Marked largely with brick, it winds between Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Stops along the trail include simple explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable churches and buildings, and a historic naval frigate.
 The first statue we came across on the trail was of Paul Revere
most famous for arranging the signal lanterns to be shown from the tower of The Old North Church, alerting the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord.
We were able to enter the church, which is perfectly preserved and quite beautiful.

I loved the personal stalls inside the church, which families purchased for their sole use and decorated to their own taste.   The church also has a memorial garden hung with dog tags, which is dedicated to fallen members of US Military from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Leaving the church behind we walked up the hill to to Copp's Hill Burying Ground. If you look closely at the next photo you will see the brick Freedom Trail on the pavement.

Skinny House, Boston, is opposite the burying ground and was built as a "spite house" shortly after the American Civil War.
According to local legend: "two brothers inherited land from their deceased father.  While one brother was away serving in the military, the other built a large home, leaving the soldier only a shred of property that he felt certain was too tiny to build on.  When the solder returned, he found his inheritance depleted and built the narrow house to spite his brother by blocking the sunlight and ruining his view".

After a really interesting tour it was time for lunch and our tour guide arranged to take us to Quincy Market, a historic market complex near Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston.

The market was constructed 1824–1826 and named in honor of Mayor Josiah Quincy, who organized its construction without any tax or debt. The market was designated a National Historic Landmark, recognizing its significance as one of the largest market complexes built in the United States in the first half of the 19th century.

Above is Faneuill Hall, around which the market is built, where we were finally, after knowing each other online for approx 7 years, able to meet up with fellow blogger Linda for lunch!
Linda had business in Plymouth so had driven up the day before and stayed overnight, then driven to Boston for our meet up.   MWM and I spent a lovely couple of hours over lunch chatting with Linda about absolutely everything, it was lovely to find she is just as nice in person as she is online!  Unfortunately we had to get back to our coach and Linda had to drive all the way home and go to work, so we had to say our goodbyes.  Linda is hoping to come to the UK some time next year, hopefully very near to where we live as her ancestors are from Oldham, fingers crossed we will be able to meet up again then as we have promised to take her for a pint in our local.

After a long day sightseeing we got back to the hotel with a little time for a short rest before grabbing something to eat in a local restaurant and retiring for the night.   We had another exciting excursion to look forward to the following day - to Cape Cod - I hope you'll join me for that in Part 2.