Monday, 11 June 2018

A Land of Ice and Fire - Day 3

After yesterday's excursion, we had a very lazy start today.  Dad was a bit ill, so it was a slow breakfast and sauntered out of the house at 11am, heading down to Reykjavik harbour.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A Land of Ice and Fire - Day 2

It is Wodin's Day - Wednesday!  Drove out of Reykjavík to persistent light drizzle and persistent heavy wind!  There are no trees here to stop it, and large areas of flatness that the wind charges over.  It's still the tail end of winter here, but we came prepared.  Layered up and waterproofs on, we went out into the authentic Icelandic weather experience!

Our first leg was to drive past Lake Þingvallavatn to Þingvellir, the site of the alÞing. (You pronounce the 'Þ' like a 'th', by the way).  This is the original Icelandic Parliament, which recently celebrated its 1100 year anniversary.  Each year all the clans in Iceland would march across to this wide river valley to exchange news, reaffirm the law and deal with any national issues.  It's right on the edge of the National Park, so when we weren't busy trying not to be blown away by the frankly ridiculous amount of wind, the views are lovely.  You could spend a really long time just wandering the many easy paths around the valley if you wanted to.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

A Land of Ice and Fire - Day 1

Stepping out of Keflavík airport in Iceland, the first thing I'm aware of is a very faint scent of something like egg.

Iceland is a young island, relatively speaking.  Younger than Scotland, and igneous almost down to the roots.  It is the result of lava pouring up out of a crack between the American and European continental plates, eruption after eruption forcing land up out of the sea.  It feels like it too, as we drive the hour to Reykjavík - me, my parents, and my youngest sister Emma.
It looks a long way on the map, but takes us only an hour, which gives you some idea of the size of the island.  It's big, a similar mass to England, but still not as big as I assumed, and startlingly spare in terms of foliage.  The wind whips across moorlike spaces that would seem bleak if not for the sun rolling out every so often to spotlight particular parts of it.

Across the bay towards Mount Esja
The Solfariđ (Suncraft) sculpture.  I love the shapes in this thing, and immediately had to go climb on it. 
It's public art, you're clearly meant to do that.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

South West holiday - the Villages

Got up and checked out early to give Jenna, another guest, a lift to Moretonhampstead where she was catching a bus. It was a drivingly wet day on the high roads, and persistently drizzly as we came down, so I was glad I'd chosen today to see some of the villages.  I was heading North East to my sister's in Bristol, and there were a couple of stops I wanted to make on the way...

South West holiday - the Tors

I ad a little lie in this morning while the others showered, but I still managed to be on the road by 9am.  I drove through the picturesque little village of Widdecombe-in-the-Moor, slowing down for ponies on the verges and cattle being herded down the road by a farmer on a quadbike.


Saturday, 30 September 2017

South West holiday - the Moor

Up around 8am today, breakfast, and then off for the first walk of the day, up Bellever Tor which is just outside the hostel.

South West holiday - the Guide

Drove to Dartmoor - a harder task than it looked!  It was a drizzly morning in Dorset, but as I got into Devon everything went very grey and saturated and 'orrible.  I was driving through quite a thick fog bank at one point, and getting rather worried!  However as I got towards Exeter it ended up as just a bit spitty and even a little blue sky.
Getting onto Dartmoor is a mini challenge in itself.  Once you turn off the big roads suddenly it's all steep climbs and sudden turns, much like the Peak District, and then you pop out the top onto an expanse of moor like entering another world.  There are vast spaces, Tors everywhere you look, moor ponies (shaggier and rougher than their New Forest counterparts) and the heights were hidden in clouds.  As was Princetown, where I was meeting my walking guide Simon Dell.

Friday, 29 September 2017

South West holiday - The Sea

Today the cheap holiday was briefly derailed so I could go buy a new raincoat, the old one having finally succumbed after years of hard service and The Kinderscout Incident, after which it has never been the same.  I like the new one though, and it's a little bit smarter so it will do for work as well.

That done, I let the sat nav drive me to Burley by any number of tiny back roads.  Some lovely scenery though, and it gave the day time to turn from a misty cool morning into a day of cloud breaks, sudden sunbursts and, dare I say it, warmth.  I stripped right back down to my Tshirt.

South West holiday - The Forest

Sunday today, and it has been raining quietly but insistently all day.  Had a slow breakfast and chat with Grandad, who was doing Bible study before the morning church service.  He was full of rejoicing over the subject, as he usually is.  I was mainly full of tea and chocolate croissants.

Around 9.30, slightly later than planned, I headed off to Lyndhurst.  It seemed sensible to try that far side of the New Forest today, partly in case the rain was less there (it wasn't) and also to see if the visitor centre was open (it was).

South West holiday - The Boat

This blog is fast turning into a travel journal! I think it's because I'm doing so much paid work that the 'Fun Things I've Made' aspect of this blog isn't really needed at the moment.   I'm sure it'll pop back up soon.

At the end of the summer, in the first week of September, I took myself off on a much needed holiday. I'm trying to buy a house at the moment, so I knew it had to be as cheap as possible.  I emptied the contents of my kitchen cupboard into a cool bag, and brought along a sandwich box.  No lunches out for me!  This was also the least planned holiday I'd done in a while.  I'd had no time to look up any activities, other than where I'd be sleeping.  Instead the idea was to turn up at a location, talk to people, get hold of a map, and figure it out as I went.  In some ways this took a lot of the pressure off.

I also knew that that I'd be travelling alone.  Given that I've been very out-of-sorts lately, I wasn't sure if I'd be in the right headspace for this,  so I decided to go visiting.  The week-long trip would connect me with friends and family I don't often get to spend time with (with the bonus of being able to sleep on their spare beds and couches, saving money on accommodation).  Although in the end it turned out that my favourite location was the one where I was completely alone after all...

My first stop was in West London, where I joined my friends Matt and Eloise on their narrow boat, the Tittlemouse, travelling from Hayes to Brentford...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

To be beside the seaside - North Norfolk Coastal Path part 2

Holkham to Blakeney - 10.9 miles

After Holkham the next stop is Wells-next-the-Sea, which is a small town with more facilities.  It's a walk I've done before, along the beach, but this time we struck to the path properly and found ourselves wandering down wooded lanes, behind the tall dark pine trees that this stretch is known for.  On another breezy but still sunny day, the shade was nice, and we had company!  A relay race was taking place, beginning at Hunstanton and going all the way round to Great Yarmouth over the course of a day or two.  We kept moving over to let runners pass, each wielding their barcoded baton.  We emerged at the carpark for Wells Beach and followed the sea wall back into the town.  

John captains the clinkerbill boat, so called for the Viking-style rivets in its hull.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

TLDR: I hate Esther (or, the Perils of Privilege)

In the Bible, there are two women with stories significant enough to merit their own books.  In a culture where men were the ones writing and women had quite specific roles to fulfil, any named woman in the Bible is worth paying attention to.  One is Ruth; the story of a young widow from the wrong country, the wrong religion, speaking the wrong language, who passes up re-marrying to become a benefits scrounger in order to provide for her ageing mother-in law.  And yeah it ends well, but that that lady has gumption.  I like gumption!

The other is Esther.  Whom I hated.  For years.

Held up as the model of ideal womanhood, Esther appeared to be your Actual Disney Princess, and I mean that in the most scathing way possible.  Plucked from obscurity because of her astounding good looks and apparently nothing else, Esther is made Head Queen of the Xerxes, King of Persia.  Tipped off by her uncle, a minister, she saves the king from assassination, earns a spot in his good books, and later uses this to wine and dine him into awarding the Jewish people the right to defend themselves in a society where they are outcasts and refugees.  The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates her story, being told much like a pantomime, with cheering and booing and 'he's behind you'.
Beauty Queen, actual queen, national hero, Esther was annoyingly perfect.  She was that cute, perky girl from school who managed to be captain of the netball team, head girl, and never without a boyfriend all at the same time.

For teenage me, the moral of this story was that being pretty will get you more or less anywhere.  Which is peachy... if you're pretty.  Which teen me (and sometimes adult me) was not always convinced of all.  Way to make a girl resentful, Bible.  Congrats.

Now I am a decade older, a lot more comfortable with myself, and therefore able to be a little less self-interested, I have to admit something.  I may have misjudged Esther a tiny wee bit.  But not in the way I thought...

Friday, 26 May 2017

To be beside the seaside - North Norfolk Coastal Walk Part 1

My birthday falls in May, conveniently between two bank holidays, and with the weather getting warmer I'm wanting to be outdoors all the time.  My mum and I (occasionally accompanied by my dad and youngest sister) have been walking the North Norfolk Coastal Path between Hunstanton and Cromer.  We did stretches on it in May and September 2016, and this May did our final section.  It's not a massive walk - about 45 miles or so, but that combined with the incessant flatness of my home country it makes for a really manageable hike that's less about clocking up the miles and more about appreciating the scenery of one of the most beautiful places I know...

Although I admit I am heavily biased.
The dunes at Holkham

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Highland Fling! - 2 of 2

Day 5 - CairnGorm and Loch Morlich

You can get the Funicular Railway up the UK's 6th highest mountain, CairnGorm, but for some reason we decided to walk between the two stations along the very aptly named Windy Ridge.

A Highland Fling! - 1 of 2

This year the family had our summer holiday early - we went to the Scottish Highlands!  When I was young we had a holiday by Loch Ness, going as far north as Fort William, but it was long enough ago that I only remember bits and pieces of it. On my last solo trip I went to Edinburgh and Aviemore, and had wanted to explore further north again, so this was the perfect choice for a trip away together.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Jacob Wrestles 2: The One Who Struggles

Uncle Laban seems a decent enough guy, and even gives his nephew a job as a herdsman.  Jacob settles in to watch the flocks... and also to watch Rachel, Laban's younger daughter.  Older sister Leah might not be much of a looker but Jacob thinks that Rachel is the cat's pajamas and offers Laban seven years of labour to pay the dowry he doesn't have and make Rachel his wife.

Seven years is a long time.

TLDR: Jacob Wrestles

Night has fallen in the wilderness.  Beneath dim moonlight there's not much to be seen, and only the soft rushing babble of water somewhere down the bank.  A man sits by the river, his mind like the landscape, full of darkness and the inexorable coming of tomorrow.

Now he stands; a figure is approaching.  He's hard to make out, a shadow among shadows.  Is he a tall man?  Does he come as a friend?  Are there more following him?  
Perhaps these questions are asked, but they go unanswered as the two men fall, somehow, to grappling with each other.  Hooking limbs with feet and clinching necks with stubborn arms.  They wrestle to throw, to try and take the other to the ground and overpower him.  The river's rush is forgotten amidst grunts and panting and the sounds of grasping hands and flesh on hair.

Hours pass   This was not what the waiting man had intended, to spent the entire night contesting with a stranger (Is he a stranger?  He's no longer sure.  Can you be so close to someone for so long without beginning to know them?) when he has so much occupying his mind.  

He does not want to DO this now.  He could surrender.  He could stop the fight, and try to deal or negotiate.  But something in him knows it's pointless.  They aren't even speaking.  There are no tricks left that he can play, nowhere left to run.  He plants his feet, pushes back, and despite the ache in his bones, and the hollows under his eyes, he stays.  He endures.  He does what is before him.  He wrestles.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Wonderful Welsh Waterfall Walk - Day 2

On our second day, we took a longer, windier walk up to Sgwd yr Eira.

Wonderful Welsh Waterfall Walk - Day 1

It's all about the alliteration this month!

For her birthday, my friend Hannah decided that what she really wanted to do was Waterfall Hunting.  Having located a good spot for this (Pontneddfechan, about an hour west of Cardiff) we all assembled to go strolling through the hills and dales of Wales.  After all the buildup, we tried to curb our expectations, but it turns out we needn't have bothered.

At Sgwd yr Eira