Christmas 2016, still Christmas but a different kind of Christmas.

For as long as I can remember the Christmas in the UK ritual has rarely altered, when a child it would be my family, mum, dad and brother, who used to tramp around to all of our relatives, in the snow in those day and walking all the way, no car. Aunties, uncles, grandparents, there were all visited where we were fed and watered and presents were exchanged, then lugged all the way home. Very rarely the family used to come to us so that we could stay at home by the fire, but not very often, but as I grew up we didn’t do the visiting so much, I had my mates to hang around with. So the sitting in front of the TV watching stuff I normally wouldn’t have had time for was a thing of the past and when in my teens presents were not exchanged as such as those presents became gifts of money instead. This enabled me to spend it something I actually wanted not something I had unwrapped, then feigned delight or pleasure at some useless object, which sometimes was a former present given to the person how now passed it on to me.

Then my own family came along, a boy and a girl, but still the visiting continued but not all one way this time. But the ritual more or less stayed the same, visiting, watered, fed, then lug the presents back home, until 2016 that is. My own children were grown up with families of their own and I announced that I had booked 10 days away, including Christmas Day and Boxing Day (a UK peculiarity) so all the present giving, visiting would be done over a couple of days before we went. We arrived in Spain in a monsoon, it had been like it the day before we arrived and was still like the day after we arrived and it wasn’t like Christmas at all. But after the rain the sun, blue skies and sunshine and a Christmas that seemed very low-key by UK standards. So come Christmas day and the sun shone, and it was in the 20 degrees centigrade area, was this real? Just to visualise Christmas for us this year her are some pictures.

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Now for those of you not used to the UK I have to explain that at this time of the year it is usually big coats, woolly hats, scarfs, gloves, and if you are walking about, an umberella is a must. For us, both my wife and I in our late 60’s, this was a revelation. But why wait this long you say, well all sort of reasons, none that I can argue with, our kids, our ageing parents, then our kids kids and it just never happened. Some of you will recognise this resort as being on Spain’s Costa Blanca, Benidorm, a haven for the British, and other nationalities. I have know people come here for 6 weeks at a time, and now I know why, but the Spanish have a different kind of Christmas and it’s not like the Brits at all, in fact I think theirs is around January 6th. Yes we have waited a long time, but it was worth it and no more excuses for not going, our families are grown up with their own families now so our ritual has come to a close. It was strange, no getting away from it, but our 10 days on the Spanish Costa’s went by far too quickly. We have been to Benidorm now in every month of the year and apart from the summer months, where the heat can be oppressive at times, we have experienced wind, rain, sun, but not snow, we have spent days sheltering from the weather and even more days basking in the weather, but this Christmas was both different and special.

Hull – City Of Culture 2017 (2)

Running on from the previous page there is much more and there is some reference to one of the major industries of Hull, and the many tradigies from that industry of deep sea fishing. Many men were lost but now it is another historical subject and there are those who will never forget the sacrifices of these brave men just for people to have their fish and chips.

But things are taking shape and there are alsorts of things in the pipeline for many shows, and displays throughout the year but here is just the start still only a couple of weeks into the year.

Hull – City Of Culture 2017

Hull – City Of Culture 2017

Hull – City Of Culture 2017

Am I proud? You bet, there are art displays in the Ferens Art Gallery and works by Leonard Da Vinci and others in the University Of Hull buildings and most of this stuff is available to see free. I also have to mention that over £20 million of refurbishments in the city centre has taken place and although as of this moment in time is not complete it’s nearly there. After years of neglect by those with the power to do improvements, maybe, just maybe, Hull maybe cool or whatever the term is these days, and all the laughing remarks of the past may be able to be put behind us. It’s a big maybe, but we have a chance and the more people who visit and actually take a look instead of just taking for granted what has been written in the past maybe in for quite a surprise. Hull City Of Culture? Laugh no more.

Hull – City Of Culture 2017

You may have heard of a city in the North of England in the UK, or, more than likely, you will have not, that is called Hull, or to be precise, and probably upper class about it, Kingston Upon Hull. No really that is its true name, confimed upon it by a King of long ago but very rarely used by its inhabitants as Hull seem’s sufficient. Or ‘Ull’ as it sounds from the locals as for some obscure reason we don’t pronounce the ‘H’ very well, but it is usually some perverse reason, amongst others, that Hull has had a bad press for many a year. This range from some toff from London visiting for about a week and declaring it the worst place to live, or crap town of the year something banal like that, and it has been going on for years. But 20 17 is here and 3 years ago, against multiple odds, Hull was chosen as the UK City Of Culture, (laugh, laugh, snigger, snigger, from those cretins of the press who have done their worst to pull anything to do with Hull down the gutter level.)

Well the story goes that Hull was the second most bombed city, after London, during WW 2, and Hull City Council did their best to carry on the destruction after the war, some beautiful buildings disappeared needlessly. But what is done is done so no good harping on about it now we have to work with what we have, and believe it or not we still have some culture left. Much of it is in the hands of the local authorities but wherever it is it now being put on show for the world to see during 2017. Hull have a year to change the preception of the city as a whole and it has got off to a great start with firework displays, light shows, and now a giant wind turbine blade on show in the city centre as a ‘work of art’. Now this is subjective, art always is, but this is no doubt a talking point amongst the many thousands who are turning up feeling proud that the city is, at last, coming out of the shadow of more famous, and more comprehensively financed by central government, better known cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and of course London.

So what is this work of art that is causing wonder, awe, and mirth in equal doses, its a blade from one of those giant wind farms that are springing up both on land and sea. But the thing is this particular blade is made in Hull by Siemens the giant international German firm that has imvested over £300 million in the area to make these colosal structures. To get an idea of what I mean here is a picture of mine:

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A wind turbine blade made by Siemens in Hull on display for the City Of Culture 2017 celebrations.

A different angle to give an idea of the mass of the subject.

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People are taking pictures in the way people do at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, they stand back and raise their hands to give the impression of holding this thing up instead of a leaning tower.

There are various historical documents on display in the History Museum

My Poem My Pictures.

CLOUDS.

Oh silver clouds high in the sky, passing on your way
You do not linger very long, you have no wish to stay
Stretched far into the horizon over land and sea
Some white and light that dance along, some heavy black and mean
But now and then the sun breaks through with piercing shafts of light
And for anyone to notice it’s a truly awesome sight
So bye dear clouds be on your way until you reach your end
For over the horizon some more clouds do descend
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At last my own sunset pictures.

I have always looked at some pictures of sunset and sunrises and thought, ‘I would love to be able to take some pictures likes these’. Crimson skies with fleeting clouds but I’ve always seemed to miss the occasions near to where I live. But just lately the weather has provided some spectacular sunset and due to various things I was just too late to capture any of the beauty. Then yesterday Saturday 18th October 2014 I got my chance, but true to form nearly missed it, not earth shattering stuff but enough to make me fairly pleased that for once the pictures of a beautiful sunset are my own and not someone else’s no doubt that now the weather will change and the opportunity will be lost.

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The last picture captures the sun before its decent over the horizon I had to dash to a footbridge nearby to get a picture over the rooftops. There has been other spectacular sunsets during the past few weeks I have just been unable to catch any on picture, now I have but I feel there is still room for improvement.

Lets talk about something realy interesting and amazing to all people ………………….. BRICKS.

It could have been something starting with a S and ending with an X but hey you can look anywhere for that type of thing so I chose bricks, well more or less the formation of bricks they way are laid. Being a former builder my interest is a little more involved but one sadness I have today with modern structures is the lack of any interesting brickwork used in construction. These days decorative brickwork may cost too much or maybe today’s bricklayers are just not trained in the arts and crafts of many of the styles of brickwork, I would hazard a guess that cost has a lot to do with it more than the craftsmen themselves.

But what do I mean by all this? Well looking round my local city centre, Hull (England or Kingston Upon Hull its full name) I often look at the many old buildings still standing despite the ravages of WW2 ( I know it was years ago but things don’t move very fast in these parts due to lack of funding and investment but that’s another story) and some vandalism (indiscriminate demolition) by the local council and the brickwork craftsmanship is wonderful (well I think so). So without further ado I will show some pictures of what I actually mean oh and they are my own pictures not purloined from anywhere else.

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This is one of my favourite buildings in Hull for decorative brickwork the craftsmanship is superb. You have everything, arches, circles, a bay and a turret on the top of the building which is circular. Thousands of people pass this building by every day of the week and never notice the splendour of the architecture but I’m sure that is the same the world over, but whenever I am near to this building I always spend a few minutes admiring it. Another example of the fine arts of brickwork craftsmanship is in a building that is tucked away down a narrow side street not far from the building in the other picture and has some equally wonderful brickwork so more pictures to follow.

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Another building I stand and stare at (yes I know I do get some odd stares in my direction but I’m not so decorative), and again the arches are just magnificent. Now before I get carried away by posting too many pictures there is the odd modern-day building constructed using bricks in a decorative way, not a lot, but still an effort has been made but come nowhere near the magnificence of these older structures. Cue more pictures.

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As I say brickwork can still be more than just straight lines of bricks that we all pass by many times during out lives but I have only scratched the surface of the structures involved, anyone interested in the marvellous subject of brick chimney stacks? (and yes all this is said with tongue in cheek as we say, joking in other words). 🙂

Do you reminisce?

There are those that say never look back what is past is the past but there are an equally vociferous segment think that history plays a big part in our lives. At the moment whilst writing this I have You Tube in the background playing stuff from the 50’s/60’s when I was growing up as a child with the influence of the American music scene and the emergence of the British response. So I have such a rich vein of memories to fall back on and that I admit I will not let go but why should I? I have arranged a number of school reunions and to date I think I can say they have been successful as many have asked since when am I doing another one. School friends of half a century ago get together and exchange chat and want to come back for more, makes me think that the those who think the past is the past are missing something.

Of course not everyone has a great story to tell, there is tragedy there is hardship as much as there is success but overall the feeling in these reunions is that of old friends getting together to have a chat and a laugh and I’m proud to have organised such events. But as with time there is death and we have lost some former classmates and some of the teachers, who incidentally enjoyed this get together as much as us former pupils did so these days such events tend to be depleted somewhat but none the less the overall feeling is of comradeship. I am going to include a couple of pictures and I’m sorry for all those in the pictures if they would rather I not but hey 50 years later many of us met up again and had a great time, and no I’m not going to supply the details to the pictures lol,

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Just a note.

As I have stated in the ‘Announcement’ I am moving my holiday/vaction/travel stuff over to a new blog TRAVELOGRAPHY. But the stuff already posted here shall stay, I was originally going to delete it all but have now changed my mind. I know I could have had a new section within the blog just on my travel, but I wanted to do one just on the travel and picture aspect as at some point I may post more pictures in this blog but not necessarily of travel.

I’m not sure how all this will work out for with me not being a coder or au fait with HTML I may mess up and although there are help forums and the like I just don’t have the time to look through it all, and more to the point, to take it all in. But this is not abandonment and there may be more changes as yet if things don’t work out, but that’s for another day.

Achademic Excellence and fine old buildings go together it seems.

My wife and I have been on a few weekend trips just lately, no not those trips, coach trips and some of the places we have been are the academic excellence centres of the world, Oxford and Cambridge. Notwithstanding their academic power they also have some beautiful buildings to teach this stuff in, and its that side of the equation that grabs me the most, just as well as for my brainpower they would not just show me the door but would not let me near it 🙂  ……. so here are some pictures First Cambridge, we were there on Saturday 2nd June.

It has to be said also that many of these pictures were taken through gaps in iron gates and fencing as they were not open to the public until later in the day when I would be gone. Some didn’t allow anyone in other than students and their families as exams were taking place, which is fair comment I would say. I could have put a slide show but it doesn’t show the full pictures as I intended and I know I haven’t put comments about which college is which, but I may amend that at a later date, oh and the ducks were friendly as well, as long as you fed them that is 🙂

A return to Benidorm, Spain.

Here we go again, some more pictures of Benidorm, maybe these will turn out as intended, not keyholes. But Benidorm is still Benidorm only this time it was better than I expected. You may have read, or seen on the news, a thing called the Euro crisis, so many countries in the Euro zone are heavily in debt that the currency itself is at risk, although bankers and politicians tell you otherwise.

Greece has had some dizzying amount of money lent to it to pay off debts that were due to be paid so how lending them even more helps things I don’t know. So Spain, and Portugal, are close to the same scenario and I wasn’t expecting to see much activity in what is essentially a holiday resort. But what do I see when I get there? Much the same as in years gone by, the Spanish were in the bars, eating, drinking and talking, well that is a bit of an understatement as they debate with great fervour.

Tapas alley was as bustling as ever and bars and shops were being spruced up ready for another summers season of holiday makers. It all made for a great atmosphere and one that I love, even thought I cannot speak Spanish, or any other language, that is not a hindrance as you get a lot of help from the bar staff, shop assistants, to assist in your needs. Well I do know how to say Hola, dos, vino tinto por favour, pathetic I know.

Levante, with long sandy beaches and many bars.

One way of getting around Spain in this type of weather.

Amongst the high-rise apartments and hotels a lovely Spanish villa right on the front of the prom.

A more distant view of the sea front of Benidorm, there are actually 3 beaches, Levante (sunrise), Poniente (sunset) and a small beach in between called Malpas.

This is the Malpas beach, like a private cove and far different to its bigger brothers.

One of the many sand sculptures.

After the hustle and bustle of the day, peace.

Benidorm was built to its present position mainly for the hordes of British holiday makers who wanted some of that Spanish sun but still wanted the comforts of home. Like British food, beer, TV etc so a whole industry was set up to cater for these invaders. And invade we did, millions of us have at some time been to this lovely place, many time and time again, and although the place is occupied predominately by the British it is also a favourite with the Spanish themselves.

There are other nationalities, Germans, Dutch, Scandinavians, and just recently Russians, not many from the likes of France or Italy, well they have their own Benidorm’s. It’s a peculiar thing in a way that the British attend clubs and bars, just like back home, and see entertainment, singers, comedians and the likes, whilst the Spanish just sit and chat, or debate. They make their own entertainment, ok a TV may be on in the background, but no one is watching, unless football (soccer) is on.

And not too far away are some lovely areas to explore if that is your thing or you fancy a stroll. At one end of Levante in the Ricon area, is a small mountain range, not too high, but there is a road to walk along in safety as no traffic is allowed. It leads to what’s left of an old fort that was used as a look out for foreign invaders, British or otherwise.

The road leading up to the old fort.

The fort, or what's left of it.

I don’t know what will become of the Euro zone situation but it seems as though the Spanish will still be coming to Benidorm and the tapas bars and will be eating, drinking and debating as they have in years gone by. But that’s the essence of Benidorm, enjoy the holiday and come back again soon.