Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Winnie-the-Pooh Country

Looking North

With spring on the horizon lots of us are thinking of long rambles in the quiet of the countryside.  In East Sussex the Ashdown Forest is always popular as here, apart from the birdsong and the wind soughing in the tall grasses and occasional trees, all is quiet.  And there are the scents of the flowers and herbs which are delicious.  Of course it depends on the time of year you are there as to what you see and smell.  For example, in spring it is possible to find cushions of pale yellow primroses, drifts of bluebells, bright yellow gorse and, someone once told me, they had seen wild irises and orchids.  Later in the year the moors acquire a lavender carpet as the heather blooms.
Ashdown Forest is an ancient forest upon which, fortunately, builders no longer encroach to create more towns.  The 10 square miles/2,396 hectares of woods themselves consist of oaks, ash and beech with a floor of ferns.  Deep in the forest look out for the Fallow deer.  Shy creatures and delightful to watch.

Probably the most famous resident of Ashdown Forest is Winnie-the-Pooh.  A.A. Milne, who wrote the Christopher Robin stories, lived on the northern edge of the forest and in his books re-named some of his favourite places.

For example, Gills Lap became Galleons Lap where there is now a memorial to A.A. Milne and E.H. Shephard, the illustrator of the Pooh books.  There are also designated Pooh Walks which start from here.

All of Pooh’s fans have to visit the Poohsticks Bridge and I am no exception.  Obviously playing Pooh Sticks is more fun when there is more than one of you, but I usually manage by using ‘competing’ sticks.

The Bridge is just outside the village of Hartfield which is a good excuse to go and visit Winnie-the-Pooh Corner, a shop in a 300-years-old building, and buy yet more souvenirs.  The Church of St. Mary the Virgin is even older – 13th century.  It is more famous for its high points - these are the West Tower and the Broach Spire.

Like Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, Piglet and Roo, at the end of the day it is time to head for home after a day of adventures in the Enchanted Places of Ashdown Forest.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Photographing the Royal Family

A Smiling Queen

I’ve often wished I could take photos of the Royal Family just like the ones we see in magazines.  Not the posed ones but those taken at events, walkabouts and on casual occasions.  I know I never will because I don’t have one of those big expensive cameras with all the bells and whistles.

Like the majority of us my cameras are small and basic.  They have changed over the years from the wind-on by hand to the general point and shoot and now digital.  But I still have problems.

There was the occasion when one cold day I stood in The Mall to see The Queen and Prince Philip heading for the State Opening of Parliament.  She looked lovely with a flashing diamond coronet and a white fur wrap.  Camera up, finger poised and - click!  Photo of the hand of the lady standing beside me as she waved.  I waited for over an hour for the return but as I was on my lonesome I wasn’t spotted.  I did get a photo but Her Majesty wasn’t looking my way.

With older cameras taking so long to wind on I did get quite a few photos of royal chauffeurs and the back of the car.  When the Queen Mother visited the Guildhall in the City of London the person standing beside me told me she had given me a lovely smile.  Wish I’d caught it on camera.

When Princess Diana once attended a concert at the Barbican Hall I managed to get a distant photo of her receiving a bouquet.  As the camera took so long to wind on, by the time it was ready for the next snap she was climbing a staircase.

So far as distance photos are concerned, you definitely do need a good telephoto lens.  For the 50th Anniversary of VE Day I got myself to Buckingham Palace at about 6.00 a.m.  And only just managed to squeeze myself in at the railings between a tall Australian and one of the concrete pillars.  Yes, I took several balcony photos but when printed all they showed were small figures.  Mind you, now I’ve put them onto the computer I’ve managed to improve them slightly.

During the late 1990s The Queen and Prince Philip visited Croydon, not far from where I was living.  By this time I was an accredited journalist and was allowed into the press photographers enclosure outside the building they were visiting.  After the Royal Party had gone in all the photographers left to take up positions behind the crowds from which to take their photos.  (They stand on step ladders).   I stayed where I was.
A Royal Smile would have been nice.

I have a wonderful photo of Her Majesty looking at me - and frowning.  There I had been hoping for a smile and she was probably wondering who I was.  A stranger in the camp!  I did, a bit later, get a snap of her smiling.  But I wish I had had a more professional camera.

None of my Royal photos are very good, but to me they are precious.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Roman Ruins and Walking in Solin, Croatia

The Church of St. Mary in Solin

Croatians are very proud of their history and love showing it off to visitors so when visiting the country do be prepared for plenty of visits to ruins.
The Cellars below Diocletian's Palace
In Split (the nearest town to Solin) is Diocletian's Palace. Don't be misled into thinking that it is just ruins. Despite several centuries of changes and additions, some of the original palace still exists. Nowadays this area is known as the Old Town which is confined within the palace walls.

I found it fascinating to stand in the main street watching people strolling and looking in the shops - exactly as they may have done 2,000 years ago. (I had visions of Frankie Howerd's 'Up Pompeii' sitcom). But where to start looking at the remains of this Roman palace - at the Cathedral, the Golden Gate, the Piazza or any one of several other locations. Best idea is to pick up a map at the tourist office and follow the walking tour.

On the outskirts of Solin are the ruins of Salona which was the original capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Now all that remains of this city are the ruins showing temples, an amphitheatre, the governor's palace, the forum, Christian churches and cemeteries.

Discovering the Fort of Klis
On clear days in the pass between two mountain ranges can be seen the fort of Klis which was very strategically placed to ward off enemies. It was originally built by an Ilyrian tribe and from the 7th century it was the castle of the Croatian kings. It subsequently became a fortress to repel such enemies as the Turks.

My bad luck was rain. On each of the three trips it rained - to a lesser or greater degree. So if you are planning a visit to this area in the winter there are two important things you need - wet weather clothing and some warm clothing - especially if planning a trip to Klis!

I chose to stay in Solin because I wanted a quiet and restful holiday, but it is also an excellent location if you enjoy walking as there are many walks available. There are also plenty of buses to Split and other surrounding towns.  There is just the one hotel - The President Solin - which is a 5*. Built in 2011 it overlooks Our Lady's Islet and the church of St. Mary. I enjoyed strolling along the footpath around the edge of the park alongside the River Jadro and its tributaries. The hotel is beautifully decorated, the staff are friendly and efficient, the rooms and public areas are kept clean and the food is excellent and plentiful.

One last word of warning - if you are even slightly disabled and need help dealing with steep steps (which often don't have a handrail) or cannot easily cope with hills or rocky footpaths, take a walking stick. I recently bought a folding one which is very useful as it can be packed into my suitcase.

This last bit of info may not come as a surprise - I went with Saga. The rep, Tatiana, is one of the best Saga reps I've ever met. Even though there were only a few of us she worked really hard and organised lots of local walks for those who wanted them.
Looking across the park towards the hotel.

Irresistible You by Jemma Linley

I had hoped to publish this romantic novel before Christmas but it was a case of the best laid plans going awry.  Eventually I managed to publish it a couple of days before flying to Croatia for a couple of week rest (and to avoid the snow and ice in England!).  Rest?  I started writing another book - the third about Cleo Marjoribanks and Steaming Kettle.

But, back to Irresistible You.  The idea came about following several visits to Miami Beach, Florida.  I was living in Florida at the time and enjoyed several breaks in this city famous for its colourful Art Deco architecture.

Mel Sheridan, singer, and Andy Lomax, guitarist, once worked on the same cruise ship.  Now after failed marriages they meet again - on Miami Beach.  Andy is playing with a jazz combo and Mel is on holiday and they fall in.
When Mel left the ship moved to California and married singer Charles Prince.   He didn’t live up to his name and Mel divorced him.
Andy left the ship to form the combo with his friends.  He married Joanna who had also worked on the ships. 
Now Mel is considering moving to Miami Beach - provided she can get a Green Card, which can take a long time to obtain.
Although she has to spend time in England (between visits to Miami) both she and Andy have problems with their former spouses.  But that doesn’t affect their love for each other.
Will they live happily ever after or will a tragedy destroy that dream?

I should also mention that I once spent a year working on a cruise ship that sailed out of Miami.  And my experience of getting a Green Card also came in useful in the creation of this story.

No, I’m not going to tell you how it ends - you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Irresistible You is available on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, I-Pad, Sony and other e-readers and can also be downloaded to computer via Smashwords.  (www.smashwords.com/profile/view/barbarabothwell).