United Kingdom

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Herzliya Marina was a secure place to leave Quo Vadis while I took a trip to Britain for some re-education…

I flew from Tel Aviv to London via Istanbul.
Although primarily for my update course, it was great to be back in UK after many years away and the trip was an opportunity to catch up with old friends.
Firstly, there was Kathryn of the yacht Suleika, now taking root in Oakley, Hampshire, it was a late night of catch-up gossip before I took the train the next morning to the work part of the trip in Edinburgh.

It was over 30 years since I was there last, to do an exam in the deepest dark of winter, when the classic old granite buildings loomed institutional and cold.

But in August 2010, summertime and sunny, with flower baskets on the granite, to my mind, it was a city transformed!

It was festival time,

the city was pumping with the crowds of visitors

and on every city street, reality,

make-believe and deception

became all confused in the ever-changing, always entertaining antics of the ‘fringe’, -the sideshow that now outshines the main act!

Accommodation was in Pollock Halls, near Holyrood Park, conveniently placed to both the city for its night-time attractions and to Arthur’s Seat, I could catch the city with sun rise

along with the late night festival goers, caught out with nowhere to stay, sleeping rough in the heavy morning dews… -fantastic views for them to wake to with the weather as it held…

…it was a great time to be in Edinburgh!
and yes,  -of course the symposium was good too… I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

I then took the train across Scotland to Ayrshire, to the home of Bella, -another old friend.

She lives in Doonholm, on an old family estate,

the grand old house is ‘listed’, the grounds and gardens expansive

on the banks of their little bit of the river Doon.

The estate is just out of Ayr and adjacent to the little town of Alloway, the birthplace of Robbie Burns

where there is his birth cottage

a memorial on the river Doon

and the quaint arched bridge, the “brig’o Doon” mentioned in his poem, “Tam O’Shanter”

It’s not a part of Scotland I’ve seen much of before, but with continuing fair weather, I could come back for more!

It’s particularly attractive for sailing, there are many marinas, it is not overcrowded and there are all the Western Isles to cruise about.

It’s tempting to cut short and leave the yachting mayhem of the Med to come north, although if this was summer, with this cool breeze, -I definitely wouldn’t be trying it in the winter!

We took a look at some local sights, -the quirky Kelburn Castle

which, to distinguish it from the many other stately homes about, the slightly eccentric owner has had decorated with South American murals…

Crossraguel Abbey, founded in 1244 but now just an interesting old ruin;

and Culzean Castle, the family home of the Kennedys since the 1500s; a post wartime UK base for General Eisenhower and now maintained and protected by the National Trust for its unique Robert Adam architecture

the unique elliptical atrium, the art works and the gardens.

The highlight of Ayrshire has to have been the grouse shoot, -a totally new experience for an antipodean!
We joined the shooters high up on the moor for their picnic lunch,

but there was more than thermos flasks and sandwiches there, -baskets of fresh bread and seafood platters with all the contents of a full stocked bar at our disposal!

while the dogs (and the beaters) stayed patiently waiting nearby…
It was grouse season, this was a shoot in the traditional Scottish form, we stayed with the hunt for the afternoon

enjoying the anticipation,

the picturesque moorland landscape, the reward of several grouse in the bag at the end of the day and especially the meal of roast birds the following evening!

Next I went to West London to find my old school friend Chris.
He took me to a little lock-up garage in a back street and showed me the current automotive love of his life,

a red Iso Grifo classic, -immaculate, awesome and with engine start reverberating around the terrace houses,  a most effective bird-scarer!

He next took me to work, showing me backstage at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. The auditorium to seat a couple of thousand people is just a tiny part of it, behind the curtains more resembles the base for a transport logistics company, -a warehouse with loading docks, hydraulic platforms, lifts and cranes, -not to mention the expanse of rehearsal rooms, change areas and ballet school that make up the theatre complex.

I spent a day exploring the old city of London, looking at who was in port,

changes in the old landmarks and those new since I was last there…

…it’s much more tiring walking those city streets than it once was, I didn’t get to half of where I’d have liked!

But I did take the Docklands monorail to Greenwich, somewhere for some reason, I’d never got to before, but 30 years ago, access wasn’t so easy!

It’s some of the best of Christopher Wren; the Chapel of St Peter and Paul,

and the Royal Hospital with the Painted Hall

named for the incredible artwork of James Thornhill.

Behind is the National Maritime Museum of Inigo Jones, far from being stuffy it is lively and entertaining for anyone with an interest in boats and old things to do with boats, -even with tired feet…

Further up the hill, the old Royal Observatory

with the metal inlaid marker of 00.00.00 longitude, not just meaningful to sailing folk, judging by the long queue of Asians, waiting to be photographed astride the line, east and west hemispheres all in one frame…
I could have spent a lot longer studying Harrison’s fascinating longitude determining problem solving chronometers but I had a dinner arrangement to keep, I had to dash.
Maybe within another 30 years I’ll get back to finish looking?

The next morning I had an hour or so with Dot., an old work friend now in charge of operating rooms in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the catch-up in news was good, but also to share stories comparing health systems in the 2 countries now, surgical problems are the same world-wide.

I then took the train to the old city of Peterborough, after having good weather in UK so far, it was now beginning to rain… well, it had to sometime while I was in UK

My friends Janet and David  met me at the train, to avoid the rain we went to the best known landmark in Peterborough, the Cathedral Church of St Peter, Paul and Andrew.

Compared with St Pauls, just a short distance away in London, where there is a long queue and a 12 pound entrance fee, this church is a treat to visit, -it’s empty, with no fees and no hassles.
One of the most beautifully together and best preserved 12th century Anglo-Saxon churches with its towering gothic arches, fan vaulting and spires it is also the burial place of Katherine of Aragon and for a time, Mary, Queen of Scots.

We spent a wet couple of days at their home in nearby Woodnewton, it wasn’t too wet to go to an outdoor performance of a Shakespearean play. The dripping wet and cold actors on the stage were the ones outdoors, we in the audience were comparatively warm and dry under a canvas shelter… -only in England…

We walked about the village when the rain paused briefly, unassumingly charming, even in the conditions.

We also visited the old stately Elton Hall out near Fotheringhay.

It is a true family home, having been built in the 1600s by Thomas Proby and remaining in the family ever since, somewhat unusually, they still live there today and the tour includes parts in use by them currently.

There is a French styled drawing room, a magnificent library and many other comfortable old (cold) rooms with grand master paintings on the walls

and out in a rain, beautiful formal gardens

which will have to wait for sunshine on the next visit…

I left Elton Hall, rural England and the cold wet that the English summer had become, taking the train back to London, then Heathrow and the flight back to the incredible heat of Tel Aviv, where the August was still being the hottest on record…-and that means HOT!

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