24 July 2012

A Rant

- Navy Sailor John Larimer, 27
- Alex Teves, 24
- Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress
- Alex Sullivan, 27
- Jessica Ghawi, 24
- Micayla Medek, 23
- Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6
- Gordon Cowden, 51
- Alexander J. Boik, 18
- Jonathan T. Blunk, 26
- Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32
- Matt McQuinn, 27
1. Susan Hileman, 58
2. Mavanell Stoddard, 75
3. Pamela Simon, 63
4. Ronald Barber, 65
5. Gabrielle Giffords, 40
6. James Tucker, 58
7. Kenneth Veeder, 75
8. George Morris, 76
9. James Fuller, 63
10. Randy Gardner, 60
11. Mary Reed, 52
12. Kenneth Dorushka, 63
13. Bill Badger, 74
14. Christina Green
15. John Roll, 63
16. Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Zimmerman, 30
17. Dorwan Stoddard, 76
18. Dorothy Morris, 76
19. Phyllis Schneck, 79
1. Rachel Scott, age 17
2. Richard Castaldo, age 17
3. Daniel Rohrbough, age 15
4. Sean Graves, age 15
5. Lance Kirklin, age 16
6. Michael Johnson, age 15
7. Mark Taylor, age 16
8. Anne-Marie Hochhalter, age 17
9. Brian Anderson, age 16
10. Patti Nielson, age 35
11. Stephanie Munson, age 16
12. Dave Sanders, age 47
1. Leigh Ann Vandiver Barton, 27
2. Matthew David Barton, 11
3. Mychelle Elizabeth Barton, 8
4. Allen Charles Tenenbaum, 48
5. Dean Delawalla, 52
6. Joseph J. Dessert, 60
7. Jamshid Havash, 45
8. Vadewattee Muralidhara, 44
9. Edward Quinn, 58
10. Kevin Dial, 38
11. Russell J. Brown, 42
12. Scott A. Webb, 30
1. Ryan Clark (22)
2. Emily Hilscher (19)
3. Minal Panchal (26)
4. G. V. Loganathan (53)
5. Jarrett Lane (22)
6. Brian Bluhm (25)
7. Matthew Gwaltney (24)
8. Jeremy Herbstritt (27)
9. Partahi Lumbantoruan (34)
10. Daniel O'Neil (22)
11. Juan Ortiz (26)
12. Julia Pryde (23)
13. Waleed Shaalan (32)
14. Jamie Bishop (35)
15. Lauren McCain (20)
16. Michael Pohle Jr. (23)
17. Maxine Turner (22)
18. Nicole White (20)
19. Liviu Librescu (76)
20. Jocelyne Couture-Nowak (49)
21. Ross Alameddine (20)
22. Austin Cloyd (18)
23. Daniel Perez Cueva (21)
24. Caitlin Hammaren (19)
25. Rachael Hill (18)
26. Matthew La Porte (20e
27. Henry Lee (20)
28. Erin Peterson (18)
29. Mary Karen Read (19)
30. Reema Samaha (18)
31. Leslie Sherman (20)
32. Kevin Granata (45)

Total = 87...yes, that's right EIGHTY-SEVEN PEOPLE!!!

How many of you are already bloody sick and tired of seeing pictures of the orange haired clown in Colorado who massacred 12 people and wounded another 59? Bet you know his name. Look over the list above. I'll bet you can name almost every person responsible for these lists. But without looking, how many of you can name even one victim? These lists represent only five of the approximately TWENTY-FOUR mass shootings* since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 (yeah, that was Klebold and Harris, and I didn't have to look that up).

In every case, the killers' names and faces, backgrounds, education (or lack thereof), mental health issues, jobs, etc., etc., etc. were (and are) plastered on every newscast, tweeted endlessly, blogged about, dissected, ad nauseum. Every step of their legal processes were covered from arrest (or burial) to sentencing, then they are followed during appeals, every parole hearing (who isn't aware that Charlie Manson once again came up as "eligible" for parole?), until the perpetrator is dead (by whatever means), or released (God forbid). 

But who remembers the victims? Unless you personally knew one of them (and I am so sorry if you did). 

I was so happy to tune into Anderson Cooper during his AC360 show the other night, right after the Aurora massacre. He never used the shooter's name. He concentrated on the victims, talking to them, to their families and friends. Anderson showed pictures of the victims, discussed their lives, their loves. I cried for every one of them. And almost forgot the clown's name. 

Here's my rant:
We as a country seem to be completely beholden to the NRA and other "defenders" of the Second Amendment. Let me say that I am a gun owner. A several guns owner. I even hold a Concealed Carry Permit, allowing me to carry a firearm completely concealed from view in public. I do believe in the Second Amendment, whose wording in the Constitution of the United States as ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Why in the hell can we place limits on the First Amendment - free speech...
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
..."you can't shout 'fire!' in a crowded theatre" is an oft quoted example of a limit placed on free speech...but we can't place limits on the quantities, types, and perhaps capacities of firearms that individuals can purchase?!?! Yes, we have limits that cover felons, the mentally ill, there's a few other minor exceptions. But in this country, we've gotten a little ridiculous in thinking that an armed populace is going to hold back a government gone awry. However, it would seem that there's not enough of us armed if no one in a theatre at 12:00 midnight could stop a lunatic with a shitpot full of guns!

So don't get me wrong, if I'd had my gun in that theatre, there would have been a lot fewer hurt and killed. (I probably wouldn't have; just because I have the permit doesn't mean I am armed 100% of the time - probably less than 1% of the time if the truth be known.) You don't have to kill someone wearing body armour to put them out of business. If you don't believe me, buy yourself a set, and come invade my home. I guarantee you'll be on your ass in my yard covered in very deep bruises and hurting very badly without a single bullet hole in your sorry ass. That's only IF I have totally forgotten everything I ever learned about shooting and miss your head. If you prefer the easier way, ask any police officer or soldier who's been shot in the body armour. It saves your life, it does not prevent you from being hurt, usually to the point of incapacitation, from the shock of a bullet hitting you at 2500 feet per second!

The lunacy has to stop. I don't own a gun that holds 100 rounds of ammunition. I can't think of any good reason to. I own one that could be considered a military weapon, it's a pistol, and is so much fun to shoot at water filled cans and watch them jump! I also own a shotgun to kill those horrible orange pigeons that pop up in front of you when you're hiking along skeet ranges. Oh, and the 54 calibre muzzleloading rifle that is a great deer gun. (Yes, I believe in hunting, too, it's about the only control we have left for deer in particular, since we wiped out all their natural predators, squeezed their habitat until they've adapted to our backyards and decks eating flowers and other ornamental plants,  and now the bleeding hearts prefer to let them get hit by cars and die from disease and lack of food than being shot for food). 

So I'm a mixed bag when it comes to guns, and the Second Amendment in particular. I just don't get why reasonable people need assault weapons unless they are planning mass destruction like the events listed below. If we can limit "free" speech, we can limit "the right to keep and bear arms". Let's get with it, America! Stop this madness!!!

*The list, taken from http://www.newsmax.com/US/mass-shootings-us-colorado/2012/07/20/id/445971:

(C) - April 1999 - two teenage schoolboys shot and killed 12 schoolmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, before killing themselves.
(D) - July 1999 - a stock exchange trader in Atlanta, Georgia, killed 12 people including his wife and two children before taking his own life.
- September 1999 - a gunman opened fire at a prayer service in Fort Worth, Texas, killing six people before committing suicide.
- October 2002 - a series of sniper-style shootings occurred in Washington DC, leaving 10 dead.
- August 2003 - in Chicago, a laid-off worker shot and killed six of his former workmates.
- November 2004 - in Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter killed six other hunters and wounded two others after an argument with them.
- March 2005 - a man opened fire at a church service in Brookfield, Wisconsin, killing seven people.
- October 2006 - a truck driver killed five schoolgirls and seriously wounded six others in a school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania before taking his own life.
(E) - April 2007 - student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and wounded 15 others at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, before shooting himself, making it the deadliest mass shooting in the United States after 2000.
- August 2007 - Three Delaware State University students were shot and killed in “execution style” by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed.
- December 2007 - a 20-year-old man killed nine people and injured five others in a shopping center in Omaha, Nebraska.
- December 2007 - a woman and her boyfriend shot dead six members of her family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, Washington.
- February 2008 - a shooter who is still at large tied up and shot six women at a suburban clothing store in Chicago, leaving five of them dead and the remaining one injured.
- February 2008 - a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, killing five students and wounding 16 others before laying down his weapon and surrendering.
- September 2008 - a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people in Alger, Washington, leaving six of them dead and the rest two wounded.
- December 2008 - a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit opened fire at a family Christmas party in Covina, California, then set fire on the house and killed himself. Police later found nine people dead in the debris of the house.
- March 2009 - a 28-year-old laid-off worker opened fire while driving a car through several towns in Alabama, killing 10 people.
- March 2009 - a heavily armed gunman shot dead eight people, many of them elderly and sick people, in a private-owned nursing home in North Carolina.
- March 2009 - six people were shot dead in a high-grade apartment building in Santa Clara, California.
- April 2009 - a man shot dead 13 people at a civic center in Binghamton, New York.
- July 2009 - Six people, including one student, were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University, Houston.
- November 2009 - U.S. army psychologist Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, leaving 13 dead and 42 others wounded.
- February 2010 – A professor opened fire 50 minutes into at a Biological Sciences Department faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, killing three colleagues and wounding three others.
(B) - January 2011 - a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery in Tucson, Arizona, killing six people including a 9-year-old girl and wounding at least 12 others. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely injured with a gunshot to the head.
(A) - July 2012 - Aurora, Colorado, in a movie theatre, 59 more were wounded

19 July 2012

England: So How Much Did It Cost? (20th England Post!)

Steve, the landlord at the
Angarrack Inn, pulling my last
pint of Cornish Rattler Cyder.

A LOT!!! Hahahaha...yeah, the whole trip cost a pretty penny, and quite a few more pence. But I managed to save money for almost a year to pay for it. And while I don't think I wasted money while I was away, I know I could have cut costs to some degree though that would have changed the whole tenor of the trip. I arrived home with $88 and 92 pence in my pocket. Of course, as a backup, I had my checking account debit card, and two credit cards. One credit card was intended for larger expenses while in the UK to preserve cash, and the other was for emergencies. Thankfully, that one wasn't used at all.

I ate in pubs a lot, and bought a few meals for others (it was the least I could do when folks are putting me up for days at a time). Of course, there was an upward bump in the consumption of ale and cyder all over the country while I was there. I am sure that 80% of my fluid intake over the three weeks was alcoholic in nature.

I didn't buy a lot of souvenirs, save a Cornwall Pirates jersey for £50 ($78.54). I collected "beer mats" - known as coasters in this country. Of course, I spent £22 ($35) to mail home two glasses that were given to me, rather than deal with them in luggage, and I tossed in the jersey, too. It took exactly 7 days to make it across the pond, and it looks like they used the "dropkick" method of propulsion. Here's the pics:
I blurred the address, but you can clearly see where the top
was smashed in.
But my well-packed glasses survived unscathed! YAY!
So anyway, here's how the money went...(amounts may be off a bit due to exchange rates and fees that might be included but not itemized)

Item/StoreCost ($USD)Cost (£GBP)Notes
Purchased in  February, 2012
3 nights @ Murcott Mill Farmhouse B&B


Paid for when booked in Feb. 2012
SIM card and phone time$24.99 (card)
$40.00 (time)

Having a phone is essential. You'll need a GSM capable mobile. I bought a SIM card that would give me both a US and a UK phone number, so if there was a
reason someone in the US needed me, it
wasn't an international call, and I could
easily and cheaply call/text/data in the UK and my friends in the UK could
communicate with me without incurring
costs. It's a price I was more than willing
to pay.*
Converted cash at
$600.00 turned into £339.79 so I
would have walking around money.
Cash Point (ATM)
A £200.00 withdrawal was $311.52, plus
the $8.14 fee from my bank, so using an
ATM is MUCH cheaper than converting
at the airport!
A few of the
itemized cash

I used almost all of this £539.79, coming
home with about £0.93 in my pocket!
Most of this was spent on food, ale, small incidentals and admission fees. I also made a few charitable donations to the RNLI, the Wayside Museum, and a few others. I figure that £539 divided by 3 weeks is pretty cheap at £180/week!
Taxi in Cambridge
£6.00(these are included in the £539 above)
Bus from Cambridge
to Milton Keynes

£8.00OMG this travel is cheap!
Train from Milton
Keynes to Long

£10.90Did I mention that this travel is cheap!
Petrol (we drove a lot while wandering
around Crick and
the surrounding
area, and back to and in/around Cornwall)

£134.78And we in the US bitch about paying
$3.50/gallon for gas...the prices in the UK work out to about $7.92/gallon @ £1.34/Litre which seems to be near the
average price in the UK while I was there.
Souvenir #1$86.25£55.17A Bletchley Park Stamp Cover Set...very cool. I sent postcards to friends from the BletchleyPark Post Office. The cover set is neato!
Souvenir #2$78.54£50.00One of the few souvenirs I purchased was atWhirlwind Sports...a Cornwall Pirates jersey.
Food and Ale from Grocers like Tesco, Asda, Co-Operative$175.06£111.95Once again, a cheap way to have plenty ofbeer/ale and snacks available, plus I helped buy food for my hosts.
Admission to Warwick Castle
£28.20Yes, a tourist attraction, but one of the best preserved
old castles in the country. Very, very neat!
Foxton Locks$29.97
Food and a couple of souvenirs (hmm, where is that
Lock Badge?)
Train from Penzance$105.73

Overnight train back to Heathrow. Should have spent
a little more and gotten a sleeper berth.
Royal Mail (Post
$35.24£22.00I could not believe how much it cost to send this light box (like a couple of kilograms).
Half-Wave Breakfast
at Sunset Surf Shop
Fried egg (over easy), Cornwall sausage, Cornish pudding, rasher of bacon, grilled tomato, hash brown potato, and baked beans.
Final Dinner at The White Hart in Ludgvan, Cornwall$63.33

I had Roast Rump of Lamb, with Potatoes Au Gratin and Lima Beans with Spinach, and 3 pints...Derek had ham and eggs with chips, and a pint, then a small red house wine.

The total is $3483, plus or minus a bit. I know that sounds like a lot, but it was worth every penny. I am sure I could have saved a lot if we had eaten in more (self-catered), or drank a lot less.
Zennor Head

The view from the front window in Gwithian Towans,
the front garden, the car park is across the lane, then the
ocean, St. Ives Bay, and that is St. Ives on the peninsula
opposite side of the bay (top left).
* When I went to the UK for the first time in 2007, it was a comedy of travel errors. Late out of Richmond, later still into JFK. Missed connections, so flight was hours late. No ride at Heathrow. Noon bus to Cornwall was full. Next one was in 5.25 hours, arriving at 12:30AM. Late leaving, now arriving at 2:30AM. This is all communicated by pay phone to friend in Cornwall. Except the bus driver makes up 2 hours, and we arrive at 12:30AM. The only pay phone that accepts credit cards is broken (and I am out of change). The bus driver kindly sees me and allows me to use his mobile and my 2.5 hour wait turned into 30 minutes. I should have brought a phone. 
     Here's reason #2: I had a friend in Russia at the same time I was in the UK this year. He is 19 and was traveling abroad for the first time. When he got back to JFK airport in New York his connecting flight had been cancelled. He had change in his pocket, no credit card, and NO PHONE! Nate didn't take it because it wouldn't work in Russia. He managed to call home with the remaining change he had, and his dad had to arrange a hotel room, the shuttle, and figure out his new connecting flight to Washington, DC, then wait for Nate to call him back. It all worked out, but it was a pain. JUST TAKE A PHONE!!! You can even rent an international phone from your carrier, and pay less than buying a new phone, though the next time you upgrade, look for a phone that can do CDMA and GSM, it won't cost you any more. (Here's a parenting tip: teach your totally connected kid how to make COLLECT phone calls - this is still possible, believe it or not! Yes, I just dated myself, but I remember making collect calls when I was 14 and stranded in SC and home was WV. Saved my a$$!)
A regular at Tinner's Arms
     Getting a third party SIM card is easy, and the way to go. The SIM card is the "brain" of the phone. In my case, Verizon would have been happy to let me use my phone and my plan to make and receive calls. At $1.29 a minute, $0.29/text, plus I retain my US phone number. My 3rd party SIM card cost me a total of $65, but when I looked back at my usage, it worked out to about $0.40/minute or text, including the data usage which turned out to be important since the alleged Internet access in many places was poor or non-existent. This is a lot less than Verizon charges, and I had a UK phone number which made it so easy for my friends to get in touch with me without international charges to their plans. Note that typically you have to call your carrier's International Support number to get a special PIN to unlock your phone to use 3rd party SIM cards, but at least with Verizon, this was a 10 minute call with no hassles at all. Thank you, Verizon.

Somewhat different condiments in English pubs!
Narrowboat design


13 July 2012

England: A Final Post

It's been an amazing three weeks. From 3:30PM on the 21st June when I walked out of work at Trampton, until I arrive back at the airport in Richmond on Saturday evening, it will be an experience that can never be repeated. It's Thursday afternoon, the 12th July as I write this, though it won't post until Friday evening. It's been raining all day, easily the dreariest day since I've arrived, despite all the apologies from everyone I've met, strangers, friends, publicans, shop clerks. So I've been reflecting back on the last three weeks in between sorting and packing, and getting ready to start the 4000 miles journey by train and plane back to the United States of America.

There's so many people that have made this trip such a grand success. I can only hope to thank them a little bit here, they mean so much more to me than I can express in a blog. Mark, you took off from work to shepherd me through the Heathrow labyrinth to the Central Bus Terminal (the place I hoped I'd never see again after 2007's seven hour wait for a bus that I thought would never depart), then spent the weekend and Monday with me, showing me around Cambridge - a truly remarkable city. Jack, you worked all day on Friday, followed  by an overnight shift at job #2, then caught the train to Woking to spend Saturday with us - wow! Thanks for that, my friend, meeting you in person was a highlight of the trip. I met another blogger friend - another highlight - while we were in Woking, making this town blog-central station! Note: If you ever travel to Woking, stay at the Holiday Inn. The Woking/Metro Hotel sucks.

In Cambridge, Martin took the time to ferry me out to the G6UW ham shack so I could operate as a foreign operator - M/N4PAT. There's 60+ new contacts in my logbook because of his generosity, including some new countries! Thanks, too, to the operators that heard my out-of-practice CQ's and came back to me. Martin also took me to Bletchley Park, where I spent a really great day learning about the code breaking teams of the Second World War, and examining the machines that they developed to make the job possible. This single location probably took years off WWII, saving countless lives of Allied soldiers. Worth  the time, for sure.

I managed to find my way from Cambridge to Long Buckby, and was met by Derek on the platform (the station isn't much more than a platform). The next 14 days were filled with new places and new things every day. It wasn't all about hitting each and every pub along the route, but those places were pretty neat - most were first opened in the 13th, 14th, 15th or 16th century - you can feel the history in them as you drink ales made usually within a few miles of the establishment, and eat food produced in many cases on farms nearby. I"ve been to museums and historic fishing villages, walked along ancient pathways and visited prehistoric burial sites. Castles, ruins, and harbours filled with modern yachts and fishing boats. All thanks to Derek and his knowledge of Cornwall. Rodney was nice enough to take me out on his narrowboat. I can definitely see the draw to such a bucolic lifestyle, and I talked a couple of times on the phone with a lady who lives with her hsuband aboard their narrowboat year-round - I follow her blog, so another blogger met, if only in voice.

Everyone I met seemed fascinated that a Yank would patronise their establishment, their bemusement turning to wonder (and perhaps a bit of pique) when they had to deal with my "swipe only" credit card.

I guess if this journal has a purpose beyond holding fond memories, it's to also encourage folks to get out and go! I've heard friends approach the idea of going abroad with great trepidation. What about the language? What about money? How will I cope? Let me tell you this: Even coming to a country where they speak "English", they are speaking a foreign language. I have never heard so many different words for familiar things in my life! Lifts, lorries, HGVs, "Give Way", roundabouts, the list goes on and on. Accents sound strange - but don't forget, you sound strange to them, too! Customs are different, life is different. But it's pretty easy to cope. It doesn't take long when immersed in a culture to pick up on the necessities to avoid looking like a totally moronic tourist. For instance, tipping in England is almost not done. Taxi drivers, if they handle your luggage, perhaps doormen (but I never stayed any place that "proper" so I don't know for sure). But in pubs, and restaurants? Nope, not done, not expected at all. Wait staff is paid at least minimum wage, so it's not like they depend on tips for a living. In pubs, you find a table, find a menu, decide what you want and order and pay for it at the bar. Some places will allow you to run a tab, some of those will ask to keep your card until you pay! But typically, you pay as you go. Prices include taxes, so if it says £4.99, it's £4.99 (that's four pounds, 99 pence, and about $7.80USD). One thing I would strongly encourage - get a smartphone that will operate in the countries you are visiting, and get a SIM card that will allow operation on local carriers without paying the exorbitant international rates that US carriers charge in foreign countries. Being able to communicate is important. Having Internet capabilities makes travel planning much easier. Most of Europe is pretty well covered with 3G at least, but it's all on GSM, not CDMA which is most prevalent in the US. My dual capability phone with its UK SIM card paid for itself time and again in making connections with friends, checking schedules, and generally staying in touch with everyone.  They're also handy to keep a tally of what you spend, what you charge, and to make currency conversions before you purchase that "oh so cute" thingie that only costs £50 ($78USD) in the window!

I think some of the neatest times are when the natives strike up a conversation. We visited a lot of places that really aren't on the tourist radar (perhaps British tourists, but not a lot of foreigners). I enjoyed it when someone would ask where I was from, and we'd wind up in a conversation about one thing or another. Avoid politics at all costs - America is not the most popular country in the world at the moment - just smile and say "I'd rather talk about the weather" and believe me, in Britain at least, they LOVE to talk about the weather!

Finally, take a camera and plenty of batteries, and if you are really smart, your camera and all other electronics will run off AA batteries. You can buy AA batteries EVERYWHERE! Take plenty of memory cards and swap them out frequently so the failure or loss of a single card doesn't cost you your whole trip's cache of pictures. Try to avoid buying lots of souvenirs. That's a personal thought, but I prefer to take pictures of EVERYTHING, and let those be my souvenirs. Plus, pictures take up no more space or weight than the cards you store them on, so you don't have to worry about carrying lots of stuff home with you, jeopardising the airline weight limits for your baggage, or your back when it comes to carry-ons. 

Here are a few more pictures, in no particular order, some of the 100's I shot in the last three weeks!
Cambridge Train Station

Bletchley Park National Code Center

One of the many church towers, visible from miles away.

The Angarrack remains my favorite pub in England.

The 6 meter antenna stack at G6UW.

A rooftop decoration.

Swan butt!

The lounge on Rodney's narrowboar.

Christ Church in Woking.

The River Cam.

A fine pub lunch.

This sign and the one below, are for the same roundabout.
You figure it out!!!

The geometric design on the stern of Rodney's narrowboar.
Many narrowboats have similar designs.

Above and below, the church towers that
dominate the landscape.

A "YIELD" sign in the Queen's English.

CHEERS, MATES! Thanks for coming along on my journey with me!

12 July 2012

England: Mind Your Head

I was fortunate enough to be able to first visit England back in 2007. One of the things that struck me as rather funny were several signs I saw, typically in old pubs dating back to the 17th century or earlier. If you know anything about anthropology, you know that humans have grown taller over time. I won't try to explain why, mostly because I don't know, but I'm sure you can research it if you wish to dispute this spot of trivia.

Anyway, the sign that I saw was on the exposed rafters in the ceilings of the pubs. It said simply "Mind Your Head". I guess they prefer that you get your headaches from the hangovers rather than the bashing of your skull against their hundreds-year-old rafters. This trip, I decided to document the signs. I could not believe where I found them. It's almost too humourous for words!
A pub in Cambridge

Not technically a Mind Your Head, but the same principle -
try not to get your foot wedged in the obvious 3 inch wide gap
between the train and the platform.

On the bus from Cambridge to Milton Keynes.

Outside the Sea King helicopter at the Maritime Museum.

Under the tail of the helicopter.

In the entryway of a narrowboat at Foxton Locks.

Another pub's warning, rather whimsical!

Seems almost an afterthought.

Another pub.

The entrance to the Miller's Kitchen at the Wayside Museum...

...the inside of the Miller's Kitchen - an entire page above the
I must admit that I missed the worst (or best) example of a Mind Your Head. It was in the Bucket of Blood Inn, but the place was heaving with people, and getting a picture would have been tough. Their sign, on the very low rafter said "DUCK OR GROUSE". The next rafter proclaimed "YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED". Oddly enough, on the back door out to the garden, there was a commercial sign, bright yellow, with a warning triangle and everything that merely said "MIND YOUR HEAD". Maybe next time I'll get a picture of those!

11 July 2012

England: Porthleven

Things are starting to wrap up on this sojourn to England. I slept a bit late this morning, getting up about 10. After a quick cuppa and a shower, we headed off to Porthleven, a beautiful little fishing village right on the coast.

View Larger Map

I haven't put a lot of maps in the blogs, but this one is interesting, because if you enlarge it, you can see the seawalls that Porthleven has built up over the years to protect the inner harbour. Here's my pics of the harbour.
Looking towards the head of the harbour.
Looking towards the mouth of the harbour. The hole in the
wall almost in the center of the picture can be
closed off with the beams below in bad weather. Note the church
tower to the far right center of the picture.
These beams are something like 10 inches thick and 24 inches high!

The outer walls of the harbour, complete with cannons to
protect the harbour from pirates or privateers.

The church sits at the mouth of the harbour.
There is a picture, which I have not been able to find
(so I can "borrow" it) that shows waves crashing over the
top of the tower!
Lunch was a White Crab sandwich, made with crab that was locally caught and processed. We were at The Ship's Inn, which is shown on the map when you zoom into it a bit. It, too, is right at the mouth of the harbour, just opposite the church.

One thing I haven't talked much about, nor shown at all on the blog apart from a picture of the Godrevy Lighthouse just up the coast a bit, is where I am actually staying in Cornwall. 

View Larger Map

Now if you click to view the larger map, and drag it down and to the left so you actually go UP the coast, you will see where the inset is I have inserted here:
The tiny red dot is just about exactly where the house is,
the white square is the car park (£5.60 for the day).

 The white stretch is the beach, at least at half-tide. It is covered completely when the tide is high, and the water comes right to the cliffs that form a natural boundary between the land and sea. They are every bit of 50 to 60 feet high, and range from very rocky and rough to clay (which of course erodes much more quickly). Unlike most of our coastal areas, the houses here are built back away from the edge, and well away from the top of the cliffs, thus being far better protected than many of the McMansions we see along the Outer Banks of North Carolina and other coastal regions. Of course, it helps that England is on the wrong coast to get hurricanes or typhoons, though they do get some nasty nor'westers being so close to the North Atlantic!
This is a panorama of Gwithian beach. It covers about a mile from left to right, St. Ives
is on the hillside across the bay, and Godrevy Lighthouse can just be seen in the left
edge of the picture. I left it showing the merges because I wanted to contrast the size of the people
at the bottom center of the picture, who are close to the base of the cliffs to those who are about
halfway out the beach to the water. It's half-tide, as it ebbs, and the beach is up to 200 yards wide!
It's quite picturesque, and living here is a wonderful thing, though in August and September the tourists get quite thick and clog up the barely two lane wide road into the enclave of residents' homes. There is a steady stream of surf "academies" that park in the car park, set up their streamers and take a load of kids off to the beach to learn to surf. You see kite surfers, too, since there is plenty of wind. Somethimes you get a prat in some sort of caravan that tries to make it down the narrow lane. These idiots are soundly and roundly complained about as they block up a road that can barely pass 2 cars except in the occasional wide spot.  Gwithian Towans is a nature preserve, and much of the land itself is owned by the council (the local government) or the National Trust, a privately run charity much like our National Park Service, Forest Service, and local historical societies combined. A towan is a sand dune, in this case, rather large dunes that line the top of the cliffs in this area, and are covered with grasses that hold them in place. Ponies are let loose in the winter to help keep the non-native grasses in check, as the ponies only eat the oddball stuff!

Hayle (Heyl in the original Cornish language) is the town that is down the road a piece, perhaps a mile. It's a typical British town, with a Tesco's, an M&D, an Asda, an Aldi's, a Co-operative, and a Lidl's - all groceries. There are fish and chip restaurants on every corner, mostly catering to the tourists. Pubs are ubiquitous, some owned by the breweries or other large chains, the others are "free houses" - owned by the proprietor/publican. Many are quite old, or at least in old buildings. The atmosphere is always jovial, dogs and kids are welcome in most, and they all serve "pub food", which means crusties, sandwiches, baguettes, toasties, and full meals. Some add starters to the menu, and others desserts, some both. For the most part, the dozen or so pubs I've visited have had pretty good food. Hayle has a very nice public park with a modern playground, and a well used BMX/skateboard park.

Anyway, just back from the Angarrack Inn, had a couple of pints, and chili con carne is dinner tonight. Tomorrow, Derek has to go to a funeral, then Friday morning he has Coastal Watch duty, so I will be on my own, probably sleeping a bit, and getting sorted and packed for the return trip. I'm working on a final post for tomorrow, so stay tuned!