Happy 2017 – Where Did I Go?

What happened to 2016?  Lots!

In 2016 I decided to start entering stories in the CBC Writes competition.  At this time I discovered that for entering into this competition, and others, a story is disqualified if it’s published.  And “published” includes being on a blog such as this one.  

This created a scenario where my blog became a collection of my weakest stories, with all of my better stories saved for other potentially more important venues.  I found this demotivating.
Another thing that happened was that my iphone died after my last Asia trip.  A company recommended by Apple (Apple does not help you with recovering any information from your dead Apple product) quoted me $2700 to try to recover just the photos.  I lost many blog posts that were half completed.  It was another demotivation losing hundreds of photos and notations, as well as a lot of interesting recordings such as conversations with taxi drivers.  

I did have quite a lot of travel in 2016, but I ended up sharing that mostly just on Facebook.  Also, life happened too and my focus moved to other things. 

My most recent trip involved some work in Arkansas.  This had me in the US for 3 months – before during and after the recent Presidential election.   I would like to share some of those travel experiences, as well as my own observations and learnings with you in some soon to come blog posts.  But after having gone on hiatus for so long, it seemed like it would be strange to just suddenly start posting without some explanation as to where I’ve been.  


With my Mum in New Brunswick, January, 2017.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Remembering Last Winter, Videos from India

My iPad is too full to download more photos! I keep deleting some, but it gets harder and harder deciding what to delete. So although I’m currently in New Orleans, I decided to recap some India memories here so I could happily delete these memory-intensive videos. Click on the images to play the videos.

If you have received this posting by email, click on the title in blue to open the posting in your browser. Cheers!
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Flying with the gulls , the ferry from Mumbai to Elephanta.

People-watching on a Sunday morning.

Visiting a Dairy Farm.

This short clip shows the security process we go through arriving to most of the international hotels. A cart with a mirror is rolled under the vehicle, the trunk and hood opened, and a visual inspection of us followed by x-ray and metal detection at the building entrance. (Ooops, I now realise this one was from my 2012 trip with Myke. Anyway, still India.)

The video below shows some of the daily afternoon beach activity in Arambol, Goa.

I think I shared this before on my Facebook, crossing the street.

As I mentioned, at the moment I’m in New Orleans visiting a friend and enjoying Mardi Gras. I’ll try to get some more current stories finished soon from Phili, Alabama, Georgia, etc that are in the queue but not yet complete.

Cheers and thanks for watching!
Darren

Sharings from my Edinburgh Journal of 1997

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I have been trying to write some stories from my latest visit to Edinburgh. I did write thousands of words while I was visiting this past June, nearly all reminiscing about the life I had when I lived there at age 23/24. But there is too much, it is too long. It is not the type of writing that I currently espouse either; it is more rambling than should be a collection of stories about my life in Edinburgh. It’s reads like a memoir, but I don’t want to write a memoir. Not yet. The topic a bit too large for me to yet breech, yesterday I dug out my Journal from the time and started reading. I have no stories yet finished to share with you but I think that sharing some pages from my 1997 Journal might be interesting. (Even though it is like a memoir.)

Pages from my 1997 Journal.

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Before this entry I had Graduated University with a degree in Business Administration. I had organised a 2-year working holiday visa for the UK and spent some months working in London. Then I backpacked a bit through Europe and went home for xmas. While home I decided to upgrade my computer software skills before returning to Europe to try it all again in Edinburgh.

Meeting that man in the tube as I passed through London who gave me that advice (highlighted) proved instrumental in creating my new life in Edinburgh.

I arrived to Edinburgh that Wednesday night, and Friday I accepted a 2-month office contract at a recruitment agency on George Street starting Monday.

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Later that Friday, I found my first flat share in Edinburgh. (Was not March 1st, was Feb 28th.)

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1997 Photo showing windows to the flat, three of which were in my room. (Middle Right)

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Photo taken in 2013 from the corner of the Royal Mile and South Bridge better showing the location of the building, behind the Bank Bar.

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My landlord in London had let me store all my possessions accumulated from my life in London into a locked closet in his building. After I had my flat in Edinburgh I went down to London to retrieve my things to discover that they had been looted. I would later discover that it was looted by my landlord, who tried to give me back my things after the police were involved, but he had very little remaining and nothing left of any worth. TV, VCR, clothes washer, some chairs, framed pictures, lamps, CDs, various decor items, dishes, cutlery, cooking utensils – all the basics were probably easily pawned. My landlord also owned the local taxi company and was known to the driver who I was telling my story to as he drove me back to Victoria Station to return to Edinburgh. I don’t know if my landlord was from Pakistan, I thought he was from India actually.

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I had accepted that I was choosing a noisy flat when I rented in such a lively, central area. But when a friend visited from London, she caused quite a stir and nearly got me kicked out, as remembered in the next two images from my journal.

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One of the things I loved most about living in Europe was the proliferation of the classical arts. In Edinburgh I enjoyed strolling by theatres on a free evening to see if they had rush tickets. As a young person, I could see most performances for only £10 in 1997/1998. My memory poor, I didn’t remember ever seeing Faust until I read this entry. I’m good with some details, but names of plays, music, movies, artists, even things I listen to often – I’m terrible.

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In addition to working in an office, I took a part time evening job at a cafe. It filled my time before I had the pleasure of making friends and also allowed me to save more money for future travels. I enjoyed spending time with my co-workers. In the next entry I mention Karen inviting me and Katie (from South Africa) to visit her family home at Lock Lomond. “Where people shake hands firmly and wonder who you are.”

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Looking down to Katie at Cafe Florentine in the Lyceum Theatre.

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There’s me at 23. Wow was I a bad waiter! Well-intentioned though. That will be a story. But I had a great attitude, which was enough I guess.

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Here it is in 2013, I had lunch there on the patio and enjoyed seeing the office where I worked too, which was just across Lothian Road.

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Kitted with Scottish gear from Karen’s parents to go explore nature and collect some drift wood. Left to Right, Katie, Me, Karen. Sadly, I lost touch with both Karen and Katie. That happened much more in the days before Social Media.

I stopped working at the cafe when it no longer served me (at the office I’d miss our new opportunity of overtime to go work at the cafe, and that meant earning 3 times less). When I left it was just before the Edinburgh Fringe too, and I also didn’t want to entirely miss the Fringe festival to earn less money working more hours. I could add two hours to my regular office day of 7 (35 hrs was full time in Scotland, probably still is), and earn more than working an additional 6 hours at the cafe, which would take my entire evening. It was a no-brainer, although not everyone was pleased.

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Another reason I quit the cafe. I no longer had free evening time I wanted to fill!

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“I sit in a room of familiar strangers.” I quite like this phrase. I guess because we were a new team all starting our first day, we were very familiar with each other anxious to make new friends and start-off on the right foot. This was day one of my second contract with Standard Life. When my first 2-month contract lapsed, I didn’t renew and returned to the personnel agency where I started a new 6-month contract in a different department with a completely different job and in a different building. The change was great and with overtime often available the pay was much-improved too.

I did not remember that I was starting to have arm trouble already by the day I was starting my second position. I also mention having trouble handling the dishes and cleaning (at the cafe) too, which became much worse very quickly. My new physical limitations would have had me leave the cafe very soon had I not already left. Eventually, I even had to buy plastic dishes to handle at home. My arm disability became instrumental in my decision making with the limitations they caused. I would not find out until 1999 that the cause was spinal damage. The condition became completely manageable after learning that.

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Some views from my 1997 photo album.

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The Archaeological Sight of Norton Priory

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I choose to visit this site as a daytrip between Manchester and Liverpool. I always try to find somewhere interesting to stop between my more major destinations partly to make best use of my car journey and partly because I prefer to check-in to my accommodation when I arrive to a new city. Unload what I need, put the car away, and set off to explore. There is always a few hour gap between check-out and check-in times and most of my distances on this trip are very short.

On entering the museum I learn that this was a monastery that was decommissioned by Henry VIII in 1536. He did this in a wide sweep, caused lots of destruction all over the empire at that time. The Priory was subsequently purchased by the Brooke Family who lived here for nearly 400 years.

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In the 1700’s the Brooks family had built a 2 1/2 acre walled garden. This garden would have provided the home with all of its fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It also would have housed a leisure section.

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Ornamental and practical, this walled garden was reconstructed in recent years based on typical Georgian gardens since the original blueprints were not recovered. The Brooks had moved out of the priory in 1921 and the garden had been let to local gardens and used to raised pheasants. By the 1960s it had started to fall into ruin.

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It is far from ruins today, this lovely plot have been lovingly reclaimed and the walls completely restored.

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The kindly woman knitting in the entrance cottage of the walled garden chats with me openly and warmly. I come to learn that today the gardens employ a head gardener, an assistant, and many local volunteers who come in and dedicate their time to weeding and even staffing the entry.

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There is a tea house, book stall, and plants for sale in the area that once housed potting sheds and was also where the gardeners were housed. This was a tough job, I am surprised how much so. The next photo explains.

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Try to guess what I am standing in front of.
Don’t look ahead, guess what it is!

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Here is a hint, between the exterior and interior it had very think stone walls. During the war this was also used as a bunker due to it’s been mostly recessed and covered in earth.

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This is an ice house. A luxury for the family, it was large enough to supply ice throughout the year. In fact this home never had electricity right until the family left in 1921 so the ice was needed for refrigeration. I read that this was one of the mostly undesirable tasks, hiking to the pond a half mile away, going at it with axes, and carrying back the frozen water during winter’s coldest days. Continually until it was full of ice by the end of winter. Not a long Canadian winter either, the short English winter. It would have had a drain system to remove melt.

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Back at the carpark I notice this sign at a crossing of bicycle paths. A fun chance to explore, I pull my folding cycle out of my trunk and go in search of Amoor Old Town where I hope to have lunch.

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I cross this lovely canal from high above.

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At the first main cycle path intersection, there is no signage to give direction.

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I don’t know where I am anymore, but this looks to be modern suburban housing. I follow a sign that says “village square”.

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Still following a sigh to “village square”. Hoping to find some charm.

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This sign lies to me, or I have arrived to a town of mutes.

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Well, I have found the village square, not what I had in mind. The only option for lunch is a convenience store, so I get a dry packaged sandwich and a can of starbucks. In the square I greet three separate groups of people who pass by. They look but no one replies. Just when I am thinking that I have happened upon a land where people have no tongues a man shouts at his dog and violently jerks him into the air for running into a puddle nearby. I feel sick to my stomach. The nasty man has two really cute basset hounds. I want to shout at the jerk but decide not to, me shouting at him would make no difference, he could even kick his other dog just to show me so. Disgusting.

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I walk back to my bicycle at the edge of the square and make my way back to the priory. I had made more turns than I had remembered making so I am pleased when I have found my way.

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Back at the carpark I decide to try the other direction, I don’t want to pull away with this bad taste in my mouth. Perhaps a visit to the lovely-sounding Sandymoor will do the trick. I have already been the other ways, the ones perpendicular are actually of the Norton Priory.

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The cycle path leads to alongside a roadway until I arrive. Not quite what I was hoping to find. I will continue on to see what there might be around the corner.

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Sandymoor is probably a lovely modern quiet suburb to live in, but absolutely nothing to see here. Back to the car.

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They have gone to a lot of expense and trouble to have wonderful, seemingly-unused cycle paths here. (I encounter no one in any direction during my usage.) But they need to go one step further and put-up some more direction signs, without those this is a waste.

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I return to the Priory Cafe where I do this posting from start to finish sipping a self-serve cappuccino out of a push-button machine. The sunlight and gardens make it a nice place to work, and I have cellular reception to be able to do my blog using my portable internet.

There are loads of things to see and do in nearby Liverpool and Manchester. If you are going between the two cities, this is an interesting diversion. But if you have limited time I would not recommend dedicating time to this over spending more time in the other cities. This is the perfect place to have a day out if you live in Manchester or Liverpool and therefore your travel time is not limited, but unless you have a strong interest in archaeology I would not suggest you put this high on your list.

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“England’s Other City”, a Silly Look at a City that has a Silly Slogan.

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If I tell you that this city’s motto at my time of writing is, “England’s Other City” I am certain that you would never guess the city that I am referring to, so disparate must be their self-image to actual. Good for them, it’s been proved that those who appraise themselves more favourably than actual do better than those tho appraise themselves harshly. A good self-image is important although one should also have at least a teensy bit of reality to avoid wearing one of those funny coats where the arms are tied around back. But just try to think of a few places it could possibly be before scrolling down to see. Perhaps even click on the comment button to tell everyone what your guess was. If you’re from there or have read it before than you may know, but that’s not the same as a motto actually suiting a place.

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I am experimenting with my writing, this first bit is some added fiction and the main story starts after the next line.
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Imagine you are in your mid-thirties. You’ve finally landed the job you’ve always wanted, the career you’ve been working towards since you entered university seventeen years ago. You love your city, you enjoy the life you’ve set-up for yourself, and financially you don’t have a care in the world. You have a lovely set of friends that you’ve built-up over the years, an eclectic mix of differing personalities that suit your various moods. I guess you’re a bit of a moody a-hole that you need to do that, but never-mind. The point is that life is good and you feel satisfied. You’re dreams have come true.

You are an art curator and have worked your way up to one the most prestigious art galleries in New York City, an accomplishment that you like to flaunt at every turn. You went back to your hometown high school reunion for the sole purpose of making others feel badly about themselves. “It must be lovely to serve the public at the hospital cafeteria, your family must be dead-proud that you climbed such dizzying heights from where you started at McDonalds and in only twenty years!” “You must feel good about your contributions to the world, I can only imagine how doing the book-keeping for ABC Pesticides must be an exciting and rewarding position for you. I’m sure one has to experience working in a basement office to really appreciate it.” You don’t try to hide your pretensions either, you are the leader-of-the-pack in your pretentious circles.

You have no appreciation for the fact that people are not dealt the same hand. True, you did work hard, but you were also given a free pass when your family easily afforded to send you to the University of your choice. Growing-up, your Uncle Malcolm would take you to fabulous places and show you works of art that most kids will never see during their lifetime, let alone with your uncle’s explanation of why he loves certain pieces so much. (You can remember clearly that there was a modern abstract piece he loved that he claimed was a uterus. Actually, now that you think about it, he could find the uterus in a lot of abstract pieces, almost like it was a fixation of his. You couldn’t quite see it yourself.)

By the time you exited high school you had already visited some of the worlds greatest art galleries in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin. You had private art-tuition on weekends and although you had no talent (You were terrible! Remember!) it aided in your appreciation and somehow it didn’t injure your ego one tiny bit, so strong was your sense of being better than others. You were Daddy’s little Princess and Mamma’s little Cabbage. (She wasn’t calling you retarded. It’s a term of endearment in French.) You won a scholarship by being the only applicant who fell within it’s parameters. (Awarded to a white female candidate who has travelled extensively by age fifteen to at least 5 of the worlds 10 greatest cities with their uncle and who might be considered differently-abled when it comes to the actual creation of art. The scholarship coincidentally coming from your Father’s company and creating a tax write-off for him. Interesting.)

No, apart from these tiny benefits you enjoyed, you are completely self-made and there’s no excuse why Sharon who group-up one of 5 children to a single mother who cleaned homes for a living should not have created a life just as fulfilling and successful as yours. The fact that she was excited to get her first job at age fifteen because it meant that her family could keep their 2-bedroom apartment despite the rate increase holds no water with you. That her family immediately became dependant on her income and she then never had a chance to advance herself career-wise because of her desperate situation will never occur to you as anything but an excuse for her to be lazy. Lazy in a working-two-jobs-seventy-exhausting-hours-per-week sort of way.

Or what about John who became a pet-groomer, loves his wife and two kids, and he would not have his life any other way. You look down on him too because you don’t understand that his success exceeds yours. He’s happier than you are, and he gives back to his community as a volunteer fire fighter. He does that with his Dad, it is something they can share together in the small town you also grew-up in. But because that town was not your destiny you judge others when it is theirs, as if liking one place is better than liking another. Well it’s not, it’s just personal preference. Imagine if we all had the same preference, what would the world look like then? Hmmm? You’re being pretty quiet now, aren’t you.

Well, you are just delightful. How have we not met and become fast friends.

One day you wake-up and you can’t see a thing. Not a spec of light. The darkness that is your view of others who differ from you is now all that you can see. Sad.

Can’t see the pretty pictures now, can you. I’m sure my readers feel so very sorry for you. But lets have some fun with it anyway. We deserve to have some fun, don’t we. Your social worker is one of those people who yells when talking to blind people. You thought this was funny before you went blind yourself, how people with all their senses seem to confuse which-ones-do-what when dealing with the differently-abled. Now that you are blind yourself you notice that your hearing is actually heightened, so dependent you are on it for information about your environment. Its startling when someone yells at you from close proximity, especially when you didn’t see they were there. In fact, you never see they are there. I sometimes find noisy situations disorienting myself and I have the aid of having full visual guidance. I can only imagine that a noisy place where you cannot differentiate specific queues of comings and goings and activities by their sounds must be very stressful.

You have a type A personality and your social worker has decided that it would be best for you to just jump in to your new life by going to a special boot-camp, an island full of people just like you where you should be able to master your change of ability within a matter of months. Three months actually. But once you go, there’s no leaving early under any circumstance apart from being air lifted due to having a medical emergency.

After packing a nearly-random assortment of clothing (Because you can’t see them. Were you intending to wear the top-half of your halloween crocodile costume with those jeans today? And you have some food stuck to your lips. Oh sorry, I must have forgotten to take my glue stick out of your cosmetic case. Easy mistake, I do tend to forget things.) you reluctantly leave your perfect life. You’d take-up massage, an ideal profession for the sight-impaired because they tend to develop a gifted sense of touch, if you didn’t dislike people so much. You’re not sure what you are going to do yet, but you know you can’t just sit at home and listen to tv all day. You need to learn how to walk with a cane, you need braille to read, you need strategies and you need to train your brain to experience the world differently than you have for the past 35 years. You oscillate between feeling depressed and anxious and then one of your self-help books kicks-in and you feel slightly invigorated by the challenge.

At the conclusion of a considerable world journey you arrive to the island and something seems wrong. You can’t see what it is because you still can’t see. Perhaps you didn’t read the fine print of the forms your social worker had you sign. Oh dear. Your social worker seems to have made a bit of a mix-up. He’s sent you to a boot camp for people who suddenly lost their hearing. It was all the same to him I guess. Oops.

The first days you spend your time stumbling around getting slapped in the face a lot. Sighted people practicing their new language. No one can hear you, even the staff are deaf. Must be hard not being heard. Kind of like how you refused to see the real lives of those you looked down on. Bit judgemental, weren’t you. Hmmm.

Apart from feeling alienated you feel painfully bored, unlike anything you have ever experienced. (Although perhaps you’ve come close while reading this blog today. I’m experimenting a bit.) You’ve alienated yourself before, so that’s not entirely new, but never have you been unable to read, unable to watch a movie, but especially unable to sit and admire the new artwork that you just acquired for your gallery at auction. Attaining things with other’s money actually turned out to be your greatest passion, you felt like it was yours. The powerful feeling of wielding an auction number with a two million dollar budget for the afternoon, you like that.

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I am not saying that Norwich is boring like this island must have been for our dear friend who so sadly lost her sight, it isn’t quite. That it was England’s second largest city in the eleventh century did surprisingly little to alter my experience of it only ten centuries later. But I suppose a lot can change in a thousand years when you really think about it. In my five days of wandering it’s lovely streets (it really is pretty) somehow nothing happened. I didn’t find anything particularly interesting to do, I was not able to meet anyone, I found it difficult to find meals away from very noisy chain restaurants, and I found no stories to tell. I’m sure it has lots of these wonderful things and much more, I just didn’t find any of them myself. It is a handsome place though, with some great buildings and I loved the narrow streets of the old town. If you are out for sightseeing, this is a very pretty town. And perhaps there are events that go on there from time-to-time that would have considerably altered my experience.

There were some interesting bits from history, just nothing during my visit. It was the only English city to ever be “excommunicated” in the twelve hundreds, so that’s something. In the fourteenth city they completed city walls but then someone had the brilliant notion to make it illegal to build outside them which caused complete stagnation and meant the end of the city’s growth. Seems obvious enough today that a city that cannot grow will not be able to keep-up with rivals but then again our life expectancies today are longer than thirty-years so perhaps we do have more foreskin. I mean foresight. Perhaps both, I’m not a doctor or a geneticist or anything.

Speaking of foreskin, since you brought it up, Norwich had a very disgraceful event in it’s history when in 1190 the Jewish population was executed apart from a few who found a safe-place in the castle. I can only suppose this had some tie-in to an event in 1144 when a boy was found stabbed and the Jews of Norwich were accused of his murder. The executions took place an entire generation later, but there is no other explanation presented that I could find so I am guessing that the event triggered a feud. I have no evidence or knowledge of such, I am just drawing a possibly ludicrous conclusion. I am not a historian.

Norwich’s famous department store, Jerrolds, is only located in Norwich so one could probably say with some conviction that it’s not actually famous. (Yes, I do know that locals might argue that it was something larger a century ago and therefore famous but I am referring to those of us who are alive today. In 2013 it is probably known only to people of Norfolk.) The name does remind one of Harrods though, so that’s something.

Perhaps the most interesting fact I pulled from Norwich’s long and fascinating history was that in 1976 it installed speed bumps on one of it’s streets to encourage drivers to keep to the 30 mph speed limit, making it England’s third street ever to do so.

Incredible.

They really should promote that more to draw-in more tourists. Makes one pause and wonder where the first street was, doesn’t it. Can you hardly imagine, now that would really be something. But being number three is not too shabby either and the fact that I stumbled upon that amazing fact shows some civic pride for sure, that someone took the effort to make sure the world didn’t forget. And the world surely won’t forget, or at least several readers won’t – it now being encapsulated in my very informative book as it is.

Norwich seems to have sometime recently changed it’s motto from “Norwich – a fine city” which I would say was arguably true, to the very head-shaking, “Norwich, England’s other city.” This latter incarnation, so ridiculous in it’s implication that perhaps England has two cities, gives me the impression that they are perhaps reaching just a little. Like a thousand years. If you don’t like how you compare to other cities today than you shouldn’t have had your silly “no building outside the walls” rule for hundreds of years. Just sayin’. It was number two before it fell gracefully over the centuries to become what it is today. It does have a lot of medieval churches though, which are nice to look-at. Unless you’ve been touring around England continuously for some weeks and find that the churches are starting to blur your vision.

I can only imagine that this new motto was conjured by an illiterate cave-dweller who had only ventured into public the one time during-which he conveyed this, his greatest idea to a motto-starved public who embraced it with some controversy. He could hardly be blamed, he had only seen cave drawings from the time when that phrase would have been true, how could he have known how drastically the world had changed. According to Wikipedia, the city itself, standing at around 140,000 inhabitants, Norwich ranks number 139. Which is also quite far from being second. Actually in a different listing I found, they stood at number 156 but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt since this seems a touchy issue.

Perhaps those in favour of the new city slogan had never watched Bob Newhart. “This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl,” is a more accurate grammar usage by a not-overly erudite character on that programme. Note that the total number of brother’s named Darryl that he had was two.

I am a cat lady. I have thirteen cats. This is my cat Margaret. This is my other cat, Bob.

Something doesn’t add up. What happened to the other eleven cats. I don’t trust myself now. Am I even a real cat lady? I don’t think so. See what I mean – it’s like they’re trying to hide something. “England’s Other City,” as a motto applied to a city such as this is an embarrassment that just highlights that really it isn’t. I hope they change it back. Or why not correct it, “Norwich, One of England’s other cities”. They don’t need to necessarily mention that it’s one of England’s more insignificant other cities.

Here are some other possibilities, and perhaps readers might add to my list using the comments button below:
“Norwich, we have several hundred more people than Horsham does.”
“Norwich, we might be friendly but we don’t really talk to strangers so it may be hard for you to tell. Sorry about that.”
“Norwich, chain-restaurants are welcome here.”
“Norwich, proud of our heritage. Well, apart from some of the latter middle-ages. But no one is perfect. Shut-up.”
“Norwich, we may be insignificant today but you should have seen us a thousand years ago.”

Without further ado, here are some photos from my time in Norwich.

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The very handsome train station.

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I found Norwich to be very pretty.

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A local was displeased when I took this photo, but I’ve never seen this kind of very narrow gents street urinal before and I though it was interesting. Actually, I was starved for interesting at the time. There was no equivalent for the ladies, it appears that they are addressing the problem of gentlemen peeing in public. The guy who yelled a sarcastic remark to me was working at the bar nearly opposite with a black sign, something to do with mojo I think. I just though of another slogan, “Norwich, pretty but also pretty dull.”

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Here are some comparisons for the non-British person to be able to fully comprehend Norwich’s grammatically-flawed and false assertion.

These are other cities that also rank number 139 in their countries:

“Cowansville, Canada’s other city”

“Fort Lauderdale, America’s other city.” (Oh, I’ve heard of that one!)

“Matsusaka, Japan’s other city.” (Not the more familiar Matsuyama, which is in the top 40.)

“Cottbus, Germany’s other city.” (Actually, this is ranked number 80 in Germany, I could not find an inclusive list that would include towns below 100,000 which seems to be the defining number of what makes a city in Germany. I suppose the need for such comparisons has no real purpose. Honestly, I didn’t look very hard. Just a couple of minutes at the Second Cup as I was writing and now I throw my arms in the air in defeat and move-on, causing fellow patrons to edge away from me a tad as it looks odd to make such a dramatic gesture to an iPad. I’m about to leave anyway so it doesn’t matter. Anyway, please don’t write me with the answer, I don’t actually care, Cottbus sounds obscure enough to make the point. Feel free to share other cities that rank 139 in their countries by population in the comments below. That’s fun. And very informative. Useful.)

“Meudon, France’s other city.”

“Montesilvano, Italy’s other city.”

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A wonderfully-unique Guild Hall. It was my friend’s birthday back in Toronto so I took a photo for her Facebook.

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Cute market in the centre.

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I do love Victorian Shopping Arcades.

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Other tourists told me not to bother going into Norwich Castle but I did anyway. Don’t bother. Unless you’re a complete history nut or an archaeologist.

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The glass structure in the background is the Forum. I’ve read that it draws tourists.

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I suppose that if I had not spent four days having no friendly encounters whatsoever I may have felt completely differently about Norwich. If on holiday, I’d suggest two nights max. That would probably lead to a better impression. It is a beautiful town.

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Having coffee with my oldest niece. No, we weren’t Skyping, I was that desperate for company!

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The video isn’t fascinating, it’s just a live slideshow from the day that I took most of the photos.

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Passing through Peterborough, a Nice Day Out

Popping in to Peterborough

Driving down the open road after spending the May bank holiday weekend in Leicester I have something similar to the feeling of deja-vu. It’s not the feeling of having been here before or of having had this experience as a distant memory. It’s more like the feeling of living a destiny. I always knew I would someday wander through the English countryside, free to explore, free to stop and go and to take my time. Traveling solo with a car and a bicycle and a decent pair of feet. I pass by some villages that would be gorgeous were my views not muddled by the rain and dark skies. But I feel peaceful and content. Today, my life feels right.

I’m getting better at navigating the endless traffic circles that join roads to other roads throughout the UK. I now have learned that, “enter the traffic circle and turn right,” means to go into the lane furthest to the right when going left on the traffic circle because I will be going most of the way around the circle before exiting. No only learning to negotiate British roads and traffic, also learning how to interpret Audi’s Sat Nav. I will do a posting on British road signs in the future too as some of them were surprising to me.

My final destination today is Norwich, near England’s East coast, but en route I have entered the postal code for a car park near Peterborough’s famous cathedral. I pull into a multi-level parking garage and drive around and around and around until I find a tight little spot on the 8th floor. I am not driving a large car, to me it feels small but I guess it’s classed as mid-size (It’s an A5, which is also a paper size here in the UK.). Going up the ramps feels very precarious though, very little clearance. I find a space and manoeuvre into it. Nicely done, perfectly straight. Except I cannot squeeze out with the 6 inches allotted between me and the next vehicle. I pull-out and continue upwards, finding another tight space but this one alongside a pillar. As long as I can squeeze myself between the car and the pillar, the door opens into the little space created behind it.

I exit the car park through a pedestrian bridge that crosses over a thoroughfare and find myself inside a very large modern shopping centre where I decide to pause for lunch at John Lewis. Using my phone map, I figure out how to get to the cathedral, most of the way indoors thorough the surprisingly large centre.

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The enormous Shopping Centre in the centre of Peterborough.

Exiting the other end of the very modern centre, I am shocked by the contrast of the pedestrian street with it’s traditional architectures. Even the edge of this major shopping centre is lined with period buildings, camouflaging it.

I was not prepared to happen upon the magnificent Peterborough Cathedral (Church of St Peter, St Paul, and St Andrew). This grand cathedral was rebuilt in it’s present form between 1118 and 1238. The West Front is very imposing in Gothic style.

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As soon as you step outside the modern shopping complex you are greeted with traditional architecture and pedestrianised streets.

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Look at the truck to grasp the vastness of this structure.

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The incredible nave ceiling was likely completed around 1250 and was repainted in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first wife of Henry VIII was buried here after she died in 1536. She had long lost the luxuries of royalty after their divorce and the King did not attend her funeral.

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I thought this radiator was interesting.

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This “New Building” was added to the original just over 500 years ago. I suppose it will always be called the New Building unless the cathedral is added to further, which is unlikely.

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Mary Queen of Scots was originally buried here in 1587 but was later removed to Westminster Abbey in 1612 by order of her son, James I.

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I leave the the enormous edifice and wander about the central district briefly before resuming my journey to Norwich. Peterborough made for a nice day visit.

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The drive continuing to Norwich.

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