Thursday 14 February 2013

Lenny, Lenny, Lenny – how you pull my heart strings.....

I had this wonderful card ... I opened said envelope .... to find a Valentine!  With memorable words ...

2/5 of Lenny's card! showing
message and critters!
Lots of love
and big hugs
from Lenny
and all the critters ...

.... hedgehog, mousie, rocky the racoon, groundhog, mices various, squirrel, rabbit, birds and butterflies ...

I emailed Lenny and back came:  wow! that valentine card got there sooo fast. i sent it early cause for sure i wanted it to get to you in time for valentines day. and...guess what!!! theres a box flying cross the pond to you but you gotta not open it up til valentines day. ok???
Showing 'orange onions' box and
the expanded card ...

So I did as I was told!  that was a surprise to a few!!  but look what I found in the box of orange onions!!!

Happy Valentine Day’s heart shaped box of choccies
M & Ms box containing 3 mini packets
Dark chocolate marshmallow heart
‘Peeps’ Marshmallow hearts
Just some of the
choccy selections and
the Save the Chimp bag
Whitman sampler box of chocolates, in a valentine’s wrapper
Raspberry Cream Buttons
Miniature peanut butter cups
Swiss chocolate Ghiradelli Squares – raspberry, caramel, dark chocolate
Milk and Caramel Ghiradelli chocolate slab
A pencil and a wildlife notepad
Wildlife stickers
Book marks
Save the bag
And a Valentine puzzle ...

Hardwick looking after Rocky, Muddy
Hippo peering through and the
new kid on the block: Zdena
And .... Zdena Zebra ... so called because she is a follower of Dionysos – the God of Wine!!

Made my little heart sing – and everyone has commented ... what a lovely thought and how wonderful of you, Lenny, to send those over to me ...

... the card in particular pulls at our heart strings – everyone thinks it is "fab", "absolutely fab!!!" ...(the word as Neville describes the card ... a great friend of my uncle, with whom I had lunch on Tuesday - pancake day - yummie!!)

Lenny's rays of sunshine
 Lenny – you are so kind and thoughtful ... putting together such a guzzly box for me for Valentine ... I shall enjoy and will be thinking of you more often than I normally do ...

Hardwick’s quite pleased to have a new playmate – he approves of Zdena ... she brightens up their lives ... Muddy Hippo is a bit muddy, Hardwick himself is a little bare – he knows he’s showing his age, while Rocky is a little tiny to shine out between Hardwick and Muddy ... but he keeps an eye on all things ...

Valentine cupid puzzle
They quite like chocolate ... so I can see the critters having a tuck in as well ... we’ll have a good and happy night tonight ...

I’m tempted to go out and see the film Les Mis ... but these critters might eat much of my chocolate ...and I might have eaten too much, so may need to rest my tum!!

To all blogging buddies ... I am not going anywhere – but I’m just going to take a month off and not participate or blog much – to get myself on track with all I want to do – new projects, sorting some technology out, spring cleaning and being ready for the future.

Tuesday Tea with Mistress Snark
Jezebel summoned me to Mistress Snark’s for tea... so I shall keep that appointment: Tuesday 12 March – I don’t think I could get away with missing it – I’d rather like my afternoon tea healthy and not bloodied ...

... but with Jezebel, she of the long projectile nails that can scrabble under the ocean to draw a poor unsuspecting English girl in to her parlour, we never know what might be floating in her punch – yugh!, or spread on those bloodied sandwiches ... eeeks .... 

Anthology launch 4th March

Then there’s Nick’s Overcoming Adversity anthology launch .. and I shall join in the fun for that ... scheduled for Monday 4th March – what a great fundraising idea that was ... brilliant Nick ...

Well that’s me ... now to tuck into those choccies with a cup of tea methinks ... Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone ... may you have lots of love in your heart ... as young Lenny does for his family, friends, bloggers and them critters!!

See you very soon .... back by 16th/17th March ... all ready and raring to go for the A – Z challenge ....

... and on this note ... I am a minion ... so some of you may see me around doing some ground work for those amazing organisers ...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone ....  and as you can see from the photos - the sun has been shining ...... bliss!!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 10 February 2013

The Curves of Time – Oscar Niemeyer, architect

The death of Oscar Niemeyer, at 104, caught my attention before Christmas which through the creation of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, took me back to my school days – some moons ago.
Composite of Brasilia: National Congress;
Juscelino Kubitschek bridge; buildings of
Brasilia; Palacio da Alvorada;
Brasilia Cathedral

I loved Geography and was fascinated when I found that Brasilia was in the middle of Brazil – not on a river ... but high on a jungle plateau.  My attention was captured with the capital – we had London on a river, Paris on the Seine, Rome on the Tiber – weren’t all capitals built on rivers.

Capitals of countries and urban planning will make another interesting post – but today Niemeyer holds my attention ... especially as he influenced Dame Zaha Hadid (the Iraqi-British architect) who was commissioned to build the London Aquatics Centre at the Olympics and has designed many spectacularly different architectural projects around the world.

Back to Oscar ... he said in an interview in 2000, that “he’s not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man.  I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves ...

... those curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman.

Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.”

Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer International
Cultural Centre, Aviles, Spain
An ‘Influencer of the World’ – a man himself influenced by the giant of 20th century modern architecture, Le Corbusier, with whom he was able to collaborate during periods of his life.

Niemeyer was a visionary, who through his interpretation of those curves could be called the concrete poet ... he has nearly 600 buildings or complexes to his name ...

... he put Brazil on the architectural map and ‘saw’ the future of Brazil before Brazil itself did ... the civic buildings he designed in the new capital were all completed in a few years.

The National Congress of Brazil, the Cultural Complex of the Republic, the Palacio da Alvorada, the Palacio do Planalto, the Supreme Federal Court and the Cathedral of Brasilia were all largely experimental in nature, but linked with common design elements.

A window in the Cathedral, Brasilia:
showing the interior with angel sculptures
The atheist with leftist views was well aware of life’s injustices ... yet this never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which span from small Catholic chapels, through to huge Orthodox churches and large mosques. 

He also catered to the spiritual beliefs of the public who facilitated his religious buildings ... the large glass windows in the Cathedral of Brasilia, he intended to “connect the people to the sky, where their Lord’s paradise is”.

He had in early life been influenced by the Dutch School – painters, designers, sculptors and architects of the 17th century, the medieval-Renaissance enlightened artists who exemplified the stylistic evolution ...

Panorama including the church of St Francis of Assisi,
Belo Horizonte,  Minas Gerais, SE Brazil (1943)

... those ‘disastrous’ buildings of Brasilia when opened in the 1950s – but then the world caught up and the miracle appeared – he had faith and passion by  encouraging the architectural movement to change with the times and keep ahead of the game ...

The simple, frugal man worked from a very small studio in Rio: an inner sanctum for his books and where he received, then a studio room with no desks, no computers ... he never did drawings – he just did and presented his designs at one sitting ...

He had one or two assistants to hone the drawings into workable models, but the visionary eye stood him in good stead during those long years of work.

The Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion
(an annual temporary structure)
At age 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park, London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect, who never previously built in the UK, to design a temporary structure.

To quote The Guardian:  And yet the pavilion very nearly failed to happen: the architect initially said no.  He is, after all, a busy man running his studio pretty much every day of the year.

Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine, flew to Rio to plead personally with Niemeyer and he gave in.

A sketch flew off his drawing board and was worked on by his long-time collaborator, the engineer Jose Carlos Sussekind.  In London, Arups’ engineering team performed their magic and the structure was ready.”

Perspective of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum
showing the lenticular eye tower and gallery
space, the ramp leading to it, the reflecting
ponds below, and rectangular galleries behind.
Located in Curitiba - the 8th most populous city
in SE Brazil 

He had the courage of his convictions throughout his long life – he tested boundaries, he went beyond, he took risks ... there was no cowardice, there was enthusiasm.

Niemeyer continued to talk the language of the young iconoclast of his youth ... we have to be ready to resist active mediocrity ... it is necessary to not be afraid of your passion.

He stirred my educational strings by designing the architectural elements of the new federal capital located in the Brazilian Highlands, and now once again stirs it ...

... Brasilia with its population of over 3 million is one of the largest cities in Brazil ... while it is the largest city in the world that did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century.

This weekend is Carnival time in Rio, where Niemeyer had an apartment overlooking Ipanema Beach, and where he had mostly lived, though he had a period of exile ...

... he died in his beloved city of Rio leaving behind innumerable thought provoking creations for us to marvel over as the years progress and to watch his visionary take on architecture continue to unfold.

I’ve been taken back, yet taken forward ... there’s much to appreciate that this incredible man has touched in his life time ... Brazil is the popular destination as far as the world and major events are concerned ... I am sure there will be opportunities to spend some time with Niemeyer’s work as the media explore Brazil for us.

The Guardian article: Oscar Niemeyer's Serpentine Pavilion 2003

Oscar Niemeyer - Wikipedia

Brasilia - Wikipedia

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Curiosity Killed the Cat - Overcoming Adversity Bloghop

Today, I’m happy to participate in the “OvercomingAdversity” Bloghop, hosted by writer and blogging friend, Nick Wilford.

Nick has asked us to write a piece that revolves around the theme, overcoming adversity.  The entries will be compiled into an anthology with all proceeds going to his stepson’s college fund.

Nick’s stepson, Andrew, has cerebral palsy and hopes to attend a specialist college in Scotland, but reaching this dream has been difficult. 

It is through actions like this that Nick and his family hope to generate awareness and get Andrew the education he needs.

We truly hope that they achieve their goal.

Curiosity Killed the Cat – did it?  I don’t think so – it stimulates, keeps us interested at all levels of life ... a brief tale of hope, during a time of challenge:

You’re in London to celebrate your brothers' birthdays, your mother has travelled up from Penzance ... she is obviously not well – and the next thing we know she is in hospital with a stroke.

It’s not severe, there is hope ... she can talk.  Life takes on train journeys from Sussex – you’re exhausted ... what now?  Relocation to Cornwall to look after your mother ... life is on hold.

After 4 weeks and a dose of noro-virus she is ready for recuperation ... a short trip to the new hospital ... more strokes and our next visit is to the Acute Brain Injury Unit (ABIU): we’re lucky it has exceptional care, diagnosis and treatment.

Yet the uncertainty abounds ... will she live, how incapacitated will she be ... questions that of course we don’t have the answer to; it is serious that’s all we know.

How to adapt?  When she was able to my mother was happy to interact ... so during her time in the ABIU we go with the flow and there were days that were good and days that were bad – and all days were exhausting.

For six months the world went around before we were able to get my mother down to a Nursing Centre in Eastbourne, where I live and could be around more to support and care for her.

At the time of the first stroke she enjoyed shortish articles, or snippets of information, that would stimulate her brain with ideas or things we could laugh about together – when the incapacity strokes happened ... the progress was extremely slow and not hopeful.

By the time we reached Eastbourne she was able to communicate, I’m extremely grateful to say, though essentially was bedridden for the rest of her life (another 4.5 years).  We had to overcome the fact that she could not eat or drink ... challenging at times: but my mother having owned a care home realised and was able to work out what was what.

I wrote to friends and relatives which generated cards back – and more interaction ... the blog had started but now evolved as time went on – my mother could comprehend and always remembered ... Washington’s teeth was one of her favourites.
George Washington (1797) painted by
Gilbert Stuart

We had fun and I learnt to put her needs first - my life could go on hold for a while – because I could see a future ... I was blogging, teaching myself history, learning how others coped through their adversity.

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat – it gave me hope and an education ... while I have the happy memories of those curious snippets.

Perhaps appropriately the dashboard tells me this is my 500th post - don't count, curiosity killed the cats ... only 496 show up!!

Nick's Anthology can be bought at Amazon:  Overcoming Adversity - either as a book, or in Kindle version ... please support the family .... thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 4 February 2013

Big Freeze 1962/63: part 3 - fun stories, silly outcomes, housing stock and floods ...

This is really! my last post on the Big Freeze – though every time I turn round I find another x number of posts I could write – that’s the British weather ...

Part 3: Fun stories, silly outcomes, housing stock and floods, various ..  

I have a wonderful book “The Wrong Kind of Snow – The Complete Daily Companion to the British Weather” ... and only looked at it yesterday ...

Fifty years later has brought out plenty of articles and remembrances for me to draw on, while you have added further to the rich tapestry of notes from history ...

2013's snow - it didn't last long .. but
trains got stuck
 The entry from the book above for 6th February (1963)... reads the phenomenal blizzard that begins today continues for 32 hours.  It buries tracts of the west country, Wales and Ireland beneath 5 feet (1.5 metres) of snow ...

Interestingly the book comments on the new American site manager at Fylingdales Early Warning Station on the Yorkshire moors (see previous post) ... who had just arrived from Alaska ... he describes the conditions (80 mph (130 kph) winds and snow thick enough to bury a double-decker bus in an hour) as worse than anything he’s experienced: says something?!

Rookery painted by Alexei
Krondayevich Savrasov (1871)

The book mentions a story about a woman in Leicestershire carrying bread rolls – she is attacked and knocked down by ravenous pigeons.  Army engineers dynamite sea ice to get ships of the east coast ports ...

Another new book review, which sounds interesting, called “Britain Begins” by Barry Cunliffe reminds us that our distant ancestors were made of stern stuff....

Sometime after the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, a few hunter-gatherers strayed onto the tundra that was to become Britain and Ireland.  But ahead lay upheavals that “dwarf modern fears of climate change”.

Doggerland before the
waters broke through
creating the Channel

Melting ice separated Britain from Ireland, and drowned Doggerland, where hunters had roamed in what is now the North Sea; thick layers of sand along the Scottish coast suggest “an ominously large” tsunami around this time.

The English Channel was formed at this time by the wall of melt water pushing its way through to the Atlantic Ocean.

More precisely dateable by tree rings, to 3,000 years ago, was a 20-year winter caused by volcanic ash.  So who were these hardy peoples – well that’s for another day!!

Illustrated London News
floods 1865

So climate change is ongoing and always has been ... every time we have a flood rivers change direction, earth and trees are moved on ... coastlines change with the ongoing seas pounding our lands ...  life goes on ...

The thaw set in on 6th March 1963, but apparently it wasn’t as bad as the flood had been when the big freeze of 1947 thawed, the flood plains and rivers coped – yes there was flooding as I’ve described in my earlier posts, but the weather remained dry – the extra rainfall of 1947 was not added to the soaked countryside.

Housing as today ...

We still have major floods ... these, pre the War, were dissipated by the natural flood plains ... in the last 70 years we have been building on these flood plains to fulfil the country’s need for housing ...

.... but do we, the country, need the cost of repairing the flood damage, or providing flood defences all over the place ... that law of unintended consequences springs to mind ... 

Victorian Housing in Manchester

The Victorians knew what to do.  The built homes with cellars, with steps up to the front doors ... but now we build boxes with front doors at pavement level where the merest trickle of water across an area of concrete or tarmac cascades in and around these new abodes.

The Victorians had their challenges too – in some of the major floods the cellars had been occupied by the poor, so there was loss of life – but theoretically we know better now ... 

... but do we – we’re still building fast and furiously on flood plains and messing around with things we can’t really control – ie river systems, protecting coastlines ...

Southern coastline with chalk cliff falls

Do we have ... the wrong type of snow – wrong type of rain ... ?!?

Transport experts assert that Britain really does suffer from the wrong type of snow. In Scandinavia and Siberia it's so cold that snow is like sand and can be blown out of the way. In Britain it tends to melt and refreeze.

Swollen river in Spring
They’re now referring to the wrong type of rain from which many of our recent floods occur ... it rains, but gathers and delivers a deluge ... rather than spreading it evenly across the country ...

Some stories from the papers of tales gone by:

The Big Freeze: 

Expect this was the kind
of shovel the poor chap
would have used
SIR – The coal merchant’s telephone was always engaged. Word went round the village that those who called at the local sidings the next morning would be able to buy as much solid fuel as they could carry away. I took the car, queued for over an hour in a biting wind and managed to get about a hundredweight into the boot.

When I arrived home, my wife made me a hot drink, and I was just beginning to feel a bit more human when the coal lorry drew up. On the back was the 15cwt of anthracite ordered six weeks earlier. The joke that morning was definitely on me.

Or – this one on the early flooding in late January 1963 before it froze once again in February ...

Frozen pond ... fine for the geese,
but not for us humans!
SIR – I remember as a girl sitting on our garden wall looking into the flooded lane and wondering if my wellies were up to the job, when my brother and a neighbour appeared in a punt and invited me aboard.

Later when the water froze we skated in the garden. My mother claimed a snowball brought inside lasted six weeks on the stairs. Well, housekeeping was not her skill.

Sometimes we have to marvel (or be totally impolite more likely) at the stupidity of the human:

Early Spring carpet of snowdrops

In 2009 police in Co Durham and Lewes, Sussex tracked down burglars by following their footprints in the snow ...

... in 2010 police in Leicester discovered a cannabis factory because it was the only house in the area without any snow on its roof, thanks to the heat used in plant cultivation.

The brewery moved after the

The natural floods are one thing ... but the seriously unfortunate and unlikely floods I leave you to wonder at ...

The Great Boston Molasses Flood, USA – the tragedy occurred on 15 January 1919 when a large molasses storage tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 kph) killing 21 and injuring 150.

Manor House of Toten Hall c 1813
now the area of Tottenham Court Road
The London Beer Flood on 17 October 1814 at the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, when a huge vat containing over 135, 000 imperial gallons (610,000 litres) of beer ruptured, causing other vats to succumb in a domino effect.  As a result, more than 323,000 imperial gallons, (1,470,000 litres) of beer burst out and gushed into the streets.

The wave of beer destroyed two homes and crumbled the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub ... the poor houses and tenements of St Giles Rookery, where families lived in basement rooms that quickly filled with beer – 8 people died from the incident ...

William Hogarth's etching 1851:
Beer Street and Gin Lane 

I’d never realised that ‘a rookery’ was a colloquial term coined in the 18th and 19th centuries to a city slum ...

Just to round off the last of these weather posts ... our weather will always be a talking point – this tiny island sits on the cusp of systems ... Siberia to the east, Arctic to the north, Atlantic to our west and on occasion European heat or freeze from our south ...

The gentleness of Spring is a-coming

The jet streams weave their necklaces around us and occasionally bring us gales in January, frosts in May, snow in April, hail and thunderstorms in July and August, Indian Summers in October, fog in November and December ...

All this weather has exhausted me ... and the week ahead portends wintry blasts ... the only thing that doesn’t change too quickly is the time – our days are getting lighter and that brightens the mind ... roll on Spring!

Thanks for bearing with me and this post is the last on weather for a while!

Posted by IanVisits on 17 October 2014 ... further details on the London Beer Flood ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories