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Posts Tagged ‘not just a granny’

‘Pilgrimage’ What an evocative word. When you hear the word pilgrimage it has so many meanings and connotations, different meanings for each person. You can go on a religious pilgrimage, a spiritual pilgrimage, you can take a pilgrimage to a previous home or favourite place. A pilgrimage can be something you go on or aspire to.

Since medieval times, the main connotation of the word pilgrimage has been in relation to monks or religious persons making a journey to one place of worship or another, either as a desire to gain more knowledge or in penance. Most of these pilgrim ways have followed main route of transportation; routes well-worn and familiar, travelled by many – creating routes of pilgrimage; corridors towards a shrine.

As with the thousands of people who traversed these routes, the paths used, varied over time – always flexible, always changing to accommodate one change or another. Perhaps a muddy field needed to be avoided in one particular year of bad weather and so ‘pilgrims’ found a ‘way’ around it and formed a new path. Towns sprung up along these ‘ways’ to accommodate the pilgrims who were needing shelter and food or rest; albergues and hospitals were opened, relics were discovered and distributed to tiny churches along the way and so a path was beaten to that door.

I remember my delight on discovering a Pilgrim’s ‘hospital’ on one of the many visits my daughter and I have made to Canterbury.

pilgrimage

The Pilgrims Hospital in Canterbury, Geoffrey Chaucer and the River Stour through Canterbury

Perhaps some hardy monk or another decided he needed to test his mettle and climbed higher than before and so a new path was created.  Perhaps a pilgrim grew old and tired on his journey and so sought an easier way around the hills and mountains; found obstacles in his way and so created another new path……

And yet, despite these many paths, both old and traditional or new, some still to be forged, the pilgrims always found their way to where they were headed. In this case the road to Santiago – also known as The Way of St James.

I love the idea of this, different paths for different folks; isn’t this true of life as well? Traditional is great, but one thing I’ve learned in life is that we each walk our own path. We can create new traditions. Nothing is original. If we went back in time to when St James first walked and preached the gospels in Spain, the paths he travelled along then are probably very different to what they are now. And after he died and was buried, then found and his relics installed at the Cathedral in Santiago, and eventually pilgrims first started walking to Santiago, even the ‘original’ paths, of which there are many, would be vastly different to what they are today. Certainly more well trod!!

And let us not forget one of the most famous of all pilgrims; Geoffrey Chaucer

pilgrimage, geoffrey chaucer, canterbury tales

Geoffrey Chaucer; author of The Canterbury Tales – a pilgrimage (journey) to Canterbury

In September of this year I’ll be walking the Portuguese Coastal Route to Santiago de Compostela, and I’m planning on following my own path with an eye on the general direction towards Santiago. From Tui I expect I’ll be following more traditional routes, but I’m not going to stress too much about the exact route, after all, it’s the journey that’s important and what we learn along ‘The Way’.

pilgrimage the way to santiago

finding my way to Santiago

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. It’s known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. His remains reputedly lie within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, consecrated in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.

I follow the blogs, instagram profiles and facebook updates of a number of people who are either currently walking or have walked one or another of the many many routes to Santiago, and I often read how they got lost, lost the path or were misdirected and again you can so easily relate this to life.

I travel a lot with my job and I love to travel in my off time between jobs, and when I lived in London in particular, people asked ” aren’t you afraid of getting lost?”. My answer is always the same…..you can never be lost, you are just in a place you are unfamiliar with and it’s not where you had planned to be. Jump on a bus or a train, look at a map, you will find you are not lost at all. I remember when I first lived in London back in 2002/2003, I had a conversation with my Father about how big London was and how much it terrified me to travel around that vast city. He replied: “just think of London as many small villages all linked together by the network of the tube/underground system. You are never more than a few meters from either a train or a bus, you can never get lost.” It changed my perception of London completely and from then on I was never afraid to go out and explore the many ‘villages’ of London; often getting ‘lost’.

As I walk the Camino in September, I will have my handy wee app ‘mapmywalk’ switched on, and with an eye on the east to my right and the west to my left I will follow my own path north till I reach the Minho river that separates the north of Portugal from the south of Spain. From there; at Caminha, I will head inland with the sun in my eyes in the morning and at my back in the evening till I reach Valença and finally cross over into Spain to Tui.

looking east

Looking east at Broadstairs; sunrise

looking west

Looking west at Florence; sunset

From Tui I will follow the more traditional routes as I traverse the final 100 kms to Santiago so that I too may gain my ‘compostela’. A pilgrim.

Footnote:

The Minho divides the Spanish Tui and Portuguese Valença do Minho, towns that guarded an important bridge for road and rail. Both towns preserve fortifications and are national monuments.

Addendum: you can even go on a pilgrimage to a famous place to see the final resting place of a King; Richard III (thanks Beth 😉 your facebook update was most timeous).

http://leicestercathedral.org/about-us/richard-iii/richard-iii-tomb-burial/

a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Richard II at Leicester cathedral

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One of the first things I did last year when I had first made serious plans for walking the Camino was to find out what equipment I needed and what I should wear. I confess I did go on a mad spending spree while in South Africa last year in May and bought a whole load of clothes and things at the duty free store LOL!!! I’m sure they saw me coming with my bushy tail, bright eyes and Rands (£’s) to spend!! I also went a little bit mad last year when I got home and I’m sure my purchases increased the profit margin of Mountain Warehouse quite substantially. Since then I calmed down a bit and did the sensible thing: research!! I found a fab link that I downloaded immediately

Printable Packing List

a most sensible list

So, in light of all this excitement, and especially since I have now booked my plane ticket, and the journey is real, I have set up various spreadsheets and done loads of research;

Equipment – what do I need, what’s useful and what can I realistically leave behind?

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Lookie looook!!! 🙂 Some of my #Camino2016 gear has arrived!! In keeping with the colour of my jacket and rucksack, I’ve bought as much as I can in purple…can’t help myself; colour coding LOL. So in this pile is a Summit 250 sleeping bag, an emergency foil blanket, survival bag, waterproof pouch (for carrying stuff with easy access), poncho, BPA free water bottle, IsoCool t-shirts, microfibre travel towel, travel bottle set. All of which will be useful for future walking trips and camping too.

I bought a lot of equipment/accessories while I was in South Africa, and so far the tops and pants I bought are going with. The jacket has been converted from two layers to one; the fleece will go with me, the outer rain-jacket will stay at home (too bulky). The gloves will go with, as will the woolly cap. Not sure I will actually need them, but I don’t want to spoil my experience by freezing. The khaki bush-veld sun-hat I bought, although totally unflattering 😉 will go with me. Trainers I bought in SA are totally not suitable and hurt my feet like blazes, so they have been traded in for a different pair, which so far, although quite comfortable, will also not be going with me…not quite right. So the search for suitable walking shoes is still on, although the sandals I bought are amazing. I foresee lots of walking along the beaches of Portugal in those!! Pants; found the ideal type, only problem is that they are men’s. Why don’t they make women’s pants with the same accessories….like leg pockets on both legs??? You have no idea how useful those pockets are for accessibility and storage. Oh well.

Clothes and accessories – again, how much do I realistically have to have.

Fortunately I have a sister and brother-in-law who do a lot of hiking and camping out, so they have given me some advice. Of course being a woman, my inclination is to take enough for every eventuality, but common sense is struggling to prevail and I am already mentally discarding this, that and the next thing. The Facebook pages I joined have been very useful as experienced Camigas have posted updates on what they took and what they discarded as the days went by and the pack got heavier (funny how that happens!!). One thing I have decided on is that I will cut my hair very short before setting out. Save on carrying shampoo and conditioner, and also for ease of wear. I tried on a monk’s outfit at Torre Abbey In Torque earlier this year! Perfect!! I’m seriously considering…..

Backpack – I have taken to accosting people at airports and train stations when I see a backpack that looks like it might fit the bill.

camino luggage

some ideas for the equipment

LOL The wearers have so far been very accommodating and happy to answer my many questions. So many aspects to consider….who knew??? But so far, the backpack I was going to borrow from my daughter last year has been found wanting, my backpack has been found wanting, and after much research and 5 columns on the spreadsheet to compare features, and the many I have seen on the Camino forums, it seems that Osprey will fit the bill – now to decide on which one. It’s a toss-up between two models: Osprey Sirrus 50 L or Osprey Tempest 40 L – urgh. Decisions, decisions.

the portuguese route to santiago

A map showing Portuguese Routes to Santiago

Distances – how far can I walk each day to accommodate my time allowance without killing myself!! My average speed/gait that I walk normally, is 4 km’s per hour. That means I can comfortably walk 24km’s in 6 hours. However, there is the backpack to consider, the heat to consider, the terrain to consider, and my durability to consider. The towns where I have decided to overnight (this is open to change) are all within 20-26 km’s apart with only 1 day being 32kms; Tui to Redondela. I am therefore staying in Valenca for 2 nights and a day to recover/prepare for the next stage. So far the total route is either 260 km’s or 285 km’s depending on which site you read. I’ve done a google distance calculation from town to town, added on a km to each and hoping for the best. Except for the last 100 km’s which you have to do consecutively in order to qualify for the certificate; Compostela, I can if necessary use the occasional bus or train. But I feel this would spoil it somehow so hoping to manage to walk the whole way.

Walking!!! Yes this raises all sorts of issues: care of feet, the correct shoes, types of terrain and poles!

Gosh, who knew that poles could be such a contentious issue? I posted an update just the other day to say that I had bought a paid of Nordic walking poles and had anyone on the group any comment? Yes, they did. 90% were positive but one or two were quite patronising and scathing. LOL. Anyway the concensus is that they are a good thing to have, now I just have to learn how to use them properly…there is apparently a special way of walking with them for maximum benefits. If they save my knees and ankles, then baby I am there!! Besides the training, it seems you need the rubber tips for cobbles and spikes for beach. Hmmm, who knew? I’ve also found a fab site, Camino Ways, and although I haven’t booked any tours with them, their foot care advice has been most useful. http://caminoways.com/footcare-when-walking

Accommodation – where to sleep each night?

sculpture of a pilgrim in dublin

I saw this truly evocative sculpture at Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin

The obvious choice would be alburgues, but from what I’ve seen on the various forums, this is a bit tricky. They are cheap and highly sought after and in many instance ‘pilgrims’ jump ahead by using taxis to get to the next town early and secure the accommodation before the ‘walkers’ get there. Seems a bit ludicrous really and not at all in the spirit of the Camino. To each his own hey! So I think I shall take a mix of AirBnB, hotels and the pilgrims alburgues. The AirBnb would give me the benefit of a private room, a place to prepare a proper meal, a comfortable bed and a dedicated shower LOL. Hotels likewise except for the meals, but mostly they include a continental breakfast….the alburgues are very basic, communal facilities and bedrooms with bunks, but mostly with kitchens where meals can be prepared, so I shall balance the 3 to both enjoy the experience and stick with the pilgrim aspect. From what I’ve seen on the forums, except for the purists, this mix appears to be the norm.

Food – what to eat?

I recently spent 10 days in Italy between Pisa and Florence and as usual was so busy exploring and tramping the streets trying to see as much as possible, I didn’t get to eat much…as a result of which I have suffered terrible cramps in my feet and legs since getting back home. Obviously my body couldn’t cope with the burning up of nutrients without being topped up!!! Lesson learned. I asked on Facebook and got some useful advice that I shall follow. Meanwhile I’m beefing up on protein. Being vegetarian this is a bit tricky but research has given me some fab food groups to incorporate into my diet. Nutrition is going to be key for a healthy Camino. So lots of fruit and vegetable protein will be on the menu. I’ll have to do some research on what’s available for my very spoilt British palate. We have way too much variety and choice in this country!!

Locations – this is the best part for me. I adore history, so my research on the different locations along the route have provided hours of pleasurable reading. Oh my word! So much extraordinary history. It’s almost unbearable. I wish I had twice the time I have allocated so that I could spend 2 nights and a day in each location. But I have chosen the highlights and of course; my favourite venues – the churches and cathedrals, anything Roman and of course amazing architecture.  Some snippets:Portugal is a country I have wanted to visit for some years and although not top of my dream list so to speak, it’s history has intrigued me and of course there’s the stunning scenery. I’m also intrigued by the fact that they are such a small country, surrounded by sea and Spain, and have yet maintained their independence through thick and thin.

My Camino de Santiago will start in September from Porto:

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, is Portugal’s 2nd largest city and known for its stately bridges and port wine production. In the medieval Ribeira (riverside) district, narrow cobbled streets wind past merchants’ houses and cafes, and is also a UNESCO world heritage Site. São Francisco Church is known for its lavish baroque interior with ornate gilded carvings. The palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa, formerly a stock market, was built to impress potential European investors.

I cross over into Spain from Valenca and so to Tui; from there will complete my final 100 kms to qualify for the Compostela (Certificate).

The gateway through which the Portuguese Way passes into Galicia was, and continues to be, Tui.

I am currently working on a project called ‘Project 101’. Many of these locations will fulfil some of my objectives and to my delight I have discovered some UNESCO World Heritage Sites and some fantastic cathedrals and Roman towns on the route. I’m planning on spending 3 days in Porto before I start walking, to acclimatise and of course, most importantly to explore the city. It too is a UNESCO heritage site and last night I discovered that the town of Coimbra (which is a place I’ve wanted to visit) is only an hour by train from Porto, the University is a UNESCO World Heritage Site…so that too is now on my Project 101 list, and a must visit while I’m in Porto. Gosh will I have enough time to do it all??

So yes, time, like me, is marching on and I’m reading up on as many blogs, doing loads of research, watching videos, learning how to use my Nordic walking poles, and walking walking walking…… And exactly 4 months from today, I will have started walking…..my Camino 2017. I should have made inroads (pun intended 😉 ) on my 2nd 500 miles by then and I hope that I might just complete the full 1000 miles while I’m there…that would be awesome!!! #walk1000miles

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu

walk 500 miles

Becoming a Proclaimer 🙂

You can follow my journey on instagram

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Back in 2010 my interest was piqued by a conversation I had with the niece of a lady I was caring for at the time. I mentioned to her that I was thinking of walking ‘The Camino’……and it turned out that she had already walked the route!! 🙂 A woman. Solo. On her own! Hmmm…….since then of course I’ve discovered that thousands of women walk solo every year; from teens to octogenarians. Pretty damn awesome!!

Prior to that I had heard of the Camino de Santiago in an obscure sort of way; I can’t recall exactly when I was first aware of it, probably in one of the many books I read, and of course my father had already cycled some of the routes. My father was in London one year (I think it was 2007) and we met up to watch the Tour de France pass through the city. We chatted about the Camino and made tenuous plans to ‘do it’ together….but he wanted to cycle whilst I want to walk…so it was probably never going to happen.

camino de santiago

My father in his latter years, shortly before he died at the grand old age of 85.

But the seed was planted and after the conversation I had in 2010, the idea took root: I would actually walk it myself, by myself. And of course there was the movie ‘The Way’ with Martin and Charlie Sheen that was released in 2010. It’s taken some 7 years, but I have finally put my money where my mouth is and booked my plane ticket!!! On 19 April 2017 I posted this on our family’s ‘WhatsApp’ news feed:

*Breaking news*  Yes!! Its done …I’ve just booked my flights for #Camino2017
I Fly to Porto in Portugal on 7 September for 3 Days in Porto  then start walking 285 (260?) kms to Santiago de Compostela on 11 September along the coastal route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca for my last night in Portugal, then crossing the Minha River to Tui the next day for the final 100 kms to Santiago de Compostela. I’ll spend 3 days in Santiago and then fly to Barcelona for 3 days and back to UK on 28 September. Too exciting for words!!

I cannot tell you how terrifying and yet exciting it was to finally make the decision and when I posted this to the family news feed and then made a Facebook update it was with a huge sense of trepidation; am I doing the right thing?

I actually wanted to walk the Camino in 2016 but due to one thing and another, namely; reasons and excuses, I didn’t take the final step of booking my flight! I had started training earlier in the year in preparation since I didn’t want the pilgrimage to be spoilt by lack of fitness and too much pain, but even so, I realised by September of 2016 that in fact, despite my desire to go and love of walking I wasn’t anywhere near fit enough. Reasons and excuses.

At the beginning of this year I joined a Facebook group #walk1000miles and that has given me a massive incentive to get out and walk; almost every day. While working my time is usually limited to 2 hours per day (my break), but I manage to do 5 miles in that time and have loved every minute. Besides that when I’m home, I take long walks along the coast to Margate, Ramsgate, Cliffsend and have even walked to Sandwich (26 kms) on one memorable day 🙂

Due to my job, I travel all over the country and so have had the pleasure of walking in different locations, with different challenges and landscape – this country is so beautiful. I am lucky. All these walks have added to my fitness levels. From the Isle of Thanet to the Isle of Wight, I’ve also walked in Ireland and along the North Downs, the Malverns, Worcester and Oxted amongst other areas. I’m truly fortunate.

camino practice walks 2017

I’ve had some wonderful walks all over the country

camino practice walks 2017

walks on the Isle of Wight

camino walks

walks on the Isle of Thanet, Ireland, the Malverns and Italy

Since 01/01/2017 I have walked  500 #bootson miles. If I had to include my ‘at work/on duty’ mileage I’m certain it would be well in excess of 1000 miles….but for purposes of training I have only added my actual ‘training’ time where I set out specifically to ‘walk’! As of today, in Ireland, I became a ‘Proclaimer’ LOL I will walk 500 miles, and I will walk 500 more…..

walk 1000 miles

I have walked 500 miles 🙂 and I will walk 500 more

Meanwhile, and as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have, with heart in my mouth, and a mix of excitement/ terror/trepidation/joy picked up the phone and booked my ticket…..no going back now!!!!

I’m finally going on my Camino. 🙂 hooray!

And exactly 4 months from tomorrow, I shall start walking…..my Camino 2017.

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I have just spent the last 12 days at a job in a suburb of Preston, Lancashire and although I haven’t been able to explore the city (we’re just too far away), I have been able to explore Preston Cemetery 🙂 Although Preston Cemetery was established in and opened in 1855, the earliest year of a recorded death was 1781. I did search all over for this particular grave but was unsuccessful.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery

The cemetery is a 5-8 minute walk away from the house and en-route to the store where we collect the newspaper, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to visit during my breaks…which have been a tad tricky to arrange, but I’ve deliberately made a plan to get out, even if just for a hour….or on my way to the store 😉

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire. the newer section at 09:36 in the morning

I initially thought that the section I walked past was it…but one day as I explored farther afield, and wondered at the fact that most of the memorials appeared to be fairly new, I discovered the older, original section….now we’re talking.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire – the old section

Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. the Victorians really went all out on their extravagant memorials, some of which are quite simply outlandish…huge and ostentatious; urns, wreaths, broken columns, upside-down torches, obelisks, grieving women

preston cemetery lancashire

albeit a later burial; a grieving woman – Preston Cemetery, Lancashire

– many monuments in Victorian cemeteries are pagan rather than Christian, or classical (Roman) or Egyptian.

preston cemetery lancashire

Victorian funerary symbols

Victorian graves tended to be much more elaborate than modern graves. It was expected that a middle-class family would spend as much as it could afford on a monument appropriate to the deceased’s (and the family’s) social status. Monuments were usually symbolic – either religious (crosses, angels, the letters IHS, a monogram for Jesus Savior of Man in Greek), symbols of profession (whip and horseshoes for a coach driver, swords for a general, palette for a painter), or symbols of death.

preston cemetery lancashire

A wreath decorates the gates of Preston Cemetery

I’ve taken a load of photos of some of the memorials, but you can be sure there is a surfeit of extraordinary plots and memorials to be seen. Many of the memorials are unsurprisingly, but very sadly for babies and children of all ages, from the tiniest infant through to children of 10 and upwards into teens.

preston cemetery lancashire

memorials on the newer side

These early deaths are not limited to the Victorians, one memorial I saw was for two babies from the same family who died a few days apart at 3 months and 3.5 months, along with a number of other family members, different times, all young. Oh the tragedy.

preston-cemetery-3

this appears to be a family plot…so many all with the same name; some mere infants

In all my years of exploring cemeteries around the UK, I have never seen so many memorials for infants 😦

Although cemeteries have an air of sadness and desolation about them, they are fascinating places to visit with so many stories of lives lived, some long, many short, others in service to King and Country. Preston Cemetery is also the location for Commonwealth War Graves……too young!!

preston cemetery lancashire

Commonwealth War Graves – WW1

These cemeteries are also places of incredible beauty.

preston cemetery lancashire

Preston Cemetery, Lancashire

I love the many graveyards and cemeteries I find on my travels around the UK, Preston has certainly been one of my favourites.

preston cemetery lancashire

life and death; autumn beauty in a Victorian cemetery

A couple of interesting, albeit gruesome articles about death, dying and cemeteries in Victorian England and London.

http://listverse.com/2015/06/21/10-odd-and-eerie-tales-of-londons-victorian-cemeteries/

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/jan/22/death-city-grisly-secrets-victorian-london-dead

 

 

 

 

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“We are such stuff as dreams are made on” – Shakespeare

Today is my birthday and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my Mother; Marjorie Joy and my Father; John Derrek Alan for having me, although I’m sure unplanned, on such an auspicious day. If I hadn’t been born on the 23rd I wouldn’t have a story to tell about St George, Shakespeare and Me 😉

Discovering that I was born on St George’s Day and William Shakespeare’s birth & death day has been an endless source of interesting discoveries.  During my London walkabouts and UK travel adventures I have come across reference to them both….inciting many photos to be taken.st georges day (3)

On my many, many London walkabouts I have taken thousands of photos of the city and of course anything I find on Shakespeare and St George.  Here are some images I have discovered along the way and some of me at various events in London; Trooping the Colour in 2010, the Green Man event in 2013, the Tudor Pull in 2014, at the Feast of St George in 2014 at Trafalgar Square, up The Shard with my daughter Cémanthe in 2014, and pretending I’m a Queen at Hampton Court Palace in 2015, just some of the fun things I have done in London.

and our helicopter flight over London on my birthday in 2015.London Helicopter

The traditionally accepted date of Saint George’s death in 303 AD, April 23rd, is it seems an auspicious day….for not only is it recognised as St Georges Day (the patron saint of England) but it is also William Shakespeare’s birth and death day, and my birthday… 😉
Since 23 April 1616 was the date of death and possibly anniversary of birth of the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar), UNESCO declared this day the International Day of the Book.IMAG4762

Celebrated by many other countries around the world, in fact St George is even mentioned in the will of Alfred the Great. England is not the only country to embrace our lad St George, many other countries celebrate St George’s Day too, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia as well as which a great number of cities including Genoa in Italy, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta, Moscow in Russia, Ljubljana in Slovenia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, amongst many others it’s also celebrated in the old Crown of Aragon in Spain — Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca. So we do indeed have much in common with many other parts of the world.

As for William himself, born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the date of his birth, although unknown, is universally accepted as 23rd April, he was baptised on 26 April 1564 during what became known as the Elizabethan era – 1558-1603.

London has paid homage to both men and you can find many statues, busts, stained glass windows and paintings featuring them both.

Today is also the first birthday I’m celebrating as a fully-fledged British Citizen. 🙂

 

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I went to Windsor to see The Queen! 🙂  Yesterday was Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday, and as soon as I discovered she was due to do a walkabout in Windsor I made my way there double quick.  Well not quite….I slept over in London at the YHA the night before 😉

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Chelsea Bridge and the Albert Bridge in the distance

I set off for London on the 18:57 train to Victoria Station, slept over at the Earls Court YHA, up and about by 6am on Thursday….and by 07:38 I arrived in Windsor. Thrilling stuff.

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The Queen: A full-scale replica of the GWR Achilles built in 1894. No examples of these locomotives survive and were withdrawn from service in 1912. This model is located on the platform of the station at Windsor Central

The reason I got there so early was to ensure I found a good space at the front…these events fill up pretty darn quick, but to my surprise there were only about 40 people ahead of me! I wandered about for a bit, checking out this spot and that, and then finally made my decision: it had to be facing the castle and it had to be in shade and I was hoping Her Majesty would walk down my side of the road….

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Not yet much of a crowd, but a few stalwarts were there as well as a group (the ladies in pink with the big pink 90 balloon) from Cardiff, who apparently left their city at 6am

I settled in and quickly made friends with the people around me. We chatted and swopped stories, where we were from and why we were there etc. We also had a very entertaining couple of hours people watching.

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See the lady directly in the middle with the British Flag glasses! She held court and entertained the crowds….an American lady, she was loud, forward and hilarious!!

One of the first people I saw was Carol Kirkwood doing a piece to camera for the BBC News

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our lass Carol Kirkwood doing a piece to camera for BBC News with a Town Crier watching on – this was at 07:46 in the morning 😉

and then Terry Hutt; one of The Queen’s lifelong fans.  When I saw Terry’s outfit I realised I need to up my game…. LOL

As the crowds swelled and the time drew near the level of excitement escalated. Suddenly we saw Joey!!! The horse from the play War Horse. That was an added thrill to the day.

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Joey; War Horse joins the celebrations

Then just before 11am the Coldstream Guards arrived for Changing the Guard in the castle grounds.

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The Coldstream Guards – Changing the Guard at Windsor Castle

They marched them up the hill, then marched them down again…..to just beyond the gates where they made themselves comfortable and played some stunning pieces of music…they really are very good.

Then at 12noon and without further ado Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arrived in her smashing Bentley and stopped just before the welcome party. After being greeted by the Mayor(ess) and assembled guests, to my absolute delight I saw that Her Majesty was walking down our side of the road!!! OMG!!! Hoorah.

Then I started praying that she wouldn’t do her zag before she got to where we were standing, which would have given me the zig!!!

But she didn’t and I did get to see her – from just two feet away. If I wasn’t filming I swear I would have swooned with sheer excitement…..but you can’t interrupt a good opportunity to film The Queen by passing out in the street. LOL

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Looking fresh and sprightly in spring green – I loved her hat!!!

However, I did almost lose my footing….as she got near the crowd behind swooped forward and I was nearly knocked off my feet, almost dropping my camera in the process…the barrier suddenly felt very flimsy as it swayed with the weight of the crowd. It was a little bit scary, and I wasn’t impressed with that at all. However, we managed and my word the roar of excitement when she arrived…fantastic.

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the crowd surges forward….

She looked absolutely stunning in her spring green outfit with a perfect hat perched on top of those lovely grey curls, a gorgeous smile on her face for the whole time. Amazing woman.

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Her Majesty; Queen Elizabeth II born this day in 1926 at 21 Bruton Street in Mayfair

As soon as she made her zag to the opposite side of the road,

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The Queen makes her zag and away she goes to the opposite side of the road

my companion (someone I got chatting to whilst waiting), and I ran down the side alleys to the Guildhall hoping to spot the birthday girl before she left on her ride around the city.  While at the Guildhall she met other people who were 90…how cool is that!  Mind you, in comparison to some of my clients, many of whom are a lot younger than HM, she is blooming marvellous and certainly very sprightly.We were in luck, the crowds hadn’t yet swelled to bursting point and I had a great view of the steps where she was due to walk down to her open-topped car.

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Standing in their open-top car they set off for the car route through the city

We were all amazed to see The Queen and Prince Philip actually standing in the car as they set off.  They waved and smiled as the car pulled out and then we ran helter-skelter to the back entrance of the castle, again ahead of the crowds and had a fab view of them returning. They had by that stage sat down in the car, but I still managed one final photograph…..

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arriving back at Windsor Castle by a rear entrance

What a splendid day. I have seen the Queen a number of times, but always from afar. Usually at Trooping the Colour or other such events, and once we saw her up close and personal in Cape Town the last time she visit South Africa in the 1990’s. At that time she also went walkabout, but did her zag just three people before she reached where we were standing and I remember how devastated I was then that I hadn’t got to shake her hand…she still used to shake the hands of people in the crowd in those days….but sadly I didn’t and although I didn’t get to shake her this time either, she was so close I could have kissed her!!

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Wishing Her Majesty a wonderful 9oth year, and Long May She Reign!!

20160421_132536 - HB QEII 21.04.2016God save our gracious Queen!
Long live our noble Queen!
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.

 

Other people I got to see on the day

After the event I went walkabout myself and had the luck of seeing the band returning to base

Then it was a quick trip back to Broadstairs (3.5 hours!!) to watch one of 1,000 beacons lit in the U.K. and around the world in honour of her birthday.

The Queen lit hers at Windsor Castle at 7p.m.

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The first beacon to be lit by The Queen at Windsor Castle

In all a fantastic day……I guess I am a confirmed Monarchist…and a Royalist. Fact: I love The Queen. She has been the one constant in an ever changing world. She is a great example of a good Monarch. I just read this terrific article you may enjoy.20160421_133700 - HB QEII 21.04.2016

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After all the excitement of my citizenship ceremony and all the stress of the months leading up to this final step, I was quite worn out….I had also been working the last two weeks and that alone leaves me quite ready for a break. So to that end, I spent the first 3 days of my new found citizenship hibernating…..I didn’t step outdoors at all except once to throw out the trash. Instead I switched off all my social media, left my computer in it’s case and curling up on the couch I read and read and read accompanied by copious amounts of teaeverything stops for tea….I’m British now, it’s my obligation to drink tea!!

books i have read (1)The first book I read on Friday was by a hitherto unread author: Jenny Colgan – ‘Little Beach Street Bakery’.  A delightful romp in a Cornish village on a Cornish island off the mainland near Plymouth (which is in Devon). A comedic light read, I found the story enchanting and found myself yearning to pack my bags and move to Cornwall and open a bakery! The sense of community, albeit with it’s fair share of villains and crackpots, gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that ran from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. I can highly recommend this book for a Sunday afternoon when you can just sit and relax and let the cares of the world fade into oblivion while you slip between the covers and enjoy a delightful journey to Cornwall. Be warned though, there are some tears to be shed!

 

books i have read (2)The 2nd book that I read, on Saturday (I’m a quick reader and usually manage to finish a book in one day), was an old favourite: Ian Rankin – ‘Standing in another man’s grave’, featuring Inspector John Rebus, that curmudgeonly Police Inspector from Scotland. I love Ian Rankin’s books, tight, tense and fast paced but so highly descriptive you feel like you’re almost travelling in the same car as yer man Rebus.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story; with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy it raced through the Scottish Highlands at an alarming rate. It always gives me a thrill to read about places I have visited since living in the UK, and this book didn’t disappoint….with a visit to Chanonry Point of particular delight as I spent many an afternoon or early morning at that very place during an assignment nearby a few years ago.

However, I didn’t get to see any dolphins….perhaps a return visit is on the cards.IMAG8540

After reading the two books and returning briefly to instagram, I posted a photo of the books and commented on how much I had enjoyed them. One of my instagram friends then said she had ordered Jenny Colgan’s book for a friend and someone else mentioned a book that had been released by a friend of her that she thought I might enjoy: Clare Harvey ‘The Gunner Girl’. I ordered the book and look forward to sharing my thoughts once I have read it.

I’m heading up to London for the day on Thursday, one to finalise my passport application and please god it gets back to me before my SA trip and to visit the dentist….that I am not looking forward to, but it’s now rather urgent. Other than that I’m heading to Ramsgate on Saturday for the Spitfire 80th anniversary events. Well excited for that. On Sunday of course here in the UK it’s Mother’s Day and apparently my daughter has planned a super surprise which I’m really looking forward to.

 

 

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