Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Me and My Kindle Fire HD.

Well I took the plunge last week, all £159's worth of plunge, and bought myself a Kindle Fire HD eReader.  I took some time to decide what to buy, and as I already have two PC's,  I needed a gadget for reading books, newspapers and listening to music.  I prefer surfing on my 21in monitor and with a physical keyboard.   I'm very pleased with  the gadget so far, and have downloaded several free German reading books, some music and apps for reading the newpapers and magazines.  To the left is a free seven day Devizes weather forecast app, where today I was able to read about our dreadful weather, even though I had a good view of it three floors up from the window of my flat.  I get a lot of weather up here, especially in a high wind, when I use the top of a swaying lamp post as an anemometer,  scruffy passing pigeons for wind  direction,  and car windscreen wipers as a guide to the degree of drenching rain.  A slow flip flop will  indicate drizzle,  and a wild "nineteen to the dozen" swishing of blades means a lashing rain storm.  
I have weather detection three floors up, down to a fine art,  and since the loft space was so well insulated in the summer, I can no longer hear the rain on the roof.
This is the BBC news app, where I can read the news and simultaneously watch it on the television!  Yes silly, but I do like my gadgets.  Mrs Brooks seems to be in trouble,  as is the trader who lost his Swiss bank over a £billion.  He's gone to jail now!


Monday, 19 November 2012

A Quaker's Walk Circular Stroll

Cemetery Road Bridge near Devizes Wharf.
I left Chantry on a bright, sparkly Sunday morning, and walked past St Mary's Church, and then over the canal at Quaker's Walk Bridge.  The above photo shows the lovely reflections of the autumn colours under the arch of the bridge.   This year's autumnal tints (or autimnal tunts, as a friend used to say,)  seem particulary beautiful. 
  Quaker's Walk
This walkway leads eventually up to the "Ridgeway" an ancient path,  used by our ancestors to walk from town to town along the natural ridge of the hills, and quite the safest place to walk to avoid robbers!  Not that I climbed up the steep hill, my ankles now prefer flatter walks where the going is easier.  The world and his dog were out walking that morning, although I met no one I knew.   At the end of the track,  I looked up to the "Millenium White Horse" etched into the chalk downland and galloping to the right to meet his friend the "Alton Barns White Horse" who gallops to the left!   Ahhh sweet, will they ever meet and nudge noses?
The "Millenium White Horse" gallops to the right up on Roundway Down.
I turned right here, and walked along Roundway Park with its neat bungalows and well manicured gardens. I did see two friends in the distance, and waved a fond hello to them as they disappeared into the London Road.  Then it was over the canal again at "Brickham Bridge" past the old tank stoppers, a left over from the last war, and then  I turned right onto the towpath, to walk back to my starting point. 
The Kennet & Avon Canal at Brickham Bridge.
There was no wind, and the scene of boats moored at the bottom of gardens in complete tranquity,  was so peaceful and very good for my soul, (whatever that is.)    Ever onwards, I finally arrived at the Quaker's Walk Bridge again, having walked 2.5 miles in a complete, not too muddy, but with some puddles, plenty of dogs and lots walkers circle.
             The George Vl  postbox set into the wall of the old Devizes Hospital.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Up the Tower of St Mary's Church

Devizes has three large medieval churches, and St Mary's  pictured left,  stands next to my home.   With the decline in the  number of people attending church services, the building has become  redundant, and plans are afoot to turn it into an arts centre for local cultural organisations.  This morning the church  held a "Come and see the plans" morning, complete with a secondhand book sale to help raise funds for the scheme.  The drawing below shows the plan of how the completed centre will look.   The medieval layout of the church can be seen towards the bottom of the plan, with a yellow arc forming a new, low impact, low level extension constructed of glass and brick walls, with a roof of living sedum. 

The architect's design for the new arts centre.
The new building will consist a kitchen, cloakroom, toilets, three meeting rooms for hire and other small rooms for various purposes. The arc of the new building and the west wall of the church will form a small cloistered garden.   The church itself will be stripped of its pews, and moveable seating will be installed to provide a more flexible space for concerts, dances, theatre productions and singing.   I was very impressed with the plans, and the centre has, to date, enough funding to renovate and change the interior setting in the church.   The organisers will eventually bid for Lottery Fund money.  Cross your fingers, and hope that the bid for £1.5 million will be successful.

The secondhand book sale in full swing.
To the right of the photo under the arches,  can be seen the scaffolding erected for the removal of rendering on the walls, to expose the original stonework.

Devizes Castle from the top of the tower.
Best of all of course, was the chance to climb the tower, something I have always wanted to do.  I paid my £2 entrance fee, and at 11.25am joined a small group for the steep climb of 42 steps up the spiral staircase to the bellringers platform.  Here we heard about the six church bells, how they are rung, and some history of the men who rang these bells over the past centuries.  Then another climb of 52 steps, past the bell room and clock room, and then out onto the leaded roof.   What a breathtaking view of Devizes was before us, what a shame that space does not allow me to post all the photos.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Out Walking Across the Fields to Coate and Back.

The thick fog and drizzle did not deter us today, as we set out for our 5 mile walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal, and then out across the fields to "The New Inn" at Coate.   Nine of us braved the climate, and although muddy under foot, we had an enjoyable walk.  Unfortunately, at some point we took a wrong turn, and instead of walking 5 miles, we ended up doing 6.5.  Up on the hills above Coate is a landing strip, with a bright orange windsock to aid light aircraft taking off and landing.  Nothing was flying today in the thick fog, apart from a few flocks of birds, who were having no problems navigating in the foggy conditions, and who squawked a welcome as they flew overhead.   It was a shame that the sun was not shining, as the colours this autumn are beautiful, and appear even more spendid in bright sunshine.

The orange windsock, not needed in the foggy weather.

This tree lined track runs from the landing strip down to the "New Inn" pub at Coate in the far distance.

In the fog underneath the mobile phone masts, Joyce gives us a history of Coate Field and the Jump, two places mentioned in the history of the "Battle of Roundway Down" of July 1643, which took place not far from this spot.   From this position the Parliamentarians bombarded the Royalists with cannon fire and gunshots.  The Royalists had become trapped in Devizes and took refuge  in  St James's Church, where to this  day, cannonball holes can be seen in the brickwork of its tower. 
After our walk we retired to "The Silk Mercer" in Devizes for lunch and a drink,  well deserved after our long foggy walk.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Hard Week's Cat Sitting in Calne!

My view from the stage at last night's performance of Faure's "Requiem"
Today is my last full day of cat sitting in Calne.  The last ten days seem to have been unusally busier than most.   Normally my stay here is quiet and peaceful, but this time I've had to return to Devizes on several occasions for some important committment or other.  This has meant doing the eight mile journey twice a day on the boneshaker bus, not always a comfortable experience!    Tomorrow is Friday, and I can finally travel home in the morning, and come to rest again in my warm, cosy flat. 
On Wednesday I had to leave the cat at 1pm, and travel by bus to Devizes and then by car to Dauntsey's School, for a final rehearsal of  the "Requiem," before our performance in the evening.  The first part of the concert consisted of music played and sung by the school orchestra, soloists and choirs.  In the second half  we sang Faure's "Requiem," and it sounded wonderful.  Our choir consisted of members of the school's senior choir, and we singers from Dauntsey's adult choir, made up of people from the local area. 

A young cellist waiting to start the rehearsal, note the timpani behind.

Dauntsey's "Dance Band" perform during the interval.
During the interval we gathered in the dining hall for refreshments and a chance to listen to the school's wonderful dance band.  What a sound they made, playing dance and jazz music with great gusto.  A wonderful evening was had by all.  The concert was for Remembrance Day, and on leaving a collection was made for Dauntsey's two charities, "The Wiltshire Air Ambulance," and a children's charity. 
These photos were taken on my phone, and are a little fuzzy!  Sorry!

Monday, 12 November 2012

A Black Dog at "Black Dog Halt."

Striding out together on the old railway track.
I'm still in Calne looking "Tugger," and will be here until Friday Nov 16th, when my friends return from their visit to India,  and I can then go back to my own bed in Devizes.  The weather has been a little mixed, with some frosty mornings, heavy showers but with mostly dry days.   Sunday was lovely,  with bright sunshine in a blue sky,  and in the afternoon we enjoyed a walk along the old railway line, the one I wrote about in my Friday blog.   The walk was flat of course, (I like flat walks) and although very muddy, it made an easy three mile return stroll.  Above Celia can be seen stepping out towards the sunset with "Pippin" the black poodle.

At "Black Dog Halt"
We took "Pippin" the black dog, to "Black Dog Halt" where he can be seen with his paws up on the old platform, and the sign in the background.  It was a lovely walk, and on our return we tucked into chunks of walnut cake, Scottish shortbread biscuits, and good cups of strong English tea.   What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Studley to Calne Along the Old Railway Line

Stanley Bridge over the old railway line.
Here we are, out walking along the old "Great Western" main railway line from Chippenham to Calne.  The line was five miles long, and was a single track branch line that ran along the valley of the river Marden, via two stations at Stanley Bridge Halt and Black Dog Halt.   Built as a replacement for the overwhelmed Melksham Calne and Chippenham Branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal, it opened for freight in October 1863.  Calne opened to passengers in November 1863, with a private stop at Black Dog Halt in 1905.  

With no tunnels required, the construction of the line was simple and was built in the broad gauge of 7' 0½" opening to freight traffic on October 29th 1863. The line was then opened to passengers from November 3rd 1863, an unofficial holiday in Calne. 

Black Dog Halt
The passenger station was used during WW2 to transport servicemen and equipment to the Royal Air Force bases at Compton Bassett and Yatesbury, and the goods station also saw increased trade with an increase in coal traffic, fuel for the RAF stations and animal feeds and grain for the local millers. The line had two near misses during German bombing raids in the Second World War, when bombs fell close to the station and the tracks.

The line was still producing a good profit in the 1950s. Figures for the year ending September 1952, showed an income of more than £150,000, with 300,000 passengers.  However, as the Harris sausage factory in Calne began to use the road transport to move its products, the railway began to see a drop in revenue.

 The decorative gates of a private house near Black Dog Halt.
Following the closures of the RAF stations at Yatesbury and Compton Bassett, passenger numbers diminished rapidly and by late 1963, freight services had been cut to one a weekday, while Sunday passenger services had been withdrawn.  Freight services were withdrawn in November 1964 and  Calne finally lost its passenger service during the Beeching cuts in 1965.
Most of the track was lifted between Easter and June 1967 leaving just a short section near the junction which was used as a siding.  By 1972 a section of the track was opened up to the public as the Marden Nature Trail, and today most of the 6 mile route between Chippenham and Calne is part of the National Cycle Network, and known as the Chippenham/Calne Railway Path.

 Chaveywell Bridge over the Calne Arm of the Wilts & Berks Canal
We walked via the Chaveywell Bridge over the Wilts & Berks Canal, to the "Lansdown Strand Hotel" in Calne, where we enjoyed a good lunch and drink, to end of a good walk, with good company, in good fresh air and no rain!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

In Calne with "Tugger" the Cat

A bone idle "Tugger" sits in his chair waiting for his next meal!
I do like cats!  It is impossible to really know a cat, as they never seem to look directly at you through their slit eyes. My friends have gone to India for twelve days, so I'm cat sitting again in their comfortable bungalow in Calne, a little town about six miles from Devizes.   
"Tugger" is now alone, as his brother "Tiger" passed away to kitty heaven in the summer.  Both are rescue cats, and after having a difficult start of their lives as kittens,  they have lived here in comfort, with more food, thought and consideration than many children throughout the world enjoy.  The cats were rescued from a local farm, where the owner kept more than thirty other cats in appalling conditions.  Thankfully these two survived to lead a good life.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Salisbury Cathedral Close

Saturday morning in Cathdral Close in Salisbury, across which P and I walked to begin rehearsals of Bob Chilcott's "Requiem" in the Methodist Church.   It was a crisp, whispy cloud morning, sparkly bright but very cold. 
The name derives from James Everard Arundel, son of the 6th Lord Arundel of Wardour who married Ann, the daughter of John Wyndham, and who was given the house as a wedding present.
The house was once the home of Sir Edward Heath, a former British prime minister, who came to live here in 1985.  In the thirteenth century "Arundells" was a Medieval Canonry, and was later used by Henry of Blunston, Archdeacon of Dorset, who died in 1316.   From the mid-1550s the house was leased by the Dean and Chapter to lay tenants.  Much of the current house's appearance is due to John Wyndham who lived there between 1718 and 1750.  After a period neglect, when demolition was considered, "Arundells" was renovated and refurbished in the 1960s
Morning sunshine over the spire.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bob Chilcott's "Requiem" in Salisbury

It is a great pleasure to sing a choral work that is being conducted by its composer, and on Saturday I had the chance to do just that, to sing Bob Chilcott's "Requiem" in Salisbury with a "scratch" choir of 80 singers.  The work is a modern setting of the Latin Mass, and was first performed in Oxford in March 2010.  This performance was in aid of the "Living Water Africa" charity, and before we started our rehearsals, we were shown a short video about the problems of bringing clean drinking water to many poor people in Africa.  Millions die each year from illnesses related to drinking dirty water, and most of the proceeds from our day of singing were given to the charity.   P and I had never sung the work before, and although it is quite easy to read and to sing, it was useful to have a group of strong sopranos sitting behind us and helping us along with the faster parts of the music.   The morning rehearsal began at 10am and we  stopped at 11.30am for a coffee and tea break, and then continued until 1pm and  lunchtime. 

We began our afternoon rehearsal at 2pm, and an hour later were joined by the soprano soloist with a very beautiful voice, who had a short warm up with us singing the "Pie Jesu" and the "Santus."  We gave an informal performance of the work at 4pm in Salisbury Methodist Church, shown above,  to a small audience of friends.  Unfortunately I cannot find a history of this building, which was probably built in the late 18th century.  It has been completely modernised to provide an area for prayer, a modern kitchen in the large sports hall, and a cafe in the entrance hall.

The choir members return after lunch for the afternoon's rehearsal in church.

Bob Chilcott the composer and conductor stands to the left, with the soprano soloist sitting in the centre with the bass soloist to her right.  The head of our young accompanist can be seen far right just over the piano lid.   The whole day was a wonderful singing experience, and I feel very privileged to have been part of the performance.   After the performance P and I went shopping, where I got my hands on the new "Kindle Fire HD" in Waterstones, and managed to play around with it for 20 minutes or so.   We then met F in the "New Inn" for a pint, and at 7.30pm enjoyed an evening meal in an Italian restaurant!  Wonderful!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Singing My Heart Out in Salisbury Methodist Church.

I'm singing this weekend  in Salisbury, unfortunately not in the catheral, but with my friend P in the Methodist Church.  The "Come and Sing" has been arranged by the charity "Living Water Africa" and the "Requiem" by Bob Chilcott, will be conducted by the composer himself.   We will practise throughout the day, and then sing  an informal  performance  of the work on Saturday at 5pm.  At the moment I have the sniffles, but I hope that by Saturday, I will be able to sing like an angel.  At  the moment I sound more like a hyena!  The photo right shows the west front of the cathedral, with a detail of the west door in the photo below.  I would like to sing in this beautiful building, and hope that one day my wish will be granted.     Last year I sang in a Christmas carol service here, but that is not quite the same as singing a complete JS Bach choral work.   Today I'm catching the 3.25pm  "boneshaker" bus to Salisbury , and will meet P in her office near the bus station at 5pm.  I'll spend two nights with P and F,  her "good curry maker" husband, and return home on Sunday. 

 The great west door of Salisbury Cathedral.
The journey from Devizes to Salisbury takes approx one hour and fifteen minutes, and the bus travels through many little Wiltshire villages with very narrow roads, hence the small, boneshaker bus.  More news and photos of the concert will follow when I return home on Sunday.