Friday, 28 October 2016

Meet me on the Corner

Wednesday 26th October

                            I had two choices for today.One was a game out at Colin's or celebrate my ninth wedding anniversary. and as I thought that  as discretion is the better part of valour I decided to head for the island of Lindisfarne for a romantic tete a tete with Lady Watson.I do anything for a steak pie dinner which also involves a few pints of foaming ale.
               As an added incentive for my participation in this jaunt I was asked if I'd like to stop of at Barter Books in Alnwick as we couldn't get across the causeway to the island before two in the afternoon.
Barter Books like us a lot as we spend an awful lot of money there and today was to be no exception.Barter Books is one of the biggest second hand book shops in Britain and be prepared to spend a couple of hours enthralled in the amount of books on display from fiction to non-fiction,new to old originals that are kept in glass cases.The actual bookshop is situated in the old Alnwick railway station and you can see its railway origins in the layout of the shop including the cafe which has evolved from the station buffet and waiting rooms.The fare in the cafe is mostly local with the bacon roll consisting of half a pig whereas the roll with sausage has the other half.Another local delicacy they offer is a slice of fruitcake served with a slice of cheddar cheese and yes they do complement each other.
                                 After about three hours and big armful of books(three 1950's Eagle annuals amongst mine) we headed for our car,visiting two antique/collectible shops along the way and coming away with a model of the Batmobile and a WW1 shell casing and drove along the coast road towards the island causeway just in time for it opening.
                                 As we headed on to the island we could see the twitchers,walkers and even duck hunters heading on to the island to have a couple of hours of daylight before dusk set in doing their thing.I was informed by Lady Watson that we should have a peruse of the island before dinner and that the local foaming ale would have to wait.So reluctantly I headed down towards the harbour with the rest of the incomers and had a look at some of the boats that had finished their summer jaunts and were getting ready for winter hibernation among them a gorgeous twenty six footer Moody.If I was ever given the chance of buying any yacht it would be a Moody.Very graceful whilst being very seaworthy but very expensive.

Upturned boats used to store fisherman's gear.

Not a car in sight.

Preparations for bonfire night.
Heartbreak time.
  To be fair walking around the island at twilight was very inspiring especially with the darkening ruins of the priory complemented by the wailing of nearby grey seals giving the island a nice seasonal aura.
Seals on an ever decreasing island.
                              When the day tourists go home the island the island does feel isolated and does give the impression of one of these end of the world films.Lucky for me there was plenty of ale behind the bar.
Eleven course menu on the Titanic's last evening-think I'd rather have had eleven jerseys or jackets.
                             When we headed down to the bar I found that it was a bit busier than I thought it would be but then I realised it was English half term and these were the inhabitants of some of the rentable properties on the island.The steak pie was exceptional as expected and was washed down with a nice pinot(I know I'm a Philistine,white wine with beef) and followed by a cheese board to die for.I don't think cholesterol exists on Lindisfarne.
Seemingly it's more than my life's worth to put a witty caption on this photo.
                            After a reasonable sleep(they collect the rubbish at three o'clock in the morning and the ch oil is delivered at seven) and an excellent breakfast we headed for Lindisfarne castle which is about a half mile out on the headland.We were treated to a nice fresh morning for our walk and good weather for Lady Watson to take her usual thousand's of pictures.The only problem was the dozens of rugrats(Lady Watson speak)that were milling around the castle.
Lady Watson enquiring about our retirement home.
Castle de Belleme or Bebbanburg Castle-you choose.
 Lindisfarne castle was built around 1550 using stone from the recently disused priory on the island.Obviously Henry viii was a recycler.It was used as a defence fortification right up to 1901 where even at one point was occupied by Jacobite forces(two men in total)before being recaptured by troops from thre Berwick garrison.
Jacobean telly
                             After being used by the coastguard it was bought by  Edward Hudson,owner of Country Life magazine,and was redesigned by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who used upturned herring boats as storage facilities outside the castle.Seemingly Edmund Miralles used this concept in the design of the Spanish Holiday centre in Edinburgh-sorry the Scottish parliament.The castle came into the care of the National Trust in 1944 where it has been in their capable hands since then.

 We spent a fair time looking round the castle narrowly avoiding the hordes of rugrats along the way before having a look at the nearby disused lime kilns and eventually ending up on the beach were tourists for some reason were piling up rocks into some construction that we were told were suppose to bring luck.Whatever.
Dragon's den -poor dragon doesn't know what it's in for.
Must be a wife thing-always having their back to us.
  The last part of our visit was to the the castle garden situated away from the castle and was designed by Gertrude Jekyll who apart from having a story book name was a garden designer along the lines of Capability Brown.
I wonder where Mrs Hyde is?
                                    Before we headed off the island(low tide was 15.40)we had a look around the gift shops and bought as always some local mead and partook of a nice lunch to provide us with some sustenance for our drive home as usual by the scenic route through the eastern borders.
Must be where they store the mead
                             A very nice couple of days out complemented by a very nice hostelry and a nice visit to Barter Books.No doubt we will be paying another visit soon.
                            See you when I see you.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Last days in Japan

Thursday 6th

                 The penultimate day of our Japanese soujourn found us heading to the island of Miyajima which is situated to the south of Hiroshima in the Inland sea.Miyajima Island may not be known to most people but the Itsukushima shrine is after Mount Fuji,Japan's biggest tourist attraction.The island is beautiful and in contrast to the rest of Japan less hustle and bustle.
                Ferries go back and forward every 15 minutes passing on the way the oyster beds for which the area is also well renowned.I would imagine that they would crop up on tonight's menu.
                 Wednesday the fifth was my sixtieth birthday so Lady Watson had booked us into a rayokan which is a traditional Japanese inn dating from the seventeeth century.Tatami matted rooms,communal baths and dressing up in a yakata which is a typical Japanese kimono are the norm.
                Since we had a few hours to kill before we check in to the rayokan we decided to explore the island,after a cup of coffee of course.
                        The Itsukushima shrine and its with its floating torii gate is the number one attraction on the island so this was obvious the main destination for Lady Watson whilst seeing a sign for the island aquarium made me decide this was going to be my main destination on the island.
                 To get to the aquarium I had to walk around the bay which contained the shrine whilst Lady Watson headed into the shrine and as it bisected the bay she had taking her pictures, perused the shrine and had exited from the other side just in time for me to meet up with her.
One thing about the island is its wildlife especially the deer which roam all over the island and have become very tame.They have a taste for paper and tourists are warned to keep it out of their reach especially ferry tickets and souvenirs.
                              Being a typical Japanese island it was full of wooden houses and buildings.In rural Japan wooden buildings seem to be the norm whilst cities are infested with earthquake proof skyscrapers.I suppose wooden buildings are easier to replace after earthquakes.
                       We eventually arrived at the aquarium and once again I was amazed at the range of fish and aquatic creatures that were on display.From local species through to the wonders of the Pacific.
                 The first exhibit concerned the local oyster fishing with actual oyster infested ropes on display.The oyster tank also contained other local species swimming around in shoals.
                         The next tank,which was my favourite,contained a fantastic selection of rays,groupers,sharks and a very menacing conger eel.The sharks although small would swim near the surface showing off the ominous dorsal fin which imagine still puts the shivers up people.
                           Moving on I was amazed by the various species including porpoises in a giant glass tank.These ever smile creatures swam around looking as though they didn't have a care in the world coming across to peer at us looking as though they were trying to engage us in conversation.Amazing beasts.
                           Once again there were tanks of different jelly fish swimming and dancing in some extra terrestrial like movement.All it needed was some John Williams soundtrack to accompany it.
                       Moving through the aquarium there were more sei terrestrial creatures on display.Amphibians,snakes and even some otters who seem to prefer playing about in plastic basin rather than the well thought out in the connecting tank.I suppose it's the same as children when they forget about the new toy and play with the box instead.
                         Outside was a tank containing some very fussy Humboldt
penguins as they were being picky when the assistant brought their lunch out expecting to be hand fed.Next to the penguin tank was a tank containing one very fed up sealion who kept on mumping and moaning throughout the afternoon.
                           After our visit we decided to head for our accommodation courtesy of a taxi.The road up the hill was a bit hairy as we were getting the tail end of a typhoon at the time.We eventually reached the drop of point and proceeded to head warily into the wood before being met by what can only be described as a Japanese type gingerbread house albeit along period style.
We were met by a friendly host who after making sure we had taken our shoes off showed us to our room which I thought was amazing.As previously mentioned it had wooden walls and tatami matted floors and I was beginning to think that I had stepped back in time until I saw a tv and then a fridge.
Apart from these hiccups the place looked fab.We were handed kimonos and yakatas and shown to our bath which had been filled ready for our visit.It was not as hot as I would have imagined but it still done the job.
Suitably refreshed we were then shown to another adjoining room were starters for our Japanese banquet had been set up.It was a fantastic set up with different varieties of fish and pickled vegetables awaiting our selection.Every so often our host would come in with more delicacies including the ubiquitous oyster which Ilook on with some trepidation but was content to eat it when I found out that it was served hot and had been cooked in garlic and butter.Anything cooked in this way is usually delicious and this was no exception.More beef and chicken dishes were provided albeit not in large portions which made for a more pleasant meal.The meal as finished off with Japanese sweets and fresh fruit.When we retired to our room we found that our futons had been laid out ready for use.
                      We settled down for the night with only the sound of the river running outside the house.
                        Morning came after one of the most noiseless night's sleep I've had for a long time.In the morning we joined the rest of the guests for breakfast and although it was a western breakfast it still had fish,rice and miso soup with it.Obviously the frankfurter and croissant gave it a western taste.
                      We said our farewells and thank them for their fantastic hospitality and after visiting yet another cable car headed back down the hill towards the ferry port and the eventual train ride back to Tokyo.
"We're on our way home"

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Liberator to Galactica

Thurs13th October
The ship before the decks were revealed

                       Garvald awaited us again last night with a very interesting game from Colin's repertoire.We continued with a game using Chris Peer's Future Wars rules that we had used for the first time three weeks ago.Bill Gilchrist,we were led to believe was going to read the rules and make it easier for us to play them through.I'm afraid due to other commitments he didn't have a chance so we ploughed through them as best as we could.
It's amazing what you can do with Thunderbird 5 and Bionicle
                             No 1 rockstar Mr Ray Neal also joined us for our evening's entertainment which literally took us to the stars.Colin had unearthed a six foot long spaceship that the master creator Shug had constructed from a filing cabinet.The drawers of this cabinet had been transformed into individual decks and hangars complete with scenery to give an impression of a ship heading through space 'Nostromo'style.This setup had been shown at a show and was about to be used for the first time since then.The figures used were from the old Blake 7 series with members of Battlestar Galactica making up a lot of the crew with some Enterprise figures bringing up the rear.
The Alien's dropship appeared for a picture shoot.
                      Mr Ray and I took the side of the Federation whilst Colin and Bill were Blake's 7 backed up by a few other characters.There were also some NPCs roaming about the ship minding their own business until they interacted with the main characters.
Bad boys,bad boys what you gonna do when they come for you?
                         In this game you roll a 20 sided dice to see who goes first and true to my recent form I couldn't even roll a total of 10 in the first four game turns.Colin was my main adversary through the evening and we ended up having a stand up fight in one of the rooms onboard the ship ending up with me getting a bloody nose.
"Hi there Missy"
    Mr Ray and Bill made their way towards the ship's bridge very slowly stopping of to scare various crew members away and also Bill entrapped a poor guy who was minding his own business and drinking his coffee.
How to convert Mousetrap into a space drive.

               Meanwhile back at the ranch Colin and I were still locking horns but in the end his better trained fighters got the better of me and I found myself down to two men.Even the great Travis headed for the hills.
Fisticuffs at ten paces.
               After the fight Colin headed for the bridge hoping to secure victory.Hugh had built some lifts in order to move between decks and this allowed him to move straight onto the bridge and my only defender was Galactica's Starbuck(the female not Faceman)who although gave a good account of herself was fed to the spacefishes.
Bridge to far.
                        Meanwhile Bill had used the power of Orac, a supercomputer,to teleport his figures into the bridge to altercate with Admiral Adama and Colonel Tigh.Meanwhile Mr Ray's squad which included the gorgeous Servilan eventually joined up with the remnants of my squad and we were about to head for the bridge when full time was called.
                         Once we comprehend the rules better they should make for a fast game although Mr Ray has his doubts.
"Are you sure this is the Galactica?"
                 See you soon.Live long and prosper!.
And they all retired to the bar.