The London Borough Of Lambeth

Stretching from the River Thames down to Streatham, the borough of Lambeth is a culturally-rich area of south London. It includes the nightclubs of Vauxhall, the diversity of Brixton down to the leafy suburb of West Norwood. With a wide mixture of things to see and do, here are just a few which might be of interest.

The Tate Modern.

The Tate Modern gallery is renowned for some of its more bizarre pieces and is the home of contemporary and modern art in London. Although it may not be for everyone, having your art displayed in the Tate Modern is a lifelong dream of many artists and creators across the world. You can watch live art in massive underground converted oil tanks, look out over London from the Tate balcony whilst sipping a drink as well as view priceless art such as Picasso, Monet, and Salvador Dali. Art has traditionally been a singularly sensory experience, but here a range of exhibits involve you, the viewer, and bring all your senses to life. Immerse yourself in light displays, film, walk through sculpture or play with colour. It is said that here, the stereotypical art gallery of the past is gone and you will find your visit ‘an electrifying experience for your senses’, because art is more than simply staring at pictures here, it should involve all senses. Entry is free and the permanent collection is impressive, but it is suggested that you check their website before you visit to see details of any featured exhibition. Special exhibitions and events require a separate paid ticket and it is always recommended to book in advance online, especially for popular exhibits, although Tate members can access all exhibits for free using their membership card. I also discovered some odd but interesting facts, which are that the Tate Modern’s building was converted from the Bankside Power Station and opened in 2000. The building is almost the same size as Westminster Abbey with the central chimney standing at 99 metres tall. The original architect of the power station was Giles Gilbert Scott, who is famous for having designed our iconic red telephone boxes so there’s a link to my past that I had no idea about. What I also learned in my research was that the Tate Group of galleries began in 1889 when Henry Tate, a sugar merchant from Liverpool, donated his collection of contemporary paintings. The Bankside Power Station building was built in 1947 on the shore of the Thames, but was closed in 1981 and the Queen opened Tate Modern in the original building. Then in 2016 the new Switch House extension (now known as the Blavatnik Building) was opened, increasing the size of Tate Modern dramatically.

The Imperial War Museum.

One place I was keen to visit some years ago was the Imperial War Museum as it houses one of the best collections of military hardware and artefacts you can see and is a compelling record of modern warfare, as it places the impact of conflict on everyday lives at its centre. It is here that you will see huge, imposing 15-inch naval guns built for the First World War and which guard the front of the building. Inside you can look up into the atrium to see an iconic Battle of Britain Spitfire, suspended as if in flight above your head. There is also the permanent Holocaust exhibition where visitors may reflect on the first-hand testimonies of those who suffered horrific persecution. Walking into the central atrium of the building with its 25-metre high space is an impressive sight as it vividly displays the scale of some of the most iconic hardware of modern warfare, displaying as it does a Battle of Britain Spitfire, a V2 rocket and a Hawker Harrier which are suspended from the ceiling. Then there is the First World War Gallery, depicting World War I, with the black and white grainy images of the trenches which still have the power to both enthral and maybe even terrify visitors after more than one hundred years. Accompanied by touch screen interactive displays, visitors can view over 1300 objects including planes, tanks, uniforms, artefacts, diaries and poignant personal letters detailing the lives of both the soldiers and civilians. There is even a replica section of a trench, where it is possible to see exactly how the soldiers at the front lived back then. There is also the ‘Turning Points’ exhibition, which charts the years between 1934 and 1945 from the point that World War II began to loom through to its conclusion, with many poignant personal artefacts to be seen. Further exhibits include the remains of a Japanese Zero fighter plane located on a Pacific island fifty years after the end of the war. Then in the Lord Ashcroft Collection are stories of the incredible bravery of men, women and children in time of war. There are over 250 personal stories of bravery, accompanied by photographs, film, artefacts and artwork. You are also able to view the world’s largest collection of Victoria Cross medals, Britain’s highest decoration for valour. In addition, there is a large collection of George Cross medals as the exhibition recounts stories of incredible bravery.

The idea for the museum was first proposed in 1917, during World War 1 as it was intended to record the effort and sacrifice of Britain and the Empire for that specific event. It has meant that for over forty years the Imperial War Museum’s collection of films and archival footage have been used by television producers to make documentaries which have furthered our understanding of war and its effects. Landmark programs where the museum’s films were used include ‘The Great War’ and ‘The World at War’. The museum also holds a significant collection of art, consisting of paintings, posters, drawings and prints including much of the artwork commissioned by the government to record both World Wars. It has also commissioned artists to record more recent conflicts, as well as peacekeeping duties and although the Imperial War Museum in London is its most well-known site, the museum as a group contains four other sites. This includes the Imperial War Museum North based in Manchester, the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast in London, plus Europe’s largest air museum at Duxford. The museum has a noted history, as in March 1917 the War Cabinet approved proposal for National War Museum from Sir Alfred Mond MP and in June 1920 it was opened at Crystal Palace by King George VI. In November 1924 came the move to smaller location in the Western Galleries of the Imperial Institute in South Kensington and in July 1936 the Duke of York opened the museum in its new location at Lambeth Road, where it remains today. But from September 1940 to November 1946 it was closed for the war, with many vulnerable collections stored outside of London. In 1966 came the first major expansion to the museum since its relocation to its current home and in 1967 it acquired the iconic naval guns which are sited on the approach to the building. Then the first phase of major renovation started in 1986, taking three years to complete, with the final part of three-phase development of Southwark building completed in 2000. It included Holocaust Exhibition. The museum finally reopened after a £40 million redesign in 2004.

Shakespeare’s Globe.
Photo by Walker/Deposit Photos.

Shakespeare’s Globe is undoubtedly London’s most beautiful theatre. Situated on the South Bank and standing just a few hundred yards from its original site, The Globe takes pride in remembering William Shakespeare and all of his plays. As well as seeing a play, you can book tickets for guided tours and any current exhibitions and you can travel back to the 16th century in a reconstruction of the open-air wood and thatch theatre where the world-famous plays were originally performed. The present timber and thatch open-air circular theatre is an accurate reconstruction of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre, enabling visitors to enjoy the performances of Shakespeare’s plays as they were intended to be seen, whatever the weather! The theatre stages performances between April and October and being open air the show goes on, regardless of the weather, then during the winter months concerts and plays are held in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, an atmospheric Jacobean-style theatre illuminated by candlelight. As part of the access programme, the Globe theatre has relaxed performances and the open-door policy there means that members of the audience can come and go exactly as they please, making these performances ideal for families. But it seems that the Elizabethan Globe Theatre is not original, despite being constructed in 1599 as it was built using timber from an earlier theatre. Sadly the place was burnt down in 1613 after a special effect went wrong, a cannonball fired during a performance of Henry Vlll which set fire to the thatched roof. No one was hurt except for a man whose trousers caught fire but who was saved by a bottle of beer poured over him! Also it seems there were no women actors in Shakespeare’s day and female roles were played by young boys. Back then Elizabethan audiences in the ‘pit’ or standing part of the theatre were known as ‘groundlings’, or as ‘stinkards’ during hot weather! The Globe theatre was finally reconstructed close to its original site on the South Bank of the Thames in 1997, after a lengthy fundraising campaign by the director Sam Wanamaker.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

A place which I think has certainly been heard of is the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which has been rescuing and rehoming animals for over a hundred and fifty years and is one of of the best-loved institutions in London. The place is open to visitors, as you don’t have to want to adopt an animal to visit the centre, though you probably won’t be able to view the animals out of their pens. If you wish to visit more animals after your visit, Battersea Petting Zoo is just around the corner from there.

A London Eye capsule.

One of London’s most popular tourist attractions is the London Eye. It was previously known as the Millennium Wheel due to its launch in 2000 and it takes guests on a sightseeing journey 135 metres over the city, making it Europe’s largest Ferris wheel. But advance booking is advised, as it is currently the most popular paid tourist attraction in the whole of the United Kingdom and has become as iconic to London as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. It has become an absolute landmark, a must-see attraction offering visitors great views across the city. Visitors board one of the 32 capsules for an approximate 30-minute rotation, giving a 360-degree view across London and its many historic landmarks. It gives a unique perspective across London and down onto its iconic landmarks. With a riverside location opposite the Houses of Parliament, visitors can either stand and gaze out the windows across the city or take advantage of the central benches located in every capsule as the wheel slowly rotates. On a clear day it is said you can see over a distance of 40 kilometres, or around 25 miles. The London Eye caters for groups too, offering a unique day out for friends, families and work colleagues. It is a hugely popular attraction, but sometimes you may feel you want that extra-special London experience by hiring a private capsule by inviting up to 25 friends to enjoy a very personal rotation on the wheel, with a choice of food and drink enhancements available for a VIP feel. In addition, out of normal hours when the visitors have left, folk can enjoy a champagne reception, followed by a three-course meal. You will enjoy three leisurely rotations as you dine, with a 10 minute stop on the final rotation at the top, for the opportunity to take photos and record your experience. The research I made also told me that the wheel was originally meant to be purely temporary, standing for five years having been constructed to mark the new Millennium but was given a permanent licence in 2002. Although there are 32 viewing capsules the numbers on the capsules range from 1 to 33. This is because number 13, deemed unlucky, was omitted. The London Eye is Europe’s tallest wheel of its kind and when it was built in 1999 it had been the world’s tallest, but since then it has been nudged down to fourth, although still the tallest in Europe. What surprised me was learning that London has seen a large wheel like this before, because in July 1895 there was the Great Wheel which was opened to the public, standing at an impressive 94 metres tall and with 40 capsules or cars. That one was built for the Empire of India exhibition, before ending its service in 1906 and being demolished the year after. It was back in 1998 that construction on the current London Eye began and it was erected in October 1999 before it was formally opened by Prime Minister Tony Blair in December 1999 and opened to the public for the first time in March 2000. Happily, in July 2002 it was granted permanent licence to remain. In 2006 a decorative LED lighting system was installed and in 2009 capsules were upgraded ahead of the 2012 London Olympics and used as part of the ceremony. The second capsule on the wheel was named the Coronation Capsule in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and that same year it also recorded its 50 millionth visitor. It had its 20 year anniversary in 2020. In addition, just below the wheel the London Eye has access to its own pier. From here there are 40-minute river cruises which will take you past many of London’s historic sites including the Houses of Parliament, St Pauls’ Cathedral and the Tower of London. Knowledgeable on-board guides provide a commentary informing you about all the sites you see.

The Old Vic Theatre.
Photo by khellon/Deposit Photos.

Finally this week I had to include a famous place, the Old Vic Theatre as over two hundred years of history grace this famous old building in the heart of the city. The Old Vic is an independently operated, not for profit theatre whose historic décor has seen shows of all types performed on its stage. Today the theatre continues to offer diverse productions, supporting new and exciting talent. The building was sadly damaged during World War II, but reopened in 1951 and is grade II listed. Just three minutes walk from Waterloo Station, the Old Vic is easy to reach and a must-visit attraction for any theatre fan. The theatre was founded in 1818 and one of the founders named John Serres, who was the marine painter to the King, managed to secure the formal patronage of Princess Charlotte and her husband Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg so named the theatre the Royal Coburg Theatre. It was a ‘minor’ theatre, as opposed to one of the two ‘patent’ theatres, so was technically forbidden to show serious drama but when the theatre passed to a new owner in 1824 they succeeded in bringing the then legendary actor Edmund Kean south of the river to play six Shakespeare plays in six nights. The theatre’s role in bringing high art to the masses was confirmed when Kean addressed the audience during his curtain call saying “I have never acted to such a set of ignorant, unmitigated brutes as I see before me.” However more popular items in the repertoire were deemed to be “sensational and violent melodramas demonstrating the evils of drink, churned out by the house dramatist”, according to a confirmed teetotaller! The owner then left to take over the Surrey Theatre in 1833 and the theatre was bought by two people who tried to capitalise on the abolition of the legal distinction between patent and minor theatres as enacted in Parliament earlier that year. On 1 July 1833 the theatre was renamed the Royal Victoria Theatre, under the ‘protection and patronage’ of Victoria, Duchess of Kent, the mother to Princess Victoria who was the 14-year-old heir presumptive to the British throne. The duchess and the princess visited only once, on 28 November of that year, but enjoyed the performance, of light opera and dance, in what was described as the ‘pretty, clean and comfortable’ theatre, though the single visit scarcely justified the ‘Old Vic’ its later billing as “Queen Victoria’s Own Theayter”. In 1841 a new lessee took over and was succeeded on his death in 1850 by his lover and the theatre’s leading lady until her death in 1856. It seems that under their management, the theatre remained devoted to melodrama but it was not without its own dramas however, as in 1858 sixteen people were crushed to death inside the theatre after mass panic caused when an actor’s clothing caught fire. In 1867, a new lessee took over and in 1871 he transferred the lease to a new person who, it is said, raised funds for the theatre to be rebuilt in the style of the Alhambra Music Hall, where a noted architect had been engaged. In September 1871 the old theatre closed, and the new building opened as the Royal Victoria Palace in December of the same year. In 1880, under the ownership of an Emma Cons, for whose memory there are plaques outside and inside the theatre, it became the Royal Victoria Hall and Coffee Tavern and was run on ‘strict temperance lines’ and by this time it was already known as the ‘Old Vic’. Then on 24 November 1923, the theatre participated in a pioneering radio event, when the first set of the opera ‘La Traviata’ was broadcast live by the BBC, using transmitters in London, Manchester and Glasgow via a specially installed relay transmitter on the roof of the adjacent Royal Victoria Tavern. Technology at its best!

This week…
A longer blog, but hopefully an interesting one. There is still so much to be written about! So, a quick but amusing item. A group of architects were arguing about the design of a new football stadium. One very senior architect was getting frustrated as he knew the best option, so turned to one of his colleagues and said quietly, with a slight smile, “Trust me, this will all end in tiers…

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Seven Sisters

There are so many, many places to see in London, the list is endless. I will mention just one for now and then share more in the future. This one I came across a while ago and it is actually an area of London called Seven Sisters, a bustling neighbourhood to the south of Tottenham. It is easily reached by the Victoria Line. But the enigmatic name comes from history and is a tale of ancient shrines, fecund families and most of all, trees. If you head a few paces north-east of the tube station today, you’ll find an unremarkable strip of park known as Page Green. This narrowest of open spaces is enjoyed more as a verdant cut-through than a place to linger. Keep your eyes open though and you will spot this circle of hornbeam trees towards the centre.

A ring of trees which was planted in 1996 by a remarkable delegation.

The first evidence for a circle of trees comes from 1619, as an unnamed arboreal ring can be seen on a land map to the western end of Page Green. About a decade later, local vicar and historian William Bedwell mentions an ancient walnut tree surrounded by a tuft of elms. These uncertain origins have led to any number of myths about the leafy landmark. One story posits a pre-Roman druidic connection, as the Celts often held groves as sacred sites and this one is just next to the ancient Ermine Street. In his book London Lore, folklorist Steve Roud points out the flaw in this tale as walnut trees were introduced by the Romans after the Celtic period. Page Green sounds a bit like Pagan Green, which may also have helped the myth along. Other legends connect the seven elms with seven sisters, sometimes daughters, of Robert the Bruce, who owned land in the area in the early 14th century. Again, sadly evidence is lacking. Others think the trees are an arboreal memorial to a protestant martyr, or a farewell planting by seven sisters about to scatter to the four winds. Myth became documented history from the 18th century as the walnut vanished at some point, leaving the circle of elms and these were first recorded as the Seven Sisters in 1732.

Pictured in 1830, when they are described as standing against the five-mile stone from Shoreditch Church.

They must have formed a well-known landmark at the time, for the new thoroughfare connecting Tottenham to Camden Town in 1840 was named Seven Sisters Road. Their fame was cemented in 1872 when Seven Sisters train station was opened nearby, followed by a tube stop in 1968. In fact the mighty plants have changed several times over the centuries. In 1852, the originals were in a really sad and sorry state so new trees were planted by the seven daughters of a Mr J McRae. These elms lasted just 20 years, when a newspaper described ‘six venerable and withered trunks’, so it is possible that the stumps of the originals were still hanging around. A new circle was planted on 2 March 1886 when local siblings called Rosa, Alice, Amy, Edith, Julia, Georgina and Matilda Hibbert, who were at that time the only family in Tottenham to contain seven sisters and no brothers, did the honours and over the years, the sisters returned to view their handiwork. Matilda’s was the only one that wouldn’t take. According to a later interview, the sister pointed to her withered tree and said, “I’m the doomed one”. Alas, her premonition came true. Mathilda passed away in 1900. Her six siblings lived on, regrouping at the elms each year. Five trees had died by 1928 when three of the surviving Hibberts were recommissioned to ‘make good the deficiency’. The six sisters continued their reunion until at least 1937, bringing along their original commemorative brooches and spades used in 1886. One of these spades can still be seen at the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham. Further plantings took place in 1955, courtesy of sisters named Basten. Perhaps because elms had proven too fragile for the ground, this iteration opted for Italian poplar, and the trees were planted in two clumps rather than a ring. The most recent ceremony drew on the digging skills of five local families, all blessed with seven sisters. This time hornbeams were chosen and the still-standing ring was installed at the centre of Page Green in 1996. These can still be viewed today, although there is no obvious plaque or information board recalling the centuries-old tradition. The only acknowledgment can be found on the nearby tube platforms, where the trees are commemorated in the tiling pattern in the form of a design by Hans Unger, installed when the tube station was built in 1969. Incidentally, these trees weren’t the only Seven Sisters to grace the town as from the 18th century another famous circle could be found in Kew Gardens, but sadly these trees began to die from fungal infection in the late 19th century and the final member was lopped away in 1916.

Seven Sisters is actually a sub-district of Tottenham, North London. It was formerly within the municipal borough of Tottenham but which on 1 April 1965 was subsumed into the new London borough of Haringey. It is located at the eastern end of Seven Sisters Road, which itself runs from Tottenham High Road to join the main A1 in Holloway. It is within the South Tottenham postal district.

‘The Seven Sisters of Tottenham’ by John Greenwood (1790).

The Dorset map of 1619 shows the area known today as Seven Sisters named as Page Greene. However, by 1805 the first series Ordnance Survey map was showing the area as Seven Sisters. The name is derived from seven elm trees which were planted in a circle, with a walnut tree at their centre on an area of common land known as Page Green. The clump was known as the Seven Sisters by 1732. In his early-seventeenth-century work, ‘The Briefe Description of the Towne of Tottenham Highcrosse’, local vicar and historian William Bedwell singled out the walnut tree for particular mention. He wrote of it as “a local arboreal wonder” which ‘flourished without growing bigger’. He described it as popularly associated with the burning of an unknown Protestant. There is also speculation that the tree was ancient, possibly going back as far as Roman times, perhaps standing in a sacred grove or pagan place of worship. The location of the seven trees can be tracked through a series of maps from 1619 onwards. From 1619 they are shown in a position which today corresponds with the western tip of Page Green at the junction of Broad Lane and the High Road. With urbanisation radically changing the area, the ‘Seven Sisters’ had been replanted by 1876, still on Page Green, but further to the east. Contemporary maps show them remaining in this new location until 1955.

Map of Tottenham, 1619.

So the current ring of hornbeam trees on Page Green Common was planted in 1997 in a ceremony led by five families of seven sister, in fact the Seven Sisters is on the route of Ermine Street, the Roman road connecting London to York. In my research I have found references to the ‘Domesday Book’ the Middle English spelling of ‘Doomsday Book’, a manuscript record of the ‘Great Survey’ of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of William I, popularly known as William the Conqueror. The Domesday has long been associated with the Latin phrase ‘Domus Dei’, meaning “House of God”. The manuscript is also known by the Latin name ‘Liber de Wintonia’, meaning ‘Book of Winchester’. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that in 1085 the king sent his agents to survey every shire in England, to list his holdings and calculate the dues owed to him. At the time of the Domesday Book, the area was within the Manor of Tottenham held by Waltheof II, Earl of Northumbria, the last of the great Anglo-Saxon Earls. In the medieval period a settlement grew up at Page Green and the woodland was increasingly cleared for agriculture. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the Seven Sisters Road was constructed and the area saw the construction of a number of large houses, including Suffield Lodge, Seven Sisters House and Grove Place. But these fine buildings soon fell victim to the spread of Victorian London and by the third quarter of the century the area had been almost completely built over.

Seven Sisters Market.

Today, Seven Sisters is a multi-cultural area strongly influenced by its location on key road and underground rail routes. Immediately above the tube station is an early-Edwardian department store building, formerly occupied by Wards Furnishing Stores, which traded until 1972. Part of the building, known locally as Wards Corner became an indoor market with a strong Latin American flavour, known as ‘Latin Village’ or ‘Pueblito Paisa’. The site had been under threat of demolition since 2004 and there were plans to redevelop it in 2018, but this action was resisted, and cancelled in August 2021. Part of Seven Sisters is known as The Clyde Circus Conservation Area and this stretches between the busy local shops of West Green Road and Philip Lane. Most of the residential streets between are in the Conservation Area, but not the more modern Lawrence Road and Elizabeth Place. Residents of the conservation area were brought together by the Clyde Area Residents Association (CARA), which holds an annual street party. Its sister group, the Fountain Area Residents Association (FARA), covers residents to the south of West Green Road, namely those in Kirkton Road, Roslyn Road, Seaford Road, Elmar Road, Turner Avenue, Brunel Walk, Avenue Road and Braemar Road. Recent successful projects organised by FARA members include the creation of a community garden at the site of a dated pedestrian ramp. Another community project is the Avenue Orchard and the local community utilised wasteland behind a concrete wall on Avenue Road for planting apple trees, they also held a workshop with local artists to source ideas for how to improve the look and feel of the wall and area around the Avenue Orchard. In 2004 the old Wards Corner building above the tube station was earmarked for development when Haringey Council published a development brief. In August 2007 Haringey Council entered into a Development Agreement with developer Grainger and their plan was to demolish the existing buildings on the site and replace them with a new, mixed-use development of retail and residential units. Except this was met with local opposition and the Wards Corner Coalition (WCC) campaigned for the existing buildings and Latin American market to be retained and improved. The WCC mounted a legal challenge against the plans and, in June 2010, the Court of Appeal quashed the planning permission. In 2012, Grainger submitted revised plans for the site. Haringey Council granted planning permission for the revised plans on 12 July 2012, but after protests the plan was definitively cancelled in August 2021. In addition to the Wards Corner plans, further projects for regeneration in Seven Sisters are planned. Haringey Council’s ‘Plan for Tottenham’ sets out the council’s long-term vision for the area. Plans to regenerate Lawrence Road were put out for consultation and are now partly implemented. Also Transport for London has completed a major project to improve a busy one-way system, the Tottenham Hale Gyratory, that used to pass Seven Sisters station, converting it to a slower, pedestrian-friendly, two-way road. But as I have previously said, the ring of seven sisters is still standing at the centre of Page Green, despite there being no plaque or information board recalling the centuries-old tradition at that site.

This week…
Our world is full of old sayings and I am keeping a note of some for a future blog post. This one caught my eye, it is one said by the grandmother of a a good friend and it is “Shrouds have no pockets”, a proverbial saying found in The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It is probably from around the mid 19th century and means that worldly wealth cannot be kept and used after death.

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Life Is But A Dream

It has been said by many that life is not perfect. Equally, I was told that whilst you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, you cannot please all of the people all of the time! So, what is life. Perhaps it is our perception of it. I have been told in the past that most times I tend to see something positive in almost all of life’s situations, with each ‘cloud’ having a silver lining to it. We can easily look back at something which has just happened and feel bad or sad as a result, but if we try, we can usually see a positive effect from it and that is the silver lining. There will, without doubt, be times when a relative or friend may have passed away and this is so very sad, but they are most likely to have either given life to or helped another, they may have taught and shared a skill which others can later benefit from, they may have been or given comfort to another person, often without realising it. Sadly though there are those in this world who give and then expect, even demand, something back in return. But I was taught at a very early age a prayer which I have tried my best to follow. Many reading this blog will have seen this before but I will share it here.

Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Helping one another does not need to be much, it may have simply needed another person’s presence that is required for someone to realise that they are not alone and this can be particularly true as we get older and see others passing away. I have realised this myself as I live in this Care Home. It may be though illness, it may simply be through old age, but at a time that we usually do not determine, our earthly existence comes to an end. There are times when we do have at least some control over such things though and it is that which we can sometimes forget. I know of a few folk who, had they taken better care of themselves, their human lives would, in all probability, have been longer. There are also times when we are offered some guidance on what life path to take, but not all of us listen! It is up to us, usually, what to do. As many of you know I am disabled, there are some things which I simply cannot physically do and have never been able to do. That has become more apparent as the years pass and I am thankful that I have been offered the skills to read, write and share many things, to help others in the work I have done in the past and I hope that I am able to continue doing this for many years to come! But when it is my time to return home, I will go with thanks, knowing that I have, I hope, done my best openly and honestly, the best that I can. I believe that we all have our part to play in this world, it is surely for us to learn and benefit as well as at least give others the opportunity to do the same. But we must remember that whilst our helping hand may be offered, it should not and must not be taken advantage of. Sadly we seem to see more and more who wish to work for their own personal gain with no thought or consideration for others and who simply do not help to provide the proper balance in life. As humans, we perceive life passing us by at a steady rate, yet there are times when we all say something like “Where did the time go?” I know that I, a great many years ago now, made the mistake of telling my parents that I was bored. They found something for me to do, a job which was simple but had little real value. I never fell for that one again, although sadly at times my willingness to do things hasn’t been ideal. I was taught, but in a good, friendly but firm way as to how things ought to be done. At school I, like so many before me, were shown the ‘right’ way of doing things, it did not matter if it was in behaviour, attitude or language. Most of us did as we were told, some did not and were punished appropriately. Then we went out into the ‘big wide world’, where we found new sets of rules. These were again in behaviour, attitude and language which differed from school as we were beginning to ‘grow up’. Not all did what was right and I think what came to me to be most obvious at this time was I can only describe as ‘consequences’. What good we do is recognised and honoured, likewise what bad things we do is also equally recognised and remembered. Not everyone will agree with me, but I do believe that there is a balance in Nature. It should surely be that whatever we do, it will be of value to ourselves as well as to others. I am not talking in purely financial terms but in ways that benefit another person’s character, behaviour and yes at times their appearance. I am reminded that we may see people with a limb which is in plaster, wearing a bandage or using a stick. That alerts us that they are dealing with perhaps an injury or disability. But if we see none of these things, we cannot tell what other difficulties they may be facing.

When I learned teaching skills, I found that as well as sharing my knowledge and skills with others, I too was learning as we all learn different things in different ways. So no matter if it is in work or in play, we are born, we grow, we are taught many things and we have the capability to learn and to adjust, to adapt and to change according to this lovely world around us. I have said this a few times now. Some folk I’ve known worked in factories and industrial places, whilst others worked as I have done in offices. Some have worked where they designed new things, perhaps even making lots of money in the process. All of us though, as human beings live, sleep, breathe, eat and drink. All of us have supremely clever systems within us that control our bodies but to a large extent we have overall control of ‘us’, in how we act, how we react, how we behave. Good or bad, right or wrong, most of us know the ‘correct’ paths to follow. They will not be exactly the same for everyone, but it is, to my mind at least, sensible to ‘do the right thing’. Even though there have been times when I’ve not always done so. But that is so often how we learn! I think this world is amazing, but as I heard someone say, “Life is what you make of it, if it doesn’t fit you make alterations”. Naturally there are many things which we cannot change, but many that we can adapt to. Something in this life which may never change but that I personally find really disappointing is how some people are so untruthful in their ways, their words and I suppose also in their thoughts. I was taught at a very early age to always be truthful and doing so has served me well. I have said in the past that it is sometimes hard enough to remember what has actually happened, never mind telling what is not true! I read that a good way to deal with someone who is lying to you is to get them to expand and embellish the tale they are telling as eventually they will slip up and make mistakes. In that way it becomes obvious. However, there are those who do consistently tell lies, they make up stories to achieve their aims. At one time a great many years ago, before writing, knowledge was of course shared verbally. When I was at school a teacher demonstrated to us one day just how the spoken word can be misunderstood and this was done by the teacher whispering a sentence to a pupil. That pupil was then told to turn to the pupil next to them and whisper the same sentence. Then that pupil did the same, quietly whispering the same sentence. This was done and after going round about twenty or more pupils, the first and last pupils then told the class what each had heard. The first pupil had been told by the teacher “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance”, whilst the last pupil said they had been told “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance”. This was, incidentally, in the days of pounds, shillings and pence as the decimalisation of our UK currency hadn’t occurred back then! But it just goes to show how even when we are trying to get things right, mistakes can occur. It is all part of learning. We do have access to more than just written books as the Internet is used so much nowadays, but checking up through tried and trusted sources is a good thing to do. I am also an advocate of the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” and if something or someone is genuine, in the majority of cases it does no harm to check. The old ‘gut instinct’ I believe is still within us all, even if we don’t always just follow it!

As time passes I hear others talk about how ‘life in the old days’ was. I guess I see this more as I am where I am now. But life is constantly moving forward, so for each generation the ‘old days’ are not the same for every one of us. A little while ago I saw the question raised as to what exactly are the ‘old days’ and it got me thinking, because of course time itself is passing by at a steady rate for us here on Earth, and is what I would describe as inexorable in that it keeps on keeping on. I’m happy that it is! Except each generation has its own time frame, so we cannot put a fixed definition on when the ‘old days’ were. Because for me, they were the sixties and seventies, but to others they are not. I really enjoy watching some of the quiz shows that are on television and many contestants are now saying “Well, that was before I was born…” and I seriously wonder what they were learning at school! Having said that, nowadays I make extensive use of the Internet whereas many years ago I would have consulted various books. How ever did we manage before the days of personal computers and mobile phones! I am at present residing in a Care Home, it is the best place for me after my heart problem and Covid-19. Our lives carry on, new generations are created, with new ideas too. But the more we can work together, then life as a whole can and will improve, for more and more of us and for this Earth. One thing I do remember though is that care should be taken when dealing with others. I may see or hear things that disturb or upset me but if I say nothing, few people know. Thoughts cannot generally be read or shared, although there are those who know me well and they realise when I am not pleased with something or someone! I watched the tv celebrations the other day of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and understandably the Queen did not attend one of them. But very many of her family did and many tv cameras watched as they were presented to the various members of the cathedral. At one point I saw one person give what seemed to me to be a very disparaging glance to one of the royals, it was only for an instant but to me it was there and it proves how facial expressions can be so telling, even if we don’t mean to show our feelings! But life goes on, it is real and I think we should enjoy it as best we can. An essential point to this is something I learned from Srinivas Arka, which is whilst words may be misinterpreted or misunderstood, whether by accident or design, a smile is universal greeting from a warm heart. Also, we should always be learning from the past, living in the present and looking to the future with a smile.

This week… a memory.
For me train journeys can be fun, but also a little frustrating when problems occur and I have tried to do my best at remaining calm about events over which I have absolutely no control because that is a waste of time, effort and energy. Perhaps one of the most difficult ones for me was travelling to work one particular day from Chesterfield station via Derby to Birmingham New Street, which I did regularly for several years. The train had just pulled out of Tamworth station, only to stop and we were told that the goods train just ahead of us had broken down. For some reason we could not reverse back to Tamworth and take a different route, but had to simply wait until the track ahead was cleared enough for our train to proceed safely. We sat and waited for what seemed like ages until the goods service was moved and the track cleared, except even then we were rerouted around the north of Birmingham and entered New Street station on a different line! It meant that I was very late getting to work, it was also before the days of mobile phones so I couldn’t phone my boss to let him know! However, others had had similar delays so it wasn’t just me. My boss realised I hadn’t simply overslept, though some of my colleagues did tease me a little!

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II was born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary on 21 April 1926 and is the present Queen of the United Kingdom and fourteen other Commonwealth realms. She was born in Mayfair, London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. A while later the duke then became King George VI, whilst the duchess became Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 to 6 February 1952. After her husband died, she was known as ‘Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’, and this was to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, whose father had acceded to the throne in 1936 upon the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, making Elizabeth the heir presumptive. Elizabeth was educated privately at home and began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). In November 1947 she married Philip Mountbatten, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, and their marriage lasted 73 years until Philip’s death in Windsor Castle at the age of 99 on the morning of 9 April 2021, just two months before his 100th birthday. They had four children; Charles, Prince of Wales, Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. When her father died in February 1952 Elizabeth, then 25 years old, became Queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries as well as Head of the Commonwealth. Significant events include her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees. To celebrate her Platinum jubilee this year there will be an extra bank holiday and the usual Spring bank holiday is moved from the end of May to the start of June to create a four-day Jubilee bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June.

Her Majesty the Queen during her visit in 2015 to HMS Ocean in Devonport at a ceremony to rededicate the ship.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born on 21 April 1926, during the reign of her paternal grandfather, King George V. Her father, the Duke of York (later King George VI) was the second son of the King. Her mother, the Duchess of York was the youngest daughter of Scottish aristocrat Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Elizabeth was named Elizabeth after her mother, Alexandra after her paternal great-grandmother who had died six months earlier and Mary after her paternal grandmother. Called ‘Lilibet’ by her close family, based on what she called herself at first, she was cherished by her grandfather, George V, whom she affectionately called ‘Grandpa England’ and during his serious illness in 1929 her regular visits were credited in the popular press and by later biographers in raising his spirits and aiding his recovery. Elizabeth’s only sibling, Princess Margaret, was born in 1930. The two princesses were educated at home under the supervision of their mother and their governess, with lessons concentrating on history, language, literature, and music. During her grandfather’s reign, Elizabeth was third in the line of succession to the British throne behind her uncle Edward and her father, so although her birth generated public interest she was not expected to become queen, as Edward was still young and likely to marry and have children of his own, who would precede Elizabeth in the line of succession. When her grandfather died in 1936 and her uncle succeeded as Edward VIII, she became second in line to the throne, after her father. Later that year, Edward abdicated following his proposed marriage to the divorced socialite Wallis Simpson which provoked a constitutional crisis. As a result, Elizabeth’s father became king, taking the regnal name of George VI and since Elizabeth had no brothers, she became heir presumptive. Elizabeth’s parents toured Australia and New Zealand in 1927, then in 1939 they toured Canada and the United States but Elizabeth remained in Britain since her father thought her too young to undertake public tours. She ‘looked tearful’ as her parents departed. They corresponded regularly and she and her parents made the first royal transatlantic telephone call on 18 May.

HRH Princess Elizabeth in ATS uniform, April 1945.

In September 1939, Britain entered the Second World War. Lord Hailsham suggested that Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret should be evacuated to Canada to avoid the frequent aerial bombings of London by the Luftwaffe but this was rejected by their mother, who declared, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave. In 1940, the 14-year-old Elizabeth made her first radio broadcast during the BBC’s Children’s Hour, addressing other children who had been evacuated from the cities. She stated: “We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well”. In 1943, Elizabeth undertook her first solo public appearance on a visit to the Grenadier Guards, of which she had been appointed colonel the previous year. As she approached her 18th birthday, parliament changed the law so she could act as one of five Counsellors of State. These are senior members of the British royal family to whom the monarch can delegate and revoke royal functions through letters patent under the Great Seal, to prevent delay or difficulty in the dispatch of public business in the case of their illness (except total incapacity) or of their intended or actual absence from the United Kingdom. This was done in the event of her father’s incapacity or absence abroad, such as his visit to Italy in July 1944. In February 1945, she was appointed as an honorary second subaltern in the ATS, she trained as a driver and mechanic and five months later was given the rank of honorary junior commander. Then on Victory in Europe (VE) Day, Elizabeth and Margaret mingled incognito with the celebrating crowds in the streets of London. Elizabeth said later in a rare interview, “We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised… I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief”. She went on her first overseas tour in 1947, accompanying her parents through southern Africa. In a broadcast to the British Commonwealth on her 21st birthday, she made the following pledge: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Posing for photographs at Buckingham Palace with new husband Philip after their wedding, in 1947.

Elizabeth met her future husband, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, in 1934 and 1937. After another meeting at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth in July 1939, Elizabeth, though only thirteen years old, said she fell in love with Philip and they began to exchange letters. She was 21 when their engagement was officially announced on 9 July 1947. The engagement was not without controversy however, as Philip had no financial standing, was foreign-born (though a British subject who had served in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War) and had sisters who had married German noblemen with Nazi links. Some biographies reported that Elizabeth’s mother had reservations about the union initially, and teased Philip but in later life the Queen Mother told a biographer that Philip was “an English gentleman”. Before the marriage, Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles, officially converted from Greek Orthodox to Anglican and adopted the name of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, taking the surname of his mother’s British family. Just before the wedding, he was created Duke of Edinburgh and granted the style ‘His Royal Highness’. Elizabeth and Philip were married on 20 November 1947 at Westminster Abbey and they received 2,500 wedding gifts from around the world. Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, on 14 November 1948. One month earlier, the King had issued letters patent to allow her children to use the style and title of a royal prince or princess, to which they otherwise would not have been entitled as their father was no longer a royal prince. Their second child, Princess Anne, was born in 1950. Following their wedding, the couple leased Windlesham Moor near Windsor Castle until July 1949, when they took up residence at Clarence House in London. At various times between 1949 and 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh was stationed in the British Crown Colony of Malta as a serving Royal Navy officer. He and Elizabeth lived intermittently in Malta for several months at a time in the rented home of Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten. Their children remained in Britain.

Coronation portrait of Elizabeth II with husband Philip in 1953.

King George VI’s health declined during 1951, and Elizabeth frequently stood in for him at public events. In October 1951, when she toured Canada and visited President Harry S Truman in Washington, D.C. her private secretary carried a draft accession declaration in case the King died whilst she was there. In early 1952, Elizabeth and Philip set out for a tour of Australia and New Zealand by way of Kenya and on 6 February 1952, they had just returned to their Kenyan home after a night spent at the Treetops hotel when word arrived of the death of the King and consequently Elizabeth’s immediate accession to the throne. Philip broke the news to the new queen. She chose to retain Elizabeth as her regnal name, she was therefore called Elizabeth II, which offended many Scots, as she was the first Elizabeth to rule in Scotland. She was proclaimed queen throughout her realms and the royal party hastily returned to the United Kingdom. She and the Duke of Edinburgh moved into Buckingham Palace. As a result of her accession, it seemed probable the royal house would bear the Duke of Edinburgh’s name, in line with the custom of a wife taking her husband’s surname on marriage. The Duke’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, advocated the name ‘House of Mountbatten’ and Philip suggested ‘House of Edinburgh’, after his ducal title. However the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and Elizabeth’s grandmother, Queen Mary, favoured the retention of the House of Windsor and so on 9 April 1952 Elizabeth issued a declaration that ‘Windsor’ would continue to be the name of the royal house. The Duke complained, “I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children”. In 1960, after the death of Queen Mary in 1953 and the resignation of Churchill in 1955, the surname Mountbatten-Windsor was adopted for Philip and Elizabeth’s male-line descendants who do not carry royal titles. Despite the death of Queen Mary on 24 March 1953, the planned coronation on 2 June that year went ahead, as Mary had asked before she died. The ceremony in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of the anointing and communion, was televised for the first time. At her instructions, Elizabeth’s coronation gown was embroidered with the floral emblems of Commonwealth countries. Elizabeth gave birth to her third child, Prince Andrew, in 1960, which was the first birth to a reigning British monarch since 1857. Her fourth child, Prince Edward, was born in 1964.

In 1977, Elizabeth marked the Silver Jubilee of her accession. Parties and events took place throughout the Commonwealth, many coinciding with her associated national and commonwealth tours and these celebrations re-affirmed the Queen’s popularity. But it was in a speech on 24 November 1992, to mark her Ruby Jubilee on the throne that Elizabeth called 1992 her ‘annus horribilis’, or horrible year. Republican feeling in Britain had risen because of press estimates of the Queen’s private wealth, which were contradicted by the Palace, and reports of affairs and strained marriages amongst her extended family. In March, her second son, Prince Andrew, and his wife Sarah separated and in April, her daughter Princess Anne divorced Captain Mark Philips. Then in November, a large fire broke out at Windsor Castle, one of her official residences. The monarchy came under increased criticism and public scrutiny. In an unusually personal speech, the Queen said that any institution must expect criticism, but suggested it be done with “a touch of humour, gentleness and understanding”. On the eve of the new millennium, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh boarded a vessel from Southwark, bound for the Millennium Dome. Before passing under Tower Bridge, the Queen lit the National Millennium Beacon in the Pool of London using a laser torch and shortly before midnight she officially opened the Dome. During the singing of Auld LangSyne, the Queen held hands with the Duke and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It was in 2002 the Queen marked her Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of her accession. Her sister and mother had died in February and March respectively and the media speculated on whether the Jubilee would be a success or a failure. She again undertook an extensive tour of her realms, beginning in Jamaica in February, where she called the farewell banquet “memorable” after a power cut plunged the King’s House, the official residence of the governor-general, into darkness. In the same way as 1977, there were a great many street parties and commemorative events, also monuments were named to honour the occasion. One million people attended each day of the three-day main Jubilee celebration in London and the enthusiasm shown for the Queen by the public was greater than many journalists had anticipated.

Visiting Birmingham in July 2012 as part of the Diamond Jubilee tour.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 marked her sixty years on the throne and celebrations were held throughout her realms, the wider Commonwealth and beyond. She and her husband undertook an extensive tour of the United Kingdom, whilst her children and grandchildren embarked on royal tours of other Commonwealth states on her behalf. On 4 June, Jubilee beacons were lit around the world. During a tour of Manchester as part of her Jubilee celebrations, the Queen made a surprise appearance at a wedding party at Manchester Town Hall, which then made international headlines. In November, the Queen and her husband celebrated their Sapphire wedding anniversary, their 65th and it was on 18 December she became the first British sovereign to attend a peacetime cabinet meeting since George III in 1781. The Queen, who had opened the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, also opened the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London, making her the first head of state to open two Olympic Games in two countries. For the London Olympics, she played herself in a short film as part of the opening ceremony, alongside actor Daniel Craig as James Bond. On 4 April 2013 she received an honorary BAFTA for her patronage of the film industry and was called “the most memorable Bond girl yet” at the award ceremony.

Official opening of the Borders Railway in 2015.

The Queen, pictured in 2015 on the day she became the longest-reigning British monarch to date and in her speech, she said she had never aspired to achieve that milestone. She had surpassed her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria on 21 December 2007 to become the longest-lived British monarch and the longest-reigning British monarch, also the longest-reigning queen regnant and the longest-reigning female head of state in the world. She became the oldest current monarch after King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died on 23 January 2015 and she later became the longest-reigning current monarch and the longest-serving current head of state following the death of King Bhumibol of Thailand on 13 October 2016, also the oldest current head of state on the resignation of Robert Mugabe on 21 November 2017. On 6 February 2017, she became the first British monarch to commemorate a Sapphire Jubilee and on 20 November she was the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum wedding anniversary. Philip had retired from his official duties as the Queen’s consort in August 2017.

A virtual meeting in 2021 with Dame Cindy Kiro following the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 19 March 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United Kingdom, the Queen moved to Windsor Castle and sequestered there as a precaution. All public engagements were cancelled and Windsor Castle followed a strict sanitary protocol. On 5 April, in a televised broadcast watched by an estimated 24 million viewers in the UK, she asked people to “take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return; we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” And on 8 May, the 75th anniversary of VE Day, in a TV broadcast at 9:00pm (the exact time at which her father George VI had broadcast to the nation on the same day in 1945) she asked people to “never give up, never despair”. In October, she visited the UK’s Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory in Wiltshire, her first public engagement since the start of the pandemic. On 4 November, she appeared masked for the first time in public, during a private pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, to mark the centenary of his burial. Prince Philip died on 9 April 2021 after 73 years of marriage, making Elizabeth the first British monarch to reign as a widow or widower since Victoria. She was reportedly at her husband’s bedside when he died, and remarked in private that his death had “left a huge void”. Due to the restrictions in place in England at the time, the Queen sat alone at Philip’s funeral service, which evoked sympathy from people around the world. In her Christmas broadcast that year, she paid a personal tribute to her “beloved Philip”, saying, “That mischievous, inquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him”. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee began on 6 February 2022, marking 70 years since she acceded to the throne on her father’s death. She held a reception for pensioners, local Women’s Institute members and charity volunteers on the eve of the date at Sandringham House. In her Accession Day message, Elizabeth renewed her commitment to a lifetime of public service, which she originally made in 1947. The Queen does not intend to abdicate, although Prince Charles has begun to take on more of her duties as she grows older and begins carrying out fewer public engagements. The popularity of the monarchy remains high during the Jubilee, as a poll conducted in March 2022 has revealed.

Personal flag of Elizabeth II.

With all that is going on at this time to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, I wanted to find some particular words to write, perhaps about all that has happened to us all in the last seventy years and I have found the following. It written by a good friend and I copy it with grateful thanks.
“The wisdom that I learn as getting old is to be simple: accept mistakes if I do something wrong, although it gives me severe pain at the moment, spend time reflecting on it, and ask for forgiveness, instead of giving hundreds of psychological excuses to myself and others which sometimes numbs our moral sense. I rather found this gives me much freedom not lingering around the memories from the past but letting me fully live in the present moment. The advancement of psychology seems to help our understanding of human behaviours better, but the basics do not age.”

I end this week with a favourite of mine.
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our
purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.” ~ Australian Aboriginal Proverb

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