Category Archives: Wonders

Castles in the Air?


I really am a frustrated Real Estate Agent who loves to find different buildings for sale around the world.

Several months ago while browsing, or as my sister calls it noodling, around the internet I came across a water tower for sale in the village of Burton Green some 8 miles from Coventry.  I wrote a blog about it and remembered it today when I came across the British Water Tower Appreciation Society’s blog giving notice of the AGM to be held on Monday 24th September 2012 at 7.30 pm.

British Water Tower Appreciation Society Logo

According to the notice the formal business was to be followed by “virtual tour around North Norfolk’s water towers, including photographs of several that are no longer standing. Many that you will not have seen and that will not be published due to security or copyright.”

And again today, I had some time to  spare and I browsed around the internet for any other properties of interest, for sale or otherwise.  And I came across Caerlaverock Castle.

Our friends at Wikipedia tell us:

Caerlaverock Castle is a moated triangular castle, built in the 13th century, in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve area at the Solway Firth, south of Dumfries in the southwest of Scotland.
In the Middle Ages it was owned by the Maxwell family. Today, the castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and is a tourist attraction and popular wedding venue. It is protected as a scheduled monument and as a category A listed building.

So then I wondered whether there were other triangular castles or buildings around the world and I found

  • Butrint’s Triangular Fortress on the bank of the Vivari Channel. Built sometime after 1490, the fort principally served to protect Butrint’s valuable fisheries; however, the fort’s defences span the technologies of arrows and gunpowder. Based on an uncommon design, with only few equivalents throughout medieval Europe, its form may in part have been dictated by the shape of the island upon which it was constructed.
  • Wewelsburg  is  located in the northeast of Westphalia, Germany, in the village of Wewelsburg  in the Alme Valley. The castle has the outline of a triangle (aerial photo). After 1934 it was used by the SS under Heinrich Himmler and was to be expanded to the central SS-cult-site.   After 1941 plans were developed to enlarge it to the so-called “Center of the World”.  Legend suggests that during the 17th century the castle held thousands of accused witches who were tortured and executed within its walls.
  • Longford Castle is located on the banks of the River Avon south of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England and dates back to the 16th century.  The main building had several floors and was triangular with a round tower in each corner; the three towers representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. There was a chapel, kitchen area, several lounge and sitting rooms, as well as bedrooms. Fresh cold water was pumped to various floors and there were water closets operated with rainwater. And in the grounds were a park, fruit garden and kitchen garden.

And this set me off on another tangent that of the remains of the many and varied castles around the UK, and particularly Scotland, but that will have to wait for another day.

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I
can unlock the door remains to be seen.”
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1832-1888



Stonhenge Aotearoa

We have just had a holiday weekend here in New Zealand and instead of going away with the crowds, we decided to leave on Monday when most people were returning home and so have a peaceful time away from the city.

On one day we took ourselves off to Stonehenge Aotearoa.  Even though it shares its name this is not a copy of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK as the kindly lady on duty hastened to tell us.  Instead it is designed specifically for its location and as a centre for science education.  We are told that it is “a fully working star compass specifically designed for its geographic location”.

It was a very overcast, windy day up on the plain and my amateur photos cannot do justice to the place.StonehengeThis structure is a gigantic clock and calendar.  In addition to demonstrating the changing altitude of the midday sun over the year, it also identifies the current date, the times of the solstices and equinoxes and the precise time of local noon. It also reveals things that we cannot see – the ever-changing length of a day (due to the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit) and, where the sun would be seen if you could view it from space – the constellation it would appear to be moving through.  It also identifies the time of solar conjunctions with bright stars.
Source – Stonehenge Aotearoa website.

The Analemma records the movement of the sun and also demonstrates the signs of the Zodiac.  Unfortunately my I-pod camera could not record the whole length of the Analemma which has all twelve star signs along its length.We are told that many people who read their horoscopes in the popular media are following their wrong star sign.  At an earlier visit I was told that rather than being a Pisces I was in fact an Aries.

Bronze centrepiece

At the centre of the henge is a bronze compass rose marked with the cardinal points.

This was a particularly fascinating place to visit.  It’s located off the beaten track but well worth the effort of going there.The first time I went we joined a guided tour of the property and this is what I would suggest to anyone considering a visit.

As I can’t begin to do justice to this fascinating place, I direct you to this Youtube clip and of course,  the website.  I hope you enjoy your visit.

The Godwits Are Here

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.” ~ William Blake (1757-1827)

Godwits en route

Photo by Bob Gill.

We know it’s spring here when the first Bar-tailed Godwits appear in the South Island.  The Bar-tailed Godwit is the holder of the longest non-stop flight by birds covering about 11,000 km from Alaska to New Zealand. And then at the end of our summer, they do the return flight, another 11,000 km back to Alaska to breed.

In preparation for this long, non-stop flight to New Zealand, that can take as many as 10 days, the birds stock up on fat during the early fall in Alaska.  They use their pencil-thin bills to gorge on tiny clams, the size of a fingernail, found in the mudflats of south-west Alaska.

They put on so much fat that their body shape is totally changed before they start their journey and according to Bob Gill, who studies shorebirds at the USGS Science Centre in Anchorage, “They probably use all of that fat and then burn protein (muscle) for added energy.”

Gill and his counterparts in New Zealand and Australia, have been tracking the flights of these birds for several years.  They have proved that the birds make their migratory flights without stopping as in an experiment two years ago, they implanted satellite transmitters into several of the birds.   And they say that no other creature has ever demonstrated such a feat of endurance.  Read more about these birds at the Alaska Science Forum

Christchurch Cathedral Before 22.02.11

Christchurch Cathedral after 22.02.11

Christchurch Cathedral on 22.02.11

Traditionally, when the birds are first seen in the South Island of New Zealand, usually in the second or third week of September, the bells of Christchurch Cathedral ring out to welcome them.  However, because of the major earthquake in February, the bells are out of commission and this year the bells of another church in Christchurch were rung.

So the headlines in the Christchurch Press today read The arrival of the  Godwits in Christchurch has been marked by the bells of St Paul’s Anglican Church this year.”

The organiser of the bell-ringing at St Paul’s, Bill Thew, says the church’s bells are similar to those at the cathedral and it takes eight people to toll them. He also said that the church had suffered some damage in the earthquake but the bell tower is unscathed.

As an aside, does Sarah Palin claim the Godwits as part of her constituency of voters?

At about the same time that the Godwits were seen, another visitor was arriving some 360 km to the south.  And the bells rang out in Dunedin, marking the arrival of a Royal Albatross (tagged and named Rob ) at the world’s only mainland breeding colony at Taiaroa Head.

It was the second year running that Rob was the first springtime arrival.

“After spending almost a year at sea and with most birds circumnavigating the southern hemisphere in that time, arriving back to Taiaroa Head within a few days of their previous arrival date often astounds me,” Department of Conservation ranger Lyndon Perriman told the Otago Daily Times newspaper.












The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Drawings on cave wall

A frieze of horses and rhinos near the Chauvet cave’s Megaloceros Gallery, where artists may have gathered to make charcoal for drawing. Chauvet contains the earliest known paintings, from at least thirty-two thousand years ago.

I have become quite addicted to movie going of recent times.  Just this last week I have seen Oranges and Sunshine, Incendies a French film about twins searching for their father and brother (more on this movie in a later blog) and yesterday I saw The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.  Click here to see the trailer.

The International Film Festival is on at present and we are spoiled for choice.

But back to yesterday’s movie.  It is a documentary about the finding of the cave in 1994 by three spelunkers and it takes us into the cave to see the fantastic drawings made by primitive man; but drawings that are not at all primitive.

Directed and fronted by Werner Herzog. the acclaimed German film director and producer,  it is a powerful insight into a life so far removed from ours in time and distance.  On the subject of the art Herzog says “Art … as it bursts on the scene 32,000 years ago, is fully accomplished. It doesn’t start with ‘primitive scribblings’ and first attempts like children would make drawings,” Herzog says. “It’s absolutely and fully accomplished.”

Herzog was first alerted to these cave drawings by Judith Thurman who wrote about them in her Letter from Southern France in the New Yorker in June 2008.

The cave has been named the Chauvet after one of the three men who discovered it, and it  is in the Ardèche valley in Southern France.  We are told it is about 400 metres long with many huge  chambers. The floor of the cave is littered with archaeological and palaeontological remains, including the skulls and bones of cave bears, which hibernated there, along with the skulls of an ibex and two wolves. The cave bears also left innumerable scratches on the walls and footprints on the ground.

Of particular interest in the movie, is when Dominique Baffier, archaeologist and curator of Chauvet Cave, tours the drawings . Each one tells a story.  She points us to a hand print that clearly shows the owner has a bent little finger on his right hand.  Further into the cave she shows this same print at one of the drawings.

In another mystery, only one human form was drawn. On a rock pendant, the bottom half of a woman with Venus of Willendorf proportions appears. The team mounts its camera on a stick to reveal the upper half of the image for the first time. It is a bison head.

The cave is not open to view and Herzog considers himself particularly lucky to have been given this opportunity.

The 3-D camerawork brings viewers more deeply into the cave. Herzog’s offbeat narration and  metaphysical musings keep the film lively. A sacred feeling is evoked in kinship with the ancients.

Only a small camera and four small, portable panel lights were allowed. Filmed under strict limitations to protect the delicate ecology, the scenes inspire awe.

Pont d'arc Arch

Pont d'Arch Arch below the cav

I have spent all day so far, on the internet fining out more about this cave and the drawings and now I leave it to you to further research if you are interested.

More on the cave by Craig Packer and Jean Clottes – When Lions Ruled France. and here’s a link to the official Chauvet Cave site


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain 

August in New Zealand is deep mid-winter.  Each year, my husband and I would take ourselves off for a few weeks or occasionally months, to get away from the dreary days of winter.  And way back in 1989 we chose to go to Bali in Indonesia.

We had been several times before and had thoroughly enjoyed the place and the charming people of that island.

Paneeda cottages

Paneeda View Hotel, Sanur

We decided on a simple Balinese hotel for one week.  The Paneeda View hotel was recommended to us by our travel agent.  It was set right on the beach and was a lovely, gentle way to start our holiday.

Sengiggi Beach Hotel

Sengiggi Beach Resort, Lombok

 This was to ne followed  by a week at a 4 star resort on Lombok Island (the only resort on the island at that time).

Putri Bali Hotel

Putri Bali Hotel, Nusa Dhua

and a final week at a fantastic hotel at Nusa Dhua.

The Peneeda View Beach Resort in Sanur was idyllic.  Very laid back and charming.  Unfortunately, several years later this area of Bali became infamous for the Bali Bombings that killed 202 people many of them overseas visitors.

However, when we were there it was a lovely, peaceful part of Indonesia in which to holiday.

We had explored the island on previous trips including Ubud the arts centre of the island.  We had seen the rice paddies set in terraces on the high slopes and watched the ducks being herded to market along the streets.

Borobudur temple

So this time we decided to venture further afield to Java.  I had heard of Borobudur the 9th Century Buddhist Temple in Jogjakarta and the biggest in the world.   I knew that it had been constructed as a ten-terraces building and rose to 42 metres.  The first seven terraces are in a square form, two upper terraces are in a circular form and the top terrace is where the huge Buddha statue sits facing west.

One has to walk clockwise from the entrance to the temple to understand the sequence of the stories that early sculptors set into the concrete.

We got up really early to cram as much into our day as possible.  We were told that one simply turns up at the airport – no pre-booking –and boards a plane.  We bought the tickets and were given 2 snack boxes.  Then the plane arrived and the locals rushed to the gate to grab a seat.  We were pushed and shoved and eventually we found two adjacent seats.  The seat back on mine was broken and I had a most uncomfortable journey.

Merpati Airline

via Wikipedia

Merpati is the domestic airline of Bali and I must say I really hoped (and still hope) the maintenance of the engine is better than the maintenance of the interiors.

The hostess passed around small packs of lukewarm ‘juice’ and then we opened the snack packs.  We were each faced with a curled up white bread sandwich and a soft biscuit.  Needless to say neither of us ate that ‘lunch’.

When we left the plane (having left behind the snack packs of course) we were accosted on all sides with noise, people and smells.  Traffic in Java is manic.  Six or seven lanes moving each way, ignoring traffic signals, other traffic and pedestrians.

Jogyakarta traffic

Jogyakarta traffic

But all was forgotten and forgiven when we got our first sight of Borobudur.

Borobudur stoopas

via Wikipedia

What a magical sight and surely this building must rank up there with the pyramids for the sheer scale of what was achieved all those years ago.


Image via Wikipedia

Our guide told us it was is a shrine to Buddha and was built over a period of some 75 years in the 8th and 9th centuries.  Constructed out of an estimated 1,600,000 blocks of volcanic stone, dredged from the river and assembled solely by human labour, and is famed for its 1,500 intricately carved reliefs, covering a total length of five kilometres end-to-end.

The first archaeological study of the site was initiated in 1814 by Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore. First restored in 1907, the monument suffered from neglect and war and was almost rebuilt in the 1970s under the guidance of UNESCO, who designated Borobudur as a World Heritage Site. The massive restoration process involved the removal and refurbishing of over one million blocks, rebuilding the foundation and adding drainage systems.

When we visited one could get inside the temple and also climb the hundreds of steps to the top layer.  Unfortunately, my late husband was unable to climb and so stayed down enjoying the sunshine and the views.

I still think about this magical day.  The return to our hotel was equally as frenetic, but it was all worth it to see this magnificent building.

And now some 22 years later, I still get ‘goose bumps’ when I think about Borobudur.  It ranks with my first sight of the Grand Canyon for sheer, breathtaking beauty.

“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.”
Bill Bryson, American travel author














Are You The Sun or The Wind?


“Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning.  If we don’t it may drench itself out in sorrow” Joan Baez, American Folksinger, Songwriter and Civil Rights Activist.  1941 – 

‘Once upon a time the wind and the sun challenged one another to a competition. They spotted a man walking down the road wearing a heavy overcoat. The winner, they decided would be whichever one of them could get him to take his coat off quickest. The wind went first, it blew and it blew and it blew but he only clutched it more tightly to himself.

The wind

The wind attempts to strip the traveler of his cloak,

While the wind rested, the sun gently sent his beams out upon the traveler. The sun merely quietly shone upon the man’s head and back until he became so warm that he took off his coat and headed for a shade tree nearby.’

The sun

The sun strips the traveler of his cloak

This classic Aesop fable tells us we can accomplish far more with warmth, support and consistent kindness, than we can through conflict, confrontation and assertive intervention. You may be under pressure now, but you have more time than you think. It’s still perfectly possible to go gently.

So what will you be today – the sun or the wind?

More than 200 fables are attributed to  Aesop, a slave and story-teller supposed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE.  The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Aesop – The Lion and the Mouse.

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.  Aesop – The Tree and The Reed.

Note – Illustrations of the fable  by Milo Winter in a 1919 Aesop anthology. Wikipedia

A Major Cleaning Project

The stately homes of England
How beautiful they stand,
To prove the upper classes
Have still the upper hand.
Though the fact that they have to be rebuilt,
And frequently mortgaged to the hilt
Is inclined to take the gilt
Off the gingerbread….. Noel Coward

Would you like the rest of this ditty – click here for the video of Noel Coward singing his own song.

With nothing better to do on a winters Saturday night I turned on the TV.  Imagine my delight to find that there was a BBC program on my very favorite Stately Home in England – Petworth House.

Petworth House

I first heard about Petworth from a former boyfriend.  I think we were both 15 and his Granny lived in Petworth.  A few years later I visited Petworth and saw the splendid house in all its glory.

This late 17th century mansion is set in a deer park artfully created by Capability Brown,  you know Queen Victoria’s gardener/confidante/perhaps lover. They are made to look like they just grew that way.   And we are told that the gardeners at Petworth are charged with keeping the grounds looking as much like they did in Brown’s time as possible.  The deer apparently are multiplying annually and are not culled. They do a lot of damage to the trees and shrubs around the house. But they add a special dimension to the landscape.

The Big Spring CleanIn the program yesterday, the head gardener was interviewed and he spoke of using the paintings as the guide for how the grounds should look. Think of it  – a Turner painting.  He could never have imagined the uses to which his paintings would be put.

We were told that during the winter and spring months when the house is closed to visitors, every room, each piece of artwork, every painting, curtain, hanging and silver ware is cleaned.  They have a veritable army of people employed at this time.

Apparently, all the houses now managed by the National Trust go through this cleaning routine annually.

I have written of Turner and how I love his works.  The largest collection of his paintings anywhere is housed at Petworth House.  I have several large prints purchased from the shop at Petworth that are now framed and hanging in the living room.  If I ever won a huge lottery I would buy a Turner – but where would I put it in my little house?

Of particular interest therefore, when I visited were the Turners.  And last night we were told that in the dining room the Turners were hung low down on the wall so that the 3rd Earl of Egremont could look at the painting of the grounds while sitting at dinner.  He could look at the grounds seen from his dining room window and then turn and see a painting that is a mirror image of those grounds.

During the 3rd Earl’s tenure at Petworth he cultivated and entertained many of the famous artists of the time.  Constable apparently, referred to Petworth House as ‘The House of Art”.

With the BBC we went into the Carved Room.  This is truly magnificent and not to be missed if you ever get to Petworth.Carved room   This room houses the very best examples of Grinling Gibbons work,

According to Wikipedia “Some of the finest examples of Gibbons work accessible to the general public are those on display at the National Trust’s Petworth House in West Sussex, UK. At Petworth the Carved Room is host to a fine and extensive display of intricate wooden carvings by Gibbons.”

Because of the fragility of the wood after so many years, various ways of dusting are being considered.  We were shown an operation involving an air brush and a special cloth funnel attached to a vacuum cleaner to collect the dust.  Of course, a problem with dusting artifacts is that the dust flies through the air to land on other pieces.  The question of whether the dust could just be left was answered with facts about dust attracting damp and insects and thus damaging the carvings even more.

For me the hour-long program was over too soon.  It left me feeling that I have to go back just as soon as possible.  I just love Petworth House,

And from an email I sent to my family from Sussex:

“Petworth is a charming village – another hub of antique shops.  Little cobbled streets, hardly room for cars, and they are all one way as there is absolutely no room for cars to pass each other.
I wandered along and discovered two very old cottages – one called Christmas Cottage and the other Easter Cottage.  Side by side.  No front gardens.   Front doors opening onto the street.   I do think that there must be a step immediately inside each of the front doors otherwise there is no way anybody over the age of 10 (other than a Hobbit) could get through the front door.” 

The Fighting Temeraire

“The fighting Temeraire” – one of the Turner prints in my living room.

Love is in the air


Love is in the air
Everywhere I look around
Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound

And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise
But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

Click to see the JPY’s promo-video for the hit single ‘Love Is In The Air’ (May, 1978), taken from the 1978 album ‘Love Is In The Air’

Happy bride

A bride from my Wedding Coordinator Days

So much has been written already on the subject of the Royal Wedding but I wanted to add a few thoughts from this side of the world.  There are many Royalists in New Zealand, and probably as many anti-Royalists.  But it is amazing how many people watched the spectacle on Friday.

All the magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations were full of The wedding.  And it is still the main topic of conversation among sentimental New Zealanders.

We are told that Kiwis (New Zealanders)  were so inspired by the love story of Prince William and new wife Catherine that they went in search of their own Prince or Princess.

The dating website Find Someone has recorded a 60% increase in people on the site, with a large number of users messaging other singles.

And yesterday while having lunch I eavesdropped on the people nearby.

  • At the next table was a group of young women all of whom had apparently, recently been married.  From their conversation it emerged that they had all got together on Friday, dressed in their wedding finery and had their  own party while they watched the TV coverage.  They weren’t concerned that their official invites hadn’t arrived.  They enjoyed the evening in the comfort of home with a group of like-minded friends.Wedding Invitation
  • In complete contrast, at another table a woman was loudly decrying the waste of taxpayers money spent on this spectacle.  She claimed that the 48million GBP (figure in dispute) could have been better spent on housing the homeless or some other equally deserving cause.  She is certainly entitled to her opinion but how did she think the future King of England was going to celebrate his wedding.  And what about all those people on the spot who celebrated with the young couple.Crowd at Royal Wedding
  • And at another table a group of young women and one man, were discussing the upcoming wedding of one of them.  The excitement and the stress of the planning were quite palpable.  I hope the wedding celebrations work out as well as that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Planning Jigsaw puzzle

  • And there were other weddings taking place on Friday around our City.  I want to wish the happy couples joy and love for the future.

And that’s my take on the Wedding of the Decade.  And my favorite wedding quote from an unknown author –

“I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.”

“How can you think love will end when I’ve asked you to spend your whole life with me”

One Award, One Wedding, Great Celebrations

Versatile blogger

Because of the other world-wide event (clue Will and Kate)  happening on the same day I got my award, I put off the thank you rather than find myself speaking in an empty auditorium.  Seriously though, I am touched that Chris nominated me as one of her 15.  Thank you Chris. Follow  this fascinating and thought-provoking woman at –

Chris was one of the first people to post a comment when I started blogging.  Was that only two months ago?  I feel as if I really know her so well.

Now I am called upon to tell you 7 things about myself.

What would interest you about me?

  1. I am the widow of a very special human being who was my love, my supporter and my mentor for 41 years.  How I miss that man!
  2. I have two great children, who with their spouses and their children give me love and support when most needed.
  3. I am ‘Granma’ to four good-looking, talented grandsons who are growing into fine young men – and no, I am not biased in any way.
  4. I have two sisters, one in London and one in Los Angeles.  Could we have moved further apart?  But emails are great for keeping in touch.
  5. I am English but choose to live in Wellington tagged ‘Coolest little Capital in the World’ by Lonely Planet.
  6. I love to write.  Always have notebook with me.  I unashamedly watch and listen to other people when I am around and about each day.
  7. I have been a Realtor, small business adviser, property developer, commercial property manager and am a certified Life Coach.  All these things have brought me to where I am today.

And if you are not too bored with that list, please read on.

I am also called upon to pass the award on to  15 other bloggers.  And after much soul-searching and thought, the nominees are

Cat with pencil

Photo – Roman Dekan