Kendal Castle

After we’d finished looking around the exhibitions at Abbot Hall, as it was a bright sunny day, we decided to wander up to Kendal Castle, which is a short walk, over the road and up a hill, from the gallery.

The Castle was built in the early 12th Century on a glacial hill left behind from the last ice age, to the east of the town. It was more of a fortified manor house  for the local barons, than a military stronghold, but it would have dominated the town, looking over it from it’s prominent high position. And it would have been a potent symbol of their wealth and power.

The most well known family to be barons of Kendal were the Parr’s, whose most famous member was Katherine Parr, the sixth and last Queen of Henry VIII. Although some locals claim that Katherine was born in the castle this seems unlikely as it was no longer the family’s main residence at the time she was born.

On a fine day, there’s normally a great view over the nearby Lakeland fells, but although there was a beautiful blue sky the hills weren’t really visible. They were covered by cloud that drifted over to Kendal later in the afternoon. But the light was good while we were by the castle it I was able to get some decent snaps.

Afterwards we wandered down into Kendal town centre and warmed ourselves with a hearty bowl of soup at Baba Ganoush (our first visit, and it was very good indeed)

before having a browse in Waterstones and picking up a bit of shopping in Booths.

On the water


My original motivation for arranging my break in North Wales was to try out Sea Kayaking. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long, long time so earlier this year I booked myself on a two day introductory course with Sea Kayaking Anglesey.

It was a fine day, hot (but not too hot) and sunny, although there was a stiff breeze. Our small group of 4 (there are only ever 5 places on these courses) met up with our instructor, Phil Clegg, for an initial briefing and to get to know each other. He showed us how to check out the sea conditions and due to the breeze the sea was going to be fairly rough so as novices he’s decided we should go to a sheltered section of water, the Inland Sea, a short drive away.

We loaded up the kayaks on to the trailer and gathered together our gear. Sea Kayaking Anglesey provide the essentials of wetsuit, cagoule, buoyancy aid and spray deck.

Arriving at our destination we unloaded the kayaks and got kitted up and after a quick run through of the essentials we got in our kayaks and launched onto the water. WE were soon paddling away and Phil told us how to handle turning, and paddling into the wind and with it behind us. Surprisingly, the latter was the most difficult.


By the end of the day we were beginning to get the hang of paddling and manoeuvring our kayaks. Our final lesson was what to do in the event of a capsize – how to rescue a fellow kayaker.  One of our group volunteered to capsize while another performed the rescue.  The lesson was needed as a couple of the group managed to capsize for real later on.

We finished the day by paddling through some rougher water under a bridge. I was amazed that I coped and didn’t capsize! We then had to get our kayaks out of the water and back on to the trailer, trying to avoid getting killed by traffic in the process! Then it was back to base for a final briefing and some lessons on tides.

I had a aches in a few places, but I slept well that night in my Pod!

The wind picked up during the night and the next morning Phil told us that it was too rough to go out on the open sea, but gave us the option of a day on Llyn Padarn, a lake near Llanberis. We opted to do that so we loaded up the trailer, gathered our gear together and drove onto the mainland and up the Llanberis Pass.

It was disappointing not to get out onto the sea, but we had fun paddling the full length of the lake and getting more experience on how to handle the Kayak in different water and wind conditions. I was surprised how much they varied across the lake. We learned a few more techniques including “edging” to turn the kayak.


This time it was my turn to capsize (accidentally!!). But the water wasn’t cold and with expert instruction from Phil I was rescued and somehow managed to get myself back into the kayak in one piece.


After paddling around for a little longer we landed, changed and loaded up the trailer before driving back to base for a coffee and final briefing. Then it was time for the familiar drive back home from Holyhead.

It had been a good few days adventure, walking and trying out some new things. Despite not getting out on the sea the second day  kayaking , I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I’m keen to give it another go with the “Intromediary” course. Hopefully I won’t have forgotten the lessons learned during the weekend!

Roy Lichtenstein in Focus at Tate Liverpool


While we were visiting Tate Liverpool we called in to have a look at the exhibition of works by the well known American “Pop artist” Roy Lichenstein on the second floor of the Gallery. One of the “Artist’s Room” series of exhibitions, it includes

20 works charting Roy Lichtenstein’s (1923–1997) early interest in landscape to his iconic pop paintings influenced by comic strips and advertising imagery

Works on show include his well known screen printing style paintings Whaam! (1963), which has recently undergone a restoration


and In the Car (1963)





Lichtenstein was interested in reflections and in his painting In the Car he’d incorporated  reflections on glass in his composition and Waterlilly pond with reflections (1992) he’d printed on a stainless steel panel


I also liked a couple of works where he’d used a shiny plastic material to create a simple seascape, and, in the following example a Moonscape (1965).


and I rather liked his take on Monet’s Haystacks


Rivington and Winter Hill


The Monday after my break in Coniston was a beautiful sunny day. I was back in work but after I’d caught up with emails and finished all the more urgent tasks, I decided it was too nice to stay indoors so finished a couple of hours early to get out on the moors. A 20 minute drive and I was in Rivington and putting on my boots.

I’d parked up between the two barns (Great House Barn and Rivington Hall barn) and had planned a route that would take me over Rivington Pike and then on to the top of Winter Hill. My starting point was in Lever Park, an area of countryside and moorland that used to be owned by Lord Lever (of Sunlight soap, Port Sunlight and Unilever fame) and which he had converted into a private park with  terraced gardens on the side of Rivington Pike, with water features, a Japanese garden with pool.


Setting off, I passed Rivington Hall and Rivington Hall Barn

Rivington Hall is a Grade II* listed building which was originally the manor house for the Lords of the Manor of Rivington. Behind the hall is Rivington Hall Barn, the larger of the two oak cruck barns on the estate.

I took one of the paths that would take me through the terraced Gardens and then on tot he top of the Pike.


After climbing up through the gardens, the summit of the Pike came into view


A  short steep climb and I was on the top


The summit is 1,191 feet high and was the site of one of a series of early warning beacons spanning England created in the 12th Century. The tower is a Grade II listed building, which was completed in 1733.

I took in the  views over the Rivington and Anglezarke reservoirs


towards Winter Hill with its television and communication masts


and across the open moorland towards Great Hill


After a brief rest I set off towards my next objective, the top of Winter Hill via Pike Cottage and Two Lads, a small summit on the flanks of the main bulk of Winter Hill.


There’s the large cairn on the top, dead ahead


and a view back towards Rivington Pike


Just a brief stop to take in the views then it was on towards the TV mast, which meant walking along a short stretch of tarmac


Getting closer to the summit


I wouldn’t fancy taking a ride in this cage that workers use to carry out maintenance on the mast


Winter Hill at 1,496 feet is the highest point on the moors. The TV Mast, which came into service in 1956, can be seen for miles around.

Carrying on past the mast, I passed Scotsman’s stump which commemorates a murder that took place on the moor


and then the memorial to a plane crash in 1958. A dangerous place Winter Hill!


I carried on past the other masts


and the trig point


Looking over to Belmont, Darwen Tower and beyond with Pendle Hill in the distance.



I descended the hill, looking out over towards Anglezarke Moor and Great Hill and set off back along the track to Rivington Pike, but diverting a short distance to climb to the summit of Noon Hill  which is the site of a prehistoric burial mound which is a Scheduled Monument.


Back on the track towards the Pike, I reached the Pigeon Tower which is currently being renovated.


I decided to explore the gardens as I’d not been for a while, so took a winding route down hill. Like most locals, I’ve always known the gardens as the “Chinese Gardens”. They’ve fallen into disrepair over the years but are not subject to a major restoration project.


Reaching the bottom of the hill, I decided to extend my walk and take in “Liverpool Castle”.


The replica castle stands on the shore of Lower Rivington Reservoir and is a folly created for Lever. It is meant to look like a “ruin” rather than a complete structure.


I followed the banks of the reservoir back towards the Great House Barn. I could almost have imagined I was back along the shores of Coniston Water!


I soon reached the barn and then it was a short stroll back to the car.


It had been a good, varied walk, across parkland, through hillside gardens, across bleak moorland and along the shore of a lake! And only 20 minutes drive from home.

Spiro and Leveret live in Liverpool

The week after our trip to Amsterdam the “Beast from the East” arrived bringing freezing cold weather and heavy snow. Much of Britain was paralysed as we aren’t geared up to deal with it. A concert by El Brooke’s at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall was cancelled as she was stuck somewhere down south in the snow. But the same evening we drove over to Liverpool for a different concert at the Phil, in their smaller venue, the Music Room. We had tickets for a concert by Two instrumental folk bands, Spiro and Leveret, the first date of their national tour. The north west was lucky in that although it was bitterly cold, we only had a smattering of snow. So our journey over to Liverpool was uneventful. Less so probably from the bands who’d driven up from the south (Spiro are based in Bristol) and the next date of their tour, in Settle in the Yorkshire Dales, had been cancelled due to the snow over there.

I discovered Spiro when a track of theirs was played on the Cerys Matthews show on BBC6 Music and since then I’ve been a fan. So I was keen to see them live.

In Liverpool they were on first, with their minimalist take on traditional tunes. The four piece – fiddle, mandolin, accordion and guitar, take a traditional tune as a starting point then weave complex riffs and melodies around it. Although the accordion player largely stays seated occasionally standing up, the other three prowl around the stage, at times duelling musically with each other.

Leveret are also accomplished musicians who play traditional tunes. A three piece – a fiddle a squeezebox and an accordion – staying seated throughout their set, they’re much less animated, except for the fiddler whose legs move almost like he has ants in his pants! Their approach to the tunes is different than Spiro, more traditional.

Both sets were excellent and I especially enjoyed seeing Spiro playing live.

As an encore both groups returned to the stage to play together.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment. We stepped back out into the cold. Some snow had fallen while we were inside the venue but hadn’t stuck on the road. Driving home down the M62 and M6 it started to snow. But we got off lightly. It had gone by the morning when I had to drive to Chester.

UCG by Degrees


The reason I was visiting Galway was to deliver a talk and a workshop at the University – NUI Galway. It’s situated on a very pleasant campus, not far from the city centre and although the University’s buildings are mainly relatively new, there’s a grand Tudor Gothic style Quadrangle, modelled on Oxford’s Christ Church college.

Near to the Quad, I found another plaque from the Galway Poetry Trail with a poem by Terry McDonagh


Red Star Over Russia


November 7  2017 marked the centenary of Russia’s October Revolution when the workers and peasants overthrew the oppressive Tsarist regime. The apparent contradiction arising as Russia at that time still used the Julian Calendar which was several days behind the Gregorian calendar used in the West so as far as the Russians were concerned the date was 25 October.  This exhibition at Tate Modern featuring posters, prints, photographs and other images collected by the photographer and graphic designer David King, who died only recently in 2016, is meant to mark the historic event.

The Revolution started with great hope and optimism about creating a new kind of Society, unleashing enormous creativity by artists who supported its aims. Sadly in the face of counter revolutionary forces supported by the west the early idealism turned sour leading to the vicious dictatorship of Josef Stalin.

David King collected over 250,000 books, journals, posters, documents and newspapers dating from the Russian Revolution to the Khrushchev era which were acquired by the Tate just before his death. A cross section of the collection is included in this exhibition, which uses them to give visitors a glimpse of life in the Soviet Union during this period. As the Guardian’s review puts it, it’s

a condensed vision of five decades of Soviet hopes ending in devastation and despair.


I’m not going to attempt a full survey or critique of the exhibition but, as photography was allowed, here’s some of my favourites from the items on display.

From the early optimisitic days of the Revolution, the first room included this banner


and a wall covered with prints and posters



which included El Lissitzky‘s well known Supremacist poster Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1919)

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The red triangle driving into a white disc against a black ground, urging the revolutionary Bolsheviks to defeat the reactionary White Russians. 

Underneath, this imaginative work – a photomontage making up a hammer and sickle by Yakov Guminer

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The next room was my favourite with the photographs and graphic work by Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky both of who also produced works in collaboration with their wives, Varvara Stepanova and Sophie Küppers respectively.

There were a number of extraordinarily brilliant ground breaking photographs by Rodchenko


and a series of abstract graphic works by El Lissitzky


There were also examples of the journal, USSR in Construction, to which both couples contributed photomontage and other design elements.


In the next room the walls were lined with a series of photographs providing snapshots of the history of Russia from 1905 until WWII.

Unfortunately the period of experimentation and radical art didn’t last long. 1934 saw the dawn of “Socialist Realism”, the Stalinist State dictating that artists should use realist styles to create highly optimistic depictions of Soviet life. There was a typical example of this in the next room with a series of large paintings by Alexander Deineka  produced for the 1937 International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life in Paris, portraying   which “fused reality with aspiration”.

The next room brought us back down to Earth. Here there were “before and after” photographs showing us how leaders and other individuals who fell out of favour with the Stalinist regime were “erased from history”. And there was a particularly moving display of photos of some of the many hundreds of thousands of people, many of them true Revolutionaries, who were murdered by the Stalinist State.


The final room featured posters and photographs from the period following the German invasion in 1941when artists were mobilised to create propaganda, in some cases reworking images from the early revolutionary period.

I enjoyed looking around the exhibition and was pleased that I’d had the opportunity to catch it before it closed. And I still had an hour or so to spare to look round some of the free displays before I had to leave to catch my train.