28 Jan 2013

St. Pancras Station

We went to St. Pancras railway station. And then I remembered I'd come this station a few times at least, because it's the station for Eurostar! We are planning to travel to Europe by train this spring, so it was a sort of a preliminary inspection on the station. We estimated a train-fee using a computer in the ticket office and expanded images of our trip.

The station hosts (a limited time) free photo exhibition; "Urban refugees". The photos by Andrew McConnell, a photographer are displayed all over the station. And I saw painted pianos and some bronze sculptures as well. It's a station but a bit like a museum, you can enjoy seeing artistic works. Sir John Betjeman was an English poet. He had a fondness for Victorian architecture. He is considered instrumental in helping to save the famous façade of St Pancras railway station.

The Meeting Place by Paul Day

Sir John Betjeman





The British Library and Magna Carta

The British Library is the national library of the UK, holding over 150 million items. I'd passed in front of the library by car before, but it was the first time to enter the library. If you go through the main gate, you can see the wide concourse. There is a giant bronze sculpture "Newton after William Blake" by Eduardo Paolozzi.

We browsed books and manuscripts in the general public gallery (The John Ritblat Gallery) and shops. It displays many documents which made and recorded history etc. There were also two 1215 copies of Magna Carta. Magna Carta is the constitutional charter in English law from 1215 onwards, originally issued in Latin. You should check it as it may be on the Life in the UK test:)

By the way, the Government revised the test, set to be introduced in March. Bullshit! I expected it would be changed but didn't expect it will change before I take the test! I've already bought the text book and started to study it. I hope there will not be a major change, but they will focus less on the practicalities of daily living in Britain and more on the nation's culture and past. I feel like throwing eggs and flour to the government!!!

 



Silver Linings Playbook

We saw the film "Silver Linings Playbook" in London. It's an American romantic comedy film. My impression of this film was shouting, shouting, shouting:) The central character has bipolar disorder and heroine was a recovering sex addict. Their friendship is very odd, and you can understand why he has such character, after seeing his family. The film was comical, hilarious and full of humour.  

The St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel

We went to London on Sunday. My husband commutes to London everyday, but it was my first trip to London in a while. I think maybe last October was the last time. Trains from Witham always arrive at London Liverpool Street Station. I've gotten used to this area due to strolling around by myself on several occasions. The station is always crowded but it was not busy because of Sunday morning.


We got a taxi from the station to the British Library. I like to ride on a taxi in London. A taxi always runs through off streets to make short cut, which makes me feel like we are travelling in unfamiliar places, but the drivers' knowledge are really impressive, and they are reliable. 

Our plan was to see St. Pancras Hotel/Station, to go to British Library, to have a lunch and to see a film. The taxi stopped in front of St. Pancras Hotel. Actually it's the next to the Library. As you can see, it's a really amazing hotel. The hotel opened in 2011 after redevelopment. At the same time, the upper floors of the original building were redeveloped as 68 apartments! I wonder who lives there? It was the Midland Grand Hotel between 1873 and 1935, and then used as railway offices named St Pancras Chambers between 1935 and 2011. It is adjacent to St Pancras railway station.


We popped in the hotel, there were neatly-dressed people in the lobby. I felt a bit self-conscious but my husband wandered further into the hotel. There was a restaurant and he said "let's have a breakfast here". We intended to have a breakfast at a cafe around there, but seemed like the beautiful building excited his feeling of curiosity. I said smugly "OK" as a lady, but in my heart, I was excited as a girl jumped up and down with joy:)

After we sit down at the table, there was a breakfast menu with eye-popping price! Wow, expensive! Well, I think it's an average price for this kind of high-class hotels, but was amazing price. Of course, we enjoyed English breakfast with nice service and gorgeous atmosphere, we skipped a lunch though...



25 Jan 2013

Frozen!

When I went shopping, I found frozen drainage from a railway bridge. Brrr, it's so cold outside! The snow on the roads has melted away, but River Walk is still white with snow and well-trodden. 
 

22 Jan 2013

Rutland

The Barnsdale Hall Hotel is located by the north side of Rutland Water (the lake). When the taxi turned the corner, suddenly the gorgeous building caught my eye. The old hall at Barnsdale was originally constructed in 1890 for the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam as a family hunting lodge. It is believed the Barnsdale name was possibly brought from the area of the same name, just north of Doncaster, in South Yorkshire where the Fitzwilliam family had their ancestral estate. After that, the hall passed through the hands of a variety of owners.


Our room was huge and had a big window which overlooks beautiful Rutland Water and a part of Barnsdale Hall building. There were two 3-seat sofas which allow us to enjoy the scenic beauty while relaxing. The bathroom was clean and big as well. It's the perfect place to relax and enjoy the stunning atmosphere! We were in a gleeful mood!


I took a scenic walk before dark. There are many cottages with triangle-shaped roofs around the hotel, but it was off season, there were few people who stayed in this area.  It is so quiet but I could hear a variety of birdsong around me and see some animals. A sheep was watching me with its mystified eyes. And squirrel cut across in front of me.







Wrapped in fresh air, in picturesque snow and frozen scenery in winter and in the tranquillity of nature, we could feel profoundly relaxed.




Rutland Water is the largest man-made lake. It has an interesting shape and is Anglian Water's drinking water reservoir. The peninsula, surrounded on three sides by Rutland Water is called Hambleton, where used to be in three parts; Upper, Middle and Lower (or Nether) Hambleton. In 1976, the flooding of the lower land left just Upper Hambleton and part of Middle Hambleton (now just known as "Hambleton"). It is also called as the "lost village". I am intrigued by the history of this lost village, and I have my mind set on reading this history.

It is thought that Hambleton used to be the capital of the Anglo Saxon kings in Rutland at one time. Hambleton means 'the settlement' (tun) 'on the crooked hill' (Hamble). Rutland has a rather ordinary name "estate of a man called Rota".

In the quiet of the morning, we enjoyed watching daybreak from the window. Clouds covered the sky, but it was beautiful. After the breakfast, we took a stroll. The ducks were strolling too!




We were ensconced on the sofa until a taxi came. It started to snow. We would had loved to stay more, but we left The Barnsdale Hall Hotel. In Oakham, we had time because the first train from Oakham on Sunday is 12:45! We was supposed to go home via London, but changed to assured route due to the snow.

These are our events during the weekend. It was simple but we could get our feast on exuberant wildlife and a beautiful and historical site. It was a really nice trip.

21 Jan 2013

Oakham

The destination for our weekend trip was "Rutland", England's smallest county. The only towns in Rutland are Oakham and Uppingham! It was cold weather and we were worried if trains would be delayed or cancelled, but to tell the conclusion first, everything was fine! We had good luck! We changed trains at Colchester, Norwich, and Ely. In Norwich, we had breakfast at a cafe. 



As we went to remote areas, it became snow deep. The view from the train window was white, white, white - snow scape everywhere. Snow covered everything with white and it was difficult to discern what they were, fields, farmland, park or wasteland... They seemed like white plains that go on forever!!



We got off the train at Oakham station. Oakham is a small market town in Rutland county. The origin of the name Oakham is an exception to the general rule that place names beginning with oak- or oke- have something to do with oak trees. It's the homestead of a long-forgotten man named Occa. We passed an eye-catching school shop. According to information, Oakham School is one of the major English public schools.

We walked around the town and went to the pub "Wheatsheaf" to have a lunch. It was quite a lovely atmosphere. Some local men at the next table were drinking over funny conversation and figuring out the answers to the crossword puzzle in a newspaper . Seemed like it's their routine stuff on weekend.
The house opposite the pub looked old with a thatched roof. Also All Saints Church is located around the corner.

 

On our way back to the station, I found Jeffrey Hudson's Cottage. Who is Jeffrey Hudson, by the way? According to Wikipedia and websites, Jeffrey Hudson (1619- circa 1682) was an English court dwarf, and famous as "Queen's dwarf" at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria. He only grow to a height of 18 inches and remained at that height until he was at least 30. Then he started to grow again but he never exceeded 3 feet 6 inches. The last stage of his life was unremarkable, he was sent to France as a servant, but captured by pirates and spent 25 years as a slave in North Africa before being ransomed back to England. After that he had various ups and downs, and he died in prison.

Jeffrey Hudson's Cottage
The question I had was about horseshoe. I saw many horseshoes anywhere, such as the pub, county flag etc. We didn't visit Oakham Castle nor Rutland County Museum, but the brochure say that royal horseshoes can be seen in side the castle. And I found the answer. Traditionally, members of royalty and peers of the realm who visited or passed through the town had to pay a forfeit in the form of a horseshoe. This unique custom has been enforced for over 500 years! Nowadays it only happens on special occasions though. It's interesting!


Ceremonial horseshoes in Oakham
(picture source; wikipedia)
From the Oakham station, we took a taxi to the Barnsdale Hall Hotel in Rutland where we had a room reserved. To be continued to Rutland.






18 Jan 2013

Weekend Trip

It's a very cold day today and snow lightly here. Snow clouds cover the sky, and looks gray outside. We are going on a trip to somewhere this weekend. Destination? It's a secret, but I'll tell you about this trip next time. I worry whether trains would be OK due to snow. We need to keep watch on the forecast and information of trains. 
Have a nice weekend!

16 Jan 2013

Take a Walk

It was a beautiful clear sky. I enjoyed walking around. There is a bench where I stood, to enjoy the scenic beauty of this old area:) It's one of natural healing therapies, if you have a sick mind.

Cold Wave

The UK has been hit by a cold wave and we had snow on Monday. According to BBC weather forecast, high temperatures will be 1 degrees, overnight lows will be -4 in Witham today. My hometown Sendai gets more snow in winter than Witham, but I feel the air is very cold and sharp here throughout the day. Streets are slippy, I walk like a penguin!


12 Jan 2013

Do You Hear the People Sing?

If you quickly recognise this title, you must be a fan of Les Mis:) Yes, we watched the film of the winter, "Les Miserables". I love this musical. I've already mentioned about it on my Musical page, but I was moved to tears when I saw it at the first time in my life. Music and lyrics are touching, but I also like the epic original novel by Victor Hugo. I am a one of the people who finished his long novel (in Japanese). I think this novel is described very very well about human feelings and lives, and also the historic context of France. This book is as a sort of bible of life for me! (though I call the gossip magazine bible as well...) 

Anyway, every time I see this musical, it brings a lump to my throat in waves. I read the article on BBC about a woman who sees the musical 957 times!!! I am no match for the woman, but I love everything about it too.

In my opinion, I prefer a stage version because of much more a sense of depth, but the film was really great. I wonder if my husband was crying next to me. If you haven't seen it, don't miss it!!!

10 Jan 2013

New Clock

Nothing special, but I bought a clock at Wilkinson. Simple and easily viewable - it's an ideal clock. I like this natural wooden frame very much. I like MUJI products. But this design is a bit MUJI-ish and was cheaper.

8 Jan 2013

Dust Bin

It was the collection day of household waste yesterday. After the collection, our waste bin disappeared. We don't know where it has gone to. Why does it happen? My husband said it had never happened before. He made a phone call to the council and ordered a new one. We decided to put the home number on bins next.

How to collect your waste for recycling in your area or country? Here, there are basically 5 separate refuses, and alternate collect once a week; Recycling (Green Bin, Clear Sacks and Food Bin) and Refuse (Gray Bin and Food Bin).
  • Gray Bin for anything that cannot be recycled or composed
  • Food Waste Bin for food waste
  • Clear Sacks for recycling (papers, plastic, tins)
  • Green Bin for garden waste
  • Recycling Centre for bottle recycling
picture from http://www.braintreeandwithamtimes.co.uk/
 
And also charity shops are popular in the UK. It is quite common for people to use these shops. It's one of the ways to reuse/recycle things.

In Sendai, Japan where I had lived; there are basically 4 separated refuses. Garbage bag is collected every twice a week, and Plastick containers and Packaging bag altinate collect once a week. Cans, bottles and PET bottles is collected once a week and once a month for papers.
  • Garbage Bag for incineration and landfill
  • Plastic Containers and Packaging Bag for recycling
  • Cans, bottles and PET bottles for recycling
  • Paper materials for recycling
  • Bulky waste (charged service)
Detail is here; Sendai, Guide for sorting recyclables and waste, and how to put them out for collection: http://www.city.sendai.jp/kankyou/haikibutsu/f_garbage/index_EN.html
Sendai is one of the cities where environmental conservation awareness is high. Interestingly, Sendai has the character for the garbage reduction campaign; "Wakeru-kun". It is said this character plays a part in the dissemination of environmental conservation awareness for citizens. In fact, Japanese like these kind of characters for events, fairs and projects to economically develop the area. I think Sendai shows clearly and particularly how to sort recyclables and wast with illastlations, as they distribut free promotional booklet.
Retro-flavored poster "Wakeru-kun", meaning Mr. Sorting.
His hair is also "separated" into right and left.
I haven't understood clearly how to sort waste for recycling here. In Essex, it is reported that households are currently recycling and composting over 50% of waste and the council's ambition is to reach a figure of 60% by 2020. I think it's quite a high level!

Broken-Heart

It sometimes happens that you are heart broken by something, doesn't it? I've overcome some difficulties and feelings of despair. I believe I am a patient person, but to be honest, I likely to allow the feeling to linger, like gloomy British weather. On the other day, I received lots, lots of verbal reprimands at work. Yes, I couldn't. I couldn't do well. I admit it, I was as if in a fog, I just had a bad day, but also there were a few things I wasn't satisfied. I've struggled to do my best in a completely different field from the one I worked in around 20 years, with language handicap! I've been sticking to it. But I got heart broken... Anyway, one of girls' magazines said you need three positive thoughts to counter every negative one in order to stay happy. One; we are going to watch the musical film "Les Miserables" this weekend which my favourite. Two; we are planning to trip somewhere next weekend. Three... three... three... what else? I took a walk in the fresh air this morning. Mmm... it was nice but not enough to count as one. At least I need one more positive thing to be happy. But my husband always supports me and I depend on his kindness.

My English teacher said I have no problem for speaking (English). So why can't I speak properly, when it comes down to speak? Always I'm not sure the English what I spoke is correct or not. And I know my shy personality becomes an obstacle as well. Even though I can understand what local people said approximately, but not properly. If I live here much more longer, would the day come which brings me much satisfaction?

5 Jan 2013

Sudbury

We went to Sudbury, a market town in Suffolk by a train. It's located near the Essex border. It is said the market was established in the early 11th century. It's quite a nice town, there are a lot of local shops, but the traffic was terribly busy in the town. The name Sudbury seemed to come from Suthberie, meaning "south-borough", maybe because Norwich or Bury St Edmunds are located to the north.

There is St Peter's Church on Market Hill and statue of Thomas Gainsborough, an English portrait and landscape painter (1727-1788) stand in front of it. To be honest, I don't know about him very much. The building of Library is very magnificent. I thought it's a town hall, but the building was the old Corn Exchange for over 100 years. Inside the library is not remarkable, but the facade is really great.

 

 The Library is on the right. 
 

 
I also found interesting bronze sculptures with numbers on read posts. It say "the Talbot Trail". According to the town brochure, it's for exploring the town for children, but seems be fun for adult as well. You can find 14 sculptures in Sudbury, depicting aspects of the town's past. The walk takes about an hour.
 
I also found a lovely mosaic-decorated house.
 

We had nice coffee and sweets at a local cafe. Every customers there was local people and are acquainted with the owner. He is very particular about every product he serves, from coffee to cheese. And it's a quiet cafe for adults, so no children admitted. We were very satisfied that cafe.

2 Jan 2013

Enjoy a Sunny Day

The sky had been gloomy for a while, but the sun came out after so long on the New Year's day. It was so beautiful. But now it's gloomy again. My new year's resolutions are almost the same as last year, because they are immediate goals for me.
  • concentrate on my study and take exams
  • find and start a new hobby
  • keep reading English books
  • do more exercise
  • worry less, do self-management (become independent mentally), and build my confidence
  • keep being well-groomed
 

1 Jan 2013

A Happy New Year 2013

A HAPPY NEW YEAR to ALL!!
 
design from yubin-nenga.jp
 
The New Year is one of the most important events for Japanese people, more than Christmas. So different from Western culture, Christmas decorations disappear from the streets and houses on the next day of Christmas (we don't have Boxing Day). After Christmas, people (traditionally) do a major housecleaning, cook New Year's dishes, display a New Year's decoration and start to prepare for the New Year.

I haven't established how to celebrate this holiday season; Christmas and New Year as a Japanese who lives in the UK, due to not long after I came here. Actually Christmas was very quiet, more than I expected. Chrismas decorations, table settings and cooking were not enough for me. But that was OK. I am still seeking for my way, between retaining my own culture and adopting British culture.

It's custom to send New Year's postcards to friends and relatives in Japan. You can get blank postcards with allocated numbers at post offices and convenience stores. The numbers are a lottery and you may win prizes (in the middle of January). You also can buy pre-designed cards at stores. Some people buy blank cards and decorate it by themselves, using computer and printer. Design of  Japanese zodiac sign is common.

The Japanese zodiac sign has 12 blocks, which is given a name of an animals based on the ancient Chinese concept, and it's the 12-year cycle. 2013 is the year of the Snake. Snake has a meaning of regeneration and reborn from the image of molting. Wish we can take a further step in the new year. Just to tell you, I was born in the year of the Rat (1972).
  1. Rat (nezumi)
  2. Ox (ushi)
  3. Tiger (tora)
  4. Rabbit (usagi)
  5. Dragon (tatsu)
  6. Snake (hebi)
  7. Horse (uma)
  8. Sheep (hitsuji)
  9. Monkey (saru)
  10. Rooster (tori)
  11. Dog (inu)
  12. Boar (inoshishi)