The largest prehistoric mine in the world

By now you’ve probably realised that Wales has three things aplenty: sheep, castles and mines.
Wales was famous for it’s coal mining throughout the 19th and early 20th century and had substantial slate mines but there had been small-scale mining in the country since the British Iron Age. Gold, copper and lead were mined in substantial quantities, zinc and silver not quite as much, until it wasn’t profitable any more.

I finally got to visit the Great Orme Copper Mines properly this year (with my parents in tow). Located half way up the Great Orme in Llandudno, it is the largest Bronze Age mine in the world and was uncovered in 1987 during a scheme to landscape an area of the Great Orme. Since then it has been an ongoing archaeological project of slowly uncovering bit by bit.

On the surface you can tour parts of the opencast mine which is over 4,000 years old and take a look down a deep Victorian mine shaft.


Walking through the 3,500 year old tunnels you get a feel for the harsh conditions copper mining involved in those days and it always dazzles me what the people of that age were able to accomplish using only stone hammers and bone.

The tunnels take you down to the second level which is approximately 60ft below the surface and it gets really cold and damp down there. If you feel claustrophobic easily this might not be the right place fore you. Only 3% of the tunnels are open to the public at the moment so some follow up visits might be required in the future.

And if you feel like you need some open air afterwards just make your way up to the top of the Great Orme with its stunning view.

Advertisements

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

I like both of these images for very different reason.

In the first one you might wonder where the curve will lead you to and it just shouts “British” to me with the red double-decker bus and the, for me, typical London architecture.

P1160104 copy

Selfridges in Birmingham on the other hand presents a steep contrast to the very straight and pointed spire of the church with its smooth curves and rounded surface.

P1140858

A Victorian day out – Eastham Country Park

Over 100 years ago, she crossed the river by paddle steamer, paid her three pennies and walked up the steps beneath the towering Jubilee Arch, into the Eastham Ferry Pleasure Gardens.

There she saw entertainers on an open air stage, acrobats performing daring feats in the circus ring and listened to music by the bandstand, surrounded by the beautiful fountains and plants of the gardens.
(Copyright Eastham Country Park Sculpture Trail)

Today it is a ‘just’ a lovely wood that provides the perfect surrounding for an afternoon stroll and is loved by dog owners, families and walkers alike. But when I heard that there are the remnants of an old bear pit (though nothing much else) they certainly had my attention.

There is something very satisfying about an autumn afternoon stroll in the woods. The trees show themselves in their best colours, the air has this particular leafy smell that reminds me of jumping into heaps of leaves as a child, squirrels running around to gather their winter supplies, the light is muted and golden and if you’re lucky you can gather some brambles or sweet chestnuts.

I enjoyed all that, that is after I finally found the entrance. It must be one of the worst signposted parks I’ve been to recently, down to a lack of signs after a certain junction. I basically approached it three times from three different directions and just gave up too soon because I thought it couldn’t be right. You could tell the ‘newbies’ apart from the locals by their slow driving, having a confused and somehow lost look on their face. But I made it and it sure was worth it, so that’s all that counts.

Eastham tree wall

The tree almost seemed to desperately ‘cling’ to the wall.

Eastham woods2

Some majestic trees between the old walls and borders.

Eastham fountain

One of the surviving Victorian fountains.

Eastham bench

Obviously you needed a bench to relax and enjoy the fountain. It looks somewhat Victorian but I’m not sure it is.

Eastham bear pit stairs

Entrance to the bear pit.

Eastham bear pit

This pit was once home of two brown bears and designed to look like a cave. Originally it had a dome of railings over the top to keep the bears in and the people out.

Eastham bear pit2

It was tiny!! Thankfully animals in zoos are kept in bigger and more natural enclosures!

Eastham sweet chestnut

Autumn. Gathering sweet chestnuts reminds me of my childhood. I still can’t resist…

Eastham leaf

Unfortunately it wasn’t quite the ‘Indian summer’, just the wrong kind of trees I suppose.

Eastham tree funghi2

A lot of interesting fungi along the way.

Eastham tree funghi

Fungi everywhere, quite big too.

Eastham tree face

Might be just me, but can you spot the face? More like half a skull or something from The Mummy.

Eastham woods

I just love a good forest.

Eastham cabs

Don’t think they do these kind of signs anymore. Shame really.

Eastham ferry house

The old ferry ticket office is a cafe now. Further down is still the old ferry pier.

Eastham Liverpool skyline

View from the ferry pier towards Liverpool.

All is ‘tickety-boo’- Ready Salted?

PrintEveryone who knows me will confirm that I am a lover of crisps (in Germany crisps are actually called chips, and we call chips pommes or fries) but I think I have never eaten that many crisps in all my life combined than I have since moving here a couple of years ago.

Where I grew up, crisps come in large packs and are used as snacks or nibbles at parties or gatherings with friends in the evenings. They are something special that you share and not necessarily something you eat on your own on a daily basis. The most common and popular flavour used to be paprika/pepper with other flavours like cheese & onion or sour cream & chive introduced later on.

But when I moved here I found myself suddenly in ‘crisp heaven’. Because crisps are mainly sold in small packs of 25g/30g it is ok to eat them daily, lets say with your lunch. Or as a snack when out and about. They are sold everywhere, are part of meal deals and the variety of flavours, shapes and ranges is astonishing. There are whole aisles in supermarkets dedicated to this form of potato snack – baked, extra crunchy, crinkled, extra thick, curly, lights, deep ridged, max and this is only for your ‘standard’ crisp, never mind hula hoops, fries etc.

A study by YouGov UK in August 2014 found that there is a strong correlation between age and favourite crisp flavour in the UK. Participants were asked which one out of the four main flavours they’d prefer. Cheese & Onion is the most popular flavour with 31%, but Ready Salted is not far behind with 28%. Salt & Vinegar has 23% and Prawn Cocktail surprisingly just 11%. Turns out though that if you’re 60 years and older, Ready Salted, the favour that has been around the longest, is the preferred choice by a decisive margin. The generation born between the mid-50s and mid-70s most likely have Cheese & Onion (introduced by Golden Wonder in 1962), whereas the those born between the mid-70s and late 80s opt for Salt & Vinegar (Smith’s answer to Cheese & Onion). 18-24 year olds narrowly prefer Prawn Cocktail which has been around almost as long as Salt & Vinegar. Interestingly their least favourite flavour is Ready Salted.

And the flavours don’t stop there. If you just take a look at one of the main brands there are alone 12 flavours in the classic crisp range. On top of that you get the more exotic flavours, seasonal flavours and different variations for different kind of crisps. And if you always had this idea for a flavour you thought is missing from the range the Walkers “Do us a flavour” competition might be right for you. It has proven to be very popular and had 1.2m entries in 2014. The winning entry ‘Pulled Pork in a Sticky BBQ Sauce’ topped the poll and landed the winner a £1m cheque. He beat five other flavours – Chip Shop Chicken Curry, Cheesy Beans on Toast, Hot Dog with Tomato Ketchup, Sizzling Steak Fajita and Ranch Racoon. The flavours were only available during the competition and are not regulars but you’ll never know. It just shows you how popular this snack is.

All is ‘tickety-boo’ – Clothing vs. Weather

PrintOne major difference between my upbringing in Germany and the way things are handled over hear is clothing. I was taught to dress according to the outside temperatures, meaning if it’s still cold you wear a coat and tights with your skirt. And if it’s warm outside you can wear your summer clothes as long as you don’t get goosebumps or shiver uncontrollably.

I soon had to realize that things are different here. I remember one day I went into town running some errands. It was a lovely day. The sun was shining which was much needed after a long period of dull weather. And then I saw it, somebody wearing flip flops with no socks. It was February. There was even still a dusting of snow on the hills.

Now, you might think that was a bit insane and that you get lunatics all over the world. True. But I’ve noticed that on this island you dress according to calendar. If it’s officially spring or summer you put away your winter clothes and start wearing your summer wardrobe. It doesn’t matter if it’s still cold, if there was some late snow or if it feels more like autumn because of all the wind and rain – the calendar says it’s summer so you dress accordingly. I suppose you have to, because otherwise you won’t be wearing those summer dresses and sandals at all. There were years when I went on holiday to the Mediterranean packing my suitcase according to what pieces in my closet still hadn’t seen any daylight that year. I ended up packing almost my whole summer wardrobe.

This British way of dressing doesn’t only apply to the calendar but also to occasions, especially to girls on a Saturday night out on the town. It can be winter and they will only wear flimsy tops, skirts the size of large belts, no stockings and a slightly frozen look. No coats, scarfs, gloves or anything keeping them remotely warm. It never stops to amaze my friends when they visit and we have been on ‘Saturday night tours’, shaking our heads at the sight of freezing women queuing to get into a club or pub while we were wrapped up warm.

So I’ve decided to hold my flag up high and be the sensible one over here. I will be the one in a cardigan when everybody else wears sleeveless shirts at 12C; the one not having a BBQ until I can sit outside in the evenings without goosebumps and everybody else complains it’s “too hot” or “boiling”; and the one not going for a swim in the Irish Sea until it feels less like an ice bucket challenge.

All is ‘tickety-boo’ – Not batting an eye

cricket

The other week I had a suggestion on Twitter to follow the Cricket Wold Cup (forgot to take a screenshot). Made me laugh because they couldn’t have picked a worse sport for me. But there are many who enjoy watching and playing this sport.

One of them, for example, was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was not only famous for being an excellent and successful writer but also for his love of cricket. He was a keen although never famous cricketer and playing member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). Based at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, it is one of the world’s most famous cricket clubs and, believe it or not, currently has a waiting list of about twenty-seven years for ordinary members. In 1900, on one of his occasional appearances for the MCC, Doyle’s cricket career took on a different turn. A ball from one of the country’s quickest bowlers hit him on his thigh. Rubbing didn’t seem to relieve the sharp pain this caused. Then nearby players saw how Doyle’s flannels burst into flames. The ball had struck a tin of matches in his pocket. Luckily the fire was quickly extinguished.

That’s probably as exciting as cricket ever gets for me. I don’t want to knock a sport that is loved by millions, but to me it is and always will be a world of its own I don’t mind not being a part of. It must be the only sport I know where they still play “test matches”. A match can go on for days without having a winner at the end and the results are longer than the lottery draw and less rewarding. As far as I know, it’s the only sport that incorporates lunch and tea breaks and the players look slightly as if they’ve got mattresses strapped to their legs. When it comes to Test Cricket they are more diligent about wearing white clothes than they are at Wimbledon (sometimes I wish I knew what they use to get the grass stains out of their flannels). Unfortunately it can also be a dangerous sport as we were reminded last year. I am sure the players are highly skilled, especially the bowler and batsman, but forgive me if I won’t bat an eye.

Which brings me to another sport, a ball and a pocket. Last year during the PGA TOUR in Atlanta, golfer Rory McIlroy hit an “aggressive shot” sending the ball traveling through the air, before hitting some trees and landing in a spectator’s pocket. I wish I had seen that but that’s the thing, I’m not too keen on golf either and there’s only one way of ‘watching’ it on TV for me. Here’s what you do. Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. Hear the spectators clapping? It sounds like rain or a waterfall. Very soothing and it helps if you can’t fall asleep at night.

All is ‘tickety-boo’ – Doubling up

double-up

I needed a dictionary the other day, what in itself isn’t something completely unusual. There was this word I needed in an email that was on the tip of my tongue (or my brain) and just wouldn’t come out. I knew that the only other word I could think of just wasn’t 100% right. So I tried to force my brain into releasing the information. It was a bit like my regular struggle with the house keys in my large handbag. I know they’re in there, I can hear them when I shake the bag, I just can’t seem to get hold of them.

My brain won in the end and I had to settle for the not-quite-right, second best word. Partly because I was too proud to use a dictionary. See, the thing is, I was struggling with a German word. It’s what I call ‘lost in translation’.

That’s the thing about moving to another country. You double up. You’ve got two SIM cards, two bank accounts, two sets of loyalty cards, two wallets (because those two types of coins always end up mysteriously mixing when you have to pay for something), and, in my case, two wardrobes at two different addresses (some women might go “YES!” now, but let me tell you, there’s a reason why you left some stuff behind) and two languages.

And here’s where ‘lost in translation’ comes in. Because I have been in situations where I lack the right words or have too many of them. Whereas in the beginning I lacked mostly the correct English words, the boundaries seem to blur now. I have caught myself unintentionally slipping a word from “the other” language into a conversation or having to stop because I can only think of one way of saying something with that single perfect word… which is in the wrong language.

He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Then there are what we called ’false friends’ at school; words that look and sound familiar in both languages but mean quite different things. I remember one phone conversation with my parents during which I mentioned my rent several times. Problem was, I used “Rente” what actually means “pension” in German. Fortunately they understood me anyway. Or in the early days when I was having dinner at a friend’s house and wanted to clear the table. “I just get the tablet”, I announced and was greeted with a puzzled look. I had meant “tray” but had used an anglicised pronunciation of “Tablett”, the German word for “tray”.

I have certainly doubled up on ‘colourful words’ and noticed that certain situations require the use of a certain language. When it comes to car travel I am definitely a bilingual swearer.

Everybody who knows me will confirm that I am not an early morning person and rather need my time getting used to the idea of getting up and ready, resulting in me being a bit ‘last minute’ on my way to work and rather in a hurry. (And don’t try to have a serious conversation with me before I had my first cup of coffee!) If another driver pulls up in front of me, going particularly slow, I will shout “Move it!” or hiss a defeated “Seriously?”. Maybe it’s just my subconscious wish that he/she would understand me and hurry up. In other situations however I might shout rather loudly “Blinken wäre super!” (“indicating would be grand!”) if a fellow driver can’t be asked to make use of these small yellow flashing lights that come attached to the car and can be operated quite easily and comfortably to indicate a change of direction.

Overall I feel blessed and fortunate to be able to live in two different societies and cultures. It might give me a bad back one day because my handbag has to be double the size now and is twice as heavy but it also gives me new places, new habits, new challenges, new people and new ways of doing things. And after all, double the amount of words to express myself.