Sunday, 20 August 2017

Staycation

Hello, thanks for popping in.  I'm afraid I'm a bit fed up: we had hoped to go camping this week and I was really looking forward to it but at the last moment our arrangements fell through and we couldn't go.  I was SO disappointed.  However, the Best Beloved had a bright idea and suggested that we pretend we are camping and have a staycation instead.  It's been fun: we have used the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom in the house but otherwise we have spent our time in the summerhouse, the garden and on outings.  We have rediscovered our love for the summerhouse and decided that we should spend more time in it, whatever the weather.  (I should point out that there is nothing grand about it, and one of my friends refers to it very disparagingly as "the shed".)  We have even seen a bit of sunshine (gasp!).
 
Every morning has begun with our usual camping routine: a pot of tea, a bowl of cereal, a boiled egg with soldiers, another pot of tea and the newspaper, all enjoyed in the summerhouse in a lovely, leisurely manner.  Simple things can make me very happy.
 
On Wednesday we visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.  This is the UK's centre of remembrance, for civilian as well as military deaths, and is home to more than 300 memorials.  Every year in November we see it on the television and say to each other, "We should go there," but we never have done until this week.  We spent more than four hours there and we'll go back.  Like most people of our generation, all of our grandfathers served in the armed forces in either the First or the Second World War and we worked out that if we added in our great-grandfathers and the Best Beloved's father, we had ten men who marched or sailed off to do their duty.  Widening the circle to include uncles added another three, plus two aunts in Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps... and every single one of them came home.  I was reading this week about Thankful Villages, a term popularised in the 1930s for settlements from which all members of the armed forces survived the First World War, and the Best Beloved said that we are a Thankful Family.  We are.  So, we didn't go to the Arboretum to find a particular name, but while we were there we found ourselves remembering and reminiscing about our men and women, and that was good.




 
First, we took a tour on a land train with a recorded commentary, which was a good way to get an overview of the site.  The tour lasted for just under an hour and then we made our way up to The Armed Forces Memorial which looked glorious in the sunshine.  More than 16,000 names of those members of the armed forces who have died since the end of the Second World War are inscribed here and it is the centre of commemorations around Armistice Day.  It has been designed so that if there is sunshine on 11 November at 11am, a shaft of light will fall through the gap in the wall onto a bronze wreath in the centre of the circle.

 
Our next stop was the Naval Service Memorial - the Best Beloved's father, grandfathers and step-grandfather were all Royal Navy career sailors - and from there we went to The Arctic Convoys Memorial because two of them were on those ships during the Second World War.

 
We wandered through the Navy Wood and arrived at The Korean War Memorial.  My father-in-law earned his medals with the Far East Fleet during the Korean War and the Best Beloved was delighted to find his father's ship, HMS Charity, listed on the memorial plaque.  We remembered and retold his father's stories about that time, and we smiled fondly.  It was good.

 
Lastly, we visited the Burma Railway Memorial, which comprises actual pieces of the track, made, ironically, in England, and the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building.  Although none of our family was involved with the war with the Japanese, I know of three  men who were and I wanted to go and pay my respects to them.  I called them up on the electronic roll which holds the names of 57,000 British servicemen who were taken prisoner by the Japanese.  This building holds an exhibition about the war in the Far East and I found the atmosphere incredibly intense; there were middle-aged men in there weeping as they read about the hardship and the cruelty displayed there.  It was a very emotional end to our visit.
 
If you want to visit the Arboretum, be aware that although they tell you that it's free, it's not really because you have to pay £3 to park your car (and the spaces are rather small) and another £3 for a map of the site, which doesn't list all the memorials!  The full list is £6.50 but I looked them up online on my 'phone instead.  We also paid for the tour on the land train, which was worth every penny.  The major downside of our visit was the truly appalling cup of tea I didn't drink in the café, the worst I have been offered in a very long time, possibly ever, and probably largely due to the nasty UHT full cream milk which was in it.  Yuck!
 
 
  
 On Friday we went to Lake Vyrnwy in Powys.  We took a picnic and our binoculars and spent a few hours there, through sunshine and showers, although I was a little disappointed in the lakeside bird hide: we were in there for almost an hour, during which time I saw one great crested grebe, one heron and one fish!  After I packed my binoculars away, three cormorants turned up but honestly, I think the birds hide when I go to a bird hide.  However, the chairs were very comfy and nobody else was there so the Best Beloved was able to have a nap!!  After all, he's on holiday. 
 
See you soon.
 
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
 
 EDIT  It has been pointed out to me in the comments below that my grandfather was involved in the Japanese theatre of war, making this memorial area more significant to me than I had realised. 
 

18 comments:

  1. The memorials are very interesting. My favorite was the railway within the green grass as it looks so beautifully contrasted.

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    1. They are fascinating Sugar, all different, and there are far too many to see in one day. The railway memorial was very moving. x

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  2. Sorry to hear your camping plans went sideways :( But it sounds like you are really enjoying the outings! What an amazing memorial you visited. I think that would be so interesting to see. The bird hide sounded like a bust, but thank goodness no one disturbed your best beloved's well deserved nap!! Ha! I hope you made yourself a good cup of tea when you got back to the summer house ;)
    Wendy

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    1. I certainly did, Wendy! We made the most of the week, chins up in the face of adversity, and we have four days of camping lined up for definite soon. I hope you are enjoying your freedom before the littlies return. x

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  3. I had never heard of this memorial, how interesting. I guess our nearest equivalent is Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC and and the War Memorials there.

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    1. I believe you are right, Janet. It seems amazing that we didn't have a national memorial before the Arboretum opened only ten years ago. Most towns and villages have their own memorials here and of course, we have the Cenotaph in London, which was built after the First World War and is the focus of our commemorations in November. x

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  4. Glad you made the most of your staycation and actually did holiday things rather than getting sucked into normal life. I think that it would be incredible to visit the National Arboretum as it must be so very moving and so interesting too. It is very important that we have such places isn't it.

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    1. Amy, I had strict instructions from a friend that I shouldn't open any mail or do any chores and I stuck to that. I agree, it's important to remember the lost and the fallen and the NMA does that in a very moving way. I know it's a long way but do try to visit if you can, the atmosphere is beautiful. x

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  5. very interesting, but your family was involved in the Japanese theatre of war. Your Grandfather (Gramps) was transferred from the Shetland Isles (Servicing Sunderland Flying Boats) to the Cocos Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. After the fall of Singapore there was no air route from British India to Australia. The RAF sent a group to the Cocos to build an airfield capable of servicing heavy aircraft as a refuelling stop mid way between India and Western Australia. It was also used as stop for the American Airforce supplying troops in the Pacific (including quantities of folding coffins!). After the peace in Europe, the war in the Far East continued and it was not until 1946 that your grandfather was demobbed - a stranger to his five year old son.

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    1. Thanks Dad. Sorry. I knew about the Cocos Islands but hadn't worked out how it fitted in. We had a chat about Gramps, and Uncle George, when we went to the RAF Zone. x

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  6. Sounds like you are enjoying your staycation. The Memorial Arboretum is an amazing place. They didn't have a land train when we were there we walked as far as the River Teme at the bottom of the site, the river had flooded into the site near the lifeboats memorial. Shame about the tea, I can cope with UHT milk in coffee but not in tea, yuck indeed!:)

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    1. Oops I meant River Tame:)

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    2. I knew what you meant! I think the NMA's setting by the river is beautiful, it's been so sensitively landscaped. The land train was good for an overview with its commentary and helped us to plan exactly where we wanted to go afterwards - this time and next. The tea was truly gross, I am still in recovery! x

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  7. Glad you enjoyed your staycation, what a great idea. The memorial visit sounded fascinating despite the cup of tea and your visit to the Powys lake too. Hope you feel rested after your hols :). B x

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    1. It's perked me up a lot, thanks, and we have a special trip to look forward to this weekend. We've visited the lake before, also under grey skies and rain, so perhaps we need to try a different time of year! x

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  8. Oh what fun, sounds a great holiday. 😊 I didn't realise the Memorials were so extensive but they would be really, wouldn't they. I'm on fruit teas at the moment, I've really gone off any milk in tea at all.x

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    1. I am glad you get it, Karen! There are 330 memorials at the moment and they told us that in ten years' time there will be double that number. Here's a link - http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/memorial-listing/ it's quite surprising. I am tempted by the fruit tea, at least I would never be caught out by UHT full fat! x

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  9. That looks an awesome place. I'm pretty sure me and my family are going to love it. Try visiting Hotels in Lapu Lapu Cebu, you'll love it too. Anyway, Thanks for sharing!

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