Posts Tagged ‘railway’

All that Man Is and Cliveden House, near Windsor

November 10, 2017

In most cases, when I buy a book in a bookshop – I try to do this mainly, although I do order online as well – and read the blurb and the recommendations from reviewers, I enjoy the book, and mostly agree with the positive reviews on the cover of the book. I have just finished David Szalay’s novel All that Man Is but I found myself not agreeing with most of the review quotes. In the book, there are 9 stories of men of different ages and nationalities telling the reader their woes – often related to romance or the lack of it. There are some quite humorous scenes and there is no doubt that Szalay writes very well for the most part. I agree with the Guardian reviewer that 9 stories do not a novel make, despite the fact that there is a common theme of men in some sort of trouble and doing a lot of soul searching. I imagine that many female readers – as well as male readers – might find that some of the men in the stories are pathetic and need a good shake, although some female reviewers praised the novel. There are some very good passages in the stories and in the last one, the man reflects on how, to him, the present often seems to be impossible to define, that indeed impermanence is the only permanent factor in  our lives. Szalay writes “How little we understand about life as it is actually happening. The moments fly past, like trackside pylons seen from a train window”. On the other hand, this guy thinks he is old  and not long for this world as he is 73. My cycling pal  John is 74 and he floats up hills on his bike. The book was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and you can read a very positive review of the book here,  so don’t let me put you off trying it. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it – post a comment.


In mid-October, we went down to by train to Thames Ditton for my sister-in-law Hilary’s significant birthday celebrations. We had a charming walk along the Thames, going through part of the impressive Hampton Court. On the Thames, we passed numerous house boats which were reflected in the river, and enhanced by the  backdrop of autumnal trees, as shown here.


House boats on the River Thames

On Hilary’s birthday, we all went to Cliveden House (pronounced Cliv-den) with its magnificent grounds and luxury hotel. The property was built by the famous American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, who passed it on to his son Waldorf. The grounds are extensive and on a sunny day, you can enjoy a peaceful, rural walk past the modern sculptures, seen here in the context of the grounds and then, closer up, looking back to Cliveden House.


Sculptures and maze at Cliveden House


Sculptures with the back of Cliveden House

Cliveden House is historically best known for the infamous Profumo Affair, the repercussions of which brought down the Conservative government in the early 1960s. When you walk down to the river, you pass the cottage where the affair took place. It was a lovely autumn day when we visited and we saw some startlingly beautiful trees by the river, such as the one below. You can also walk by the pond which has a pagoda, a range of trees and on this day, a very calm heron, seen below. Cliveden House and its gardens are well worth a visit if you are in the area.


Autumnal splendour at Cliveden House gardens


Heron at the pond near Cliveden House



Visit to Peebles and spooky whales research

February 15, 2015

We set off for Peebles on a bright sunny morning here in Dunbar, with a big Australian cloudless sky above. We headed for Peebles and took the country way, via Dalkeith (good photos). We got to Peebles and went to the excellent Coltman’s deli and restaurant for coffee/tea and a superb fruit scone (big enough for two), butter and homemade strawberry jam. We changed into walking boots and headed along the banks of the River Tweed, under the main bridge – photo below.

Tweed bridge at Peebles

Tweed bridge at Peebles

We followed the river to a metal bridge and crossed to the far side. From there we headed towards Neidpath Castle, on the site of which a castle has stood from about 1190, with the present castle built in the 1390s. It remains an imposing site and on Sunday, there was still snow lying on the approach to the castle, as in these photos.

Niedpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

Neidpath Castle, Peebles

The railway used to run through Peebles and part of the track is now a walking/cycling path. An impressive bridge remains, giving views up and down the Tweed. The bridge is a magnificent structure (see below) with its numerous arches and strong railings.

Looking up at the old railway bridge, Peebles

Looking up at the old railway bridge, Peebles

The old railway track over the bridge, Peebles

The old railway track over the bridge, Peebles

After our walk, we headed to one of our favourite eating places, the excellent Kailzie Gardens Restaurant. There 2 impressive wood burning stoves in the restaurant. We’ve had wood burning stoves in previous houses, and there is no better heat. There is a danger if you sit facing the stove, as you can easily get mesmerized by the constant changing of shape and colour of the live flames. Our thickly cut lamb was delicious and it was served with a jus that had a real depth of flavour. I asked for more and was quickly given a wee jug of this flavoursome accompaniment to the meat. This restaurant makes the best Border Tart, the subject of much praise on a previous blog.

My research on the stranding of 147 whales at Thorntonloch Beach, near Dunbar in May 1950 is nearly complete and I have interviewed about 2o people who went to see the whales. I also interviewed Dr Patrick Miller an expert on whales from St Andrews University. He told me that there was no defining theory of why pilot whales strand themselves in large groups. I was looking for some articles on this yesterday and up on my screen came news reports that 200 whales had been stranded on that day at Farewell Spit, near Nelson in New Zealand. The BBC News report contains a striking, if somewhat distressing video. It was quite spooky to come across this report on the day that I was researching the stranding of whales.