Saturday 23 March 2013

Another weekend: Dover


A family weekend in Dover Castle, or nearly: we were in the Sergeant Major's house and M+J were in Peverell's Tower. Both are within the outer ramparts and very close to the castle itself. Of the two, Pev's tower is distinctly cuter - its 13th century, pretty spacious for two and has a great roof terrace. SM's is "merely" Georgian, sleeps 6 (us, D+E, and Si+B). Again, spacious (there was an entire table-tennis and living room in the basement that we barely used) but not as much fun as the tower. Decor all fine, and has the glorious property of all holiday lets: its both empty and clean when you arrive.



E wants to go to Easter Bingo at school, so we end up leaving just after 8. A fairly painless drive down sees us at the castle around 10:30. The drawbridge is down but the huge wooden gates are shut; fortunately a bod is on hand to open them. So we drive in, and end up at the top, just outside the inner keep entrance. At which point we don't really know where we're going, since we (characteristically) haven't done our homework. Phone Mfd, but he's rather hazy on the site layout (it all becomes much clearer in the morning; when stuck, we were about 1 mins drive drive from where we wanted, but we chose the 5 mins round-about route). Unpack, kids straight up to bed, we chat.


DSC_1929-stairsIts a bitterly cold day, and everyone sleeps in. I think I get up around 10ish, wander down for breakfast crumpets and coffee. Broadly that's how the day goes: mostly an indoors day. E goes to look at Pev's tower. E and M have a game of ping-pong downstairs (M stuffs E). Mfd, Si+B and I go up to look at the castle: first up and round, to the roman lighthouse (I never knew there was a roman lighthouse on top of Dover, but indeed there is, and very ancient it looks, most of 2 kyr old now) and the Saxon St Mary de Castro(which latter I think is very ugly). Then into the inner keep or "Great Tower". This looks dead impressive from outside, as it was intended to, though inside it is really little more than four rooms (I exaggerate, or rather minimise, for effect). It reminds me strongly of Castle Rising Castle, especially the way the entrance stairs wrap around and put you in at the top level. CRC is more beautiful - they had better stone - but also I saw it on a better day. Like CRC, it has passages in the walls and lovely stairs. English Heritage have sort-of decked it out as "how it might have been when Henry II was welcoming visitors" but it isn't too convincing - lacks detail and depth - the attraction is the building, not what they've done with it. Views from the top are great but the thin snow and the cold wind keep us from gazing for long.

Late pm: E starts game of Risk with M, Si. I go down to town to buy more bread and crumpets, and because it would be a shame not to see Dover at all. I've left it late - nearly 5 - and things are shutting. Dover looks like times are hard. I end up in a Morrisons. There's quite a decent pedestrian way from the Castle down to the town, and a lovely old ruined church at the bottom. Dinner: roast beef and spinach.



DSC_1940-snails-in-arrowslitWake somewhat earlier - 9 ish - and I'm about the first up. E, and then surprisingly D, soon after (D has been sick recently. He was off school last Friday, and again last Tuesday, and was driven to school in between; he's still not tip-top).

I go for a walk around the ramparts before the others are around; I rather feel that I should have done more yesterday. However 5 minutes outside soon cure my of any ideals, and I'm hunching up against the still-bitter wind. Pic: from the Avranches tower, a wintry scene, empty snail shells piled up. In the arrow-slit next door there was a huge mass of hibernating snails. I did look for the "medaeival tunnels" but they seemed closed - that link suggests that they usually are. And so on round, clockwise. Now I understand the shape of the site better I realise its not quite as big as I thought it was; I get down to the cliff face, find the "secret tunnels" bit, get onto the balcony overlooking the container port (the tunnels cut into the cliff were once barracks for the other-ranks, the officers got a fine building up top; then abandoned; then used and expanded during WWII especially for "operation dynamo" the rescue from Dunkirk. So the area has a WWII feel to it, in stark contrast to the Henry II feel of the rest, and poke around inside a bit. But that way you only get shallowly into the tunnels; to go deeper you need to do the tour.

Back, take D and E up to see the castle. They are moderately but not very interested; would be better in better weather.

Lunch, then again a few of us (not D+E) go to see the tunnels; its a 50-min tour, and they sort-of string it out by using it to tell the story of the outbreak of the war, and projecting the tale of operation dynamo onto the walls. it works fairly well, but again (as in at the castle itself) they're fairly thin on real stuff to look at.

And so tea time, another game of Risk (I win, or Si does, depending on how you score an interrupted game), D does his homework, and we leave just before 7 and get back just after 9.



I suppose I should throw in a few. You see my top pic, with the union jack flying bravely in the wind? Well, at about 2 Hz the rope was tapping against the flagpole, making a little noise, barely audible usually, but clearly audible in the otherwise silent middle of the night (so on the plus side, you're well above the traffic and noise of Dover, which you don't hear at all). At 7 am on Sunday the fire alarm decided to go off for no reason. They aren't desperately generous with the cutlery - if you have guests from Pev's tower coming over, you'll run out of knives.

Sunday 17 March 2013

A weekend

Just a normal weekend, but I haven't written one up for ages, so:


Wake at 6, and wake D at 6:15, to get him to school in time for 7 so he can go off to a climbing competition in Leicester. He isn't exactly in top form - indeed, he took Friday off school sick, and is only half sure he wants to go. But never mind.

By the time I get back I'm awake so sit around downstairs; a little tidying but mostly online, and reading Speer.

About 9:30 I head off into town; its my habit after rowing outings to go for coffee+book in Waterstones; today there is no outing and I feel oddly bereft with a whole day ahead of me (its also Cambridge Science Festival but E doessn't feel inclined to do owt). Stop at the picture-framing place on Mt Pleasant and see how much getting stuff done properly would cost; its not clear, but perhaps £50. I need to bring in a pic. Take in my plastic boots; Timpsons offer to try to re-glue the soles. Thence to Waterstones where I finish off Heartstone: review to follow.

Pick boots up, buy bread from the market bread stall, get some cream from M+S for M, and home. M is nearly asleep on the sofa, E is happy doing E type things. Prevaricate for a bit (early in the day weather had been very windy, with some rain, and yet I'd intended to go running). But then gird up loins and head out at a little after 3, for a "long" run of slightly indeterminate duration. In my fantasies it might have stretched out to a marathon; as it turned out it was 30k. I went somewhere new, which was definitely good as a change: through Grantchester and up Long Road to the Perse; the same route I'd driven D in earlier. That's 9.5k. Then into town, to the river, and to Baits Bite and a k beyond; then back and up the Coton footpath; 30k to just where it turns into road, so I got a walk wind-down. Overall a good run - my first sub-5-per-k 30k (2:30) - but I got very dry towards the end (I didn't finish my second gel as I couldn't get it down). Which has a good side: presumably I'd be faster with more water and more gels. So this, and the Cambridge half record 1:36, are promising for the Brighton marathon. Although, to put forward the opposite view, I was down to 5:15 towards the end.

When I get back, M is out fetching D. I'm tired and have a shower. D comes back, tired, but he survived. He collapses by the fire and doesn't say much.


I'm coxing the men's novice VIII this morning. Contrary to the weather forecast its actually quite tolerable. But due to laziness and running late, I drive in anyway. There's a junior sculling head on later, so we content ourselves with one lock done fairly briskly in order not to get too tangled up in them. Unfortunately what they really needed was a technical outing focussing on timing and technique; such is life.

On the way back stop at the Orchard and buy some broad bean seeds, and some sweet peas, and also some violas for the front flower pot and some snake's head fritillaries because they were there. Lunch (bread and cheese type for us all) and then I'm tired so lie by the fire sleeping for a couple of hours, thereby missing the best of the weather. But, later, I do manage to get the violas planted out. Daniel is still unwell - manifesting itself as tiredness and inability to concentrate on his homework. M is fairly quiet too, starts cooking at 4:30 and we have a "vegetable only" evening meal. Her cooking is really very good nowadays.

I'm missing out me being online,posting the Ladies WeHORR entry for them, arguing online about the FTT, reading Speer's "Inside the Third Reich", and so on.

D heads off to bed at 8, its undecided if he'll go to school tomorrow or not. E at 9 (slightly delayed by me having to fix the shower) and M meditates for 15 mins before the news at 10, then heads up after writing *her* diary, and now its my turn.


D's climbing results. Not good, but it was his first, and he was sick.