Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

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[42] Life, the Universe and Everything

[42] Life, the Universe and Everything – A Pictorial Blog about Buildings

It was hard dividing ‘Buildings’ into two separate areas for blogs. I have done one about Old Buildings. This one will cover the rest of my pictures of buildings – some more modern ones but also some small, curious or unusual buildings.

I start with three very new buildings. The shopping development at the Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham has only just been completed; the brand new Cotswold stone house is somewhere in the Cotswolds and the other new houses are beside Pittville Park.

Next are Waitrose and a nearby office block, both at Cheltenham and the Roses Theatre and Library at Tewkesbury.

Two school buildings and what used to be the headquarters for Gloucestershire Police. (Now it’s a ‘Development Opportunity.’)

A nice house seen on one of my walks.

A few recognisable Cheltenham buildings next. The old fire station and three from Pittville Park – Café, Scout Hut and Public Conveniences.

The Art Gallery in Montpellier Gardens and the nearby bandstand.

Three slightly unusual Cheltenham buildings. First, an electricity sub-station at the strangely named Westal Green – It hasn’t been a green for at least fifty years, it’s a petrol station in an odd-shaped roundabout. Then a bridge linking Cavendish House to the Regent Arcade – and an unassuming building, next to the old Fire Station, that claims to be the oldest purpose built primary school in the country.

Away from Cheltenham here are a large orangery belonging to a country estate; a racecourse; a small Post Office shop and a collection of miscellaneous buildings, some of which are somewhat dilapidated.

I have saved a few. Here is a little lighthouse at RSPB Newport, followed by a collection of boathouse pictures.

Some houses by the sea and a steelworks.

A house at Newnham-on-Severn backing on to the river Severn. It’s been unoccupied for about seventy years but the owners don’t want to sell it.

Finally two pairs of houses at Taylor’s Yard in Cheltenham. When I started this blog this area was a large wholesale and retail building supplies shop. The old buildings have gone, the land has been flattened and about a hundred new houses are being built. The first ones completed are the show homes. The rest may take another two years to complete.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a radio series that became a five-volume series of books by Douglas Adams
In the radio series and the first novel, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer Deep Thought, specially built for this purpose. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be … … 42. Deep Thought points out that the answer seems meaningless because the beings who instructed it never actually knew what the Question was.




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[43] Afterwards Our Buildings Shape Us

[43] Afterwards Our Buildings Shape Us – A Pictorial Blog about Old Buildings

It has been hard dividing ‘Buildings’ into two separate areas for blogs. This one is about the old ones so it covers most of the buildings we see every day.

I will start with Hampton Court Castle or Hampton Court in Herefordshire. The building is Fifteenth Century but the internal décor owes much to an American billionaire (Robert Van Kampen) who refurbished it to look like his view of Mediaeval England. It includes guest bedrooms for when the castle becomes a venue for weddings.

Next in a fairly random order are some old castles, some timber-framed Elizabethan architecture, some ordinary houses, some grand public buildings and some shops, pubs and banks. Some pictures came from Cheltenham and my usual haunts and some are from Oxford, Cirencester, Tewkesbury or further afield.


I have picked out a few for some brief comments.

There is an area of unused industrial buildings by Lydney Harbour. There are notices about redevelopment but I have seen little change in the years I have been visiting.

The next one is an old mill at Tewkesbury. It has also been unused for many years.

The next two do represent change. The Midland Hotel opposite Cheltenham Station was a thriving pub. When we have horse racing it pits out a marquee at the front to supply Guinness for our Irish visitors. Recently it closed suddenly so maybe it’s now a ‘development opportunity.’

And the remnants of a large wholesale and retail builders’ suppliers are shown above as they started to clear the site when it closed at the end of last year. There will be hundreds of houses there soon. The first show houses are already ready.

The last picture below is a magnificent crescent of Regency buildings in Cheltenham.

In October 1943, following the destruction of the Commons Chamber by incendiary bombs during the Blitz, the Commons debated the question of rebuilding the chamber. With Winston Churchill’s approval, they agreed to retain its adversarial rectangular pattern instead changing to a semi-circular or horse-shoe design favoured by some legislative assemblies. Churchill insisted that the shape of the old Chamber was responsible for the two-party system which is the essence of British parliamentary democracy: ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.’



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[40] Green and Pleasant Land

[40] Green and Pleasant Land – A Pictorial Blog of Landscapes

You may recognize the title from the poem by William Blake. We call the poem, put to music as a patriotic hymn, ‘Jerusalem,’ but its proper title is the same as its first line. ‘And Did those Feet in Ancient Time’.

It was inspired by the apocryphal story that Joseph of Arimathea may have visited England at Glastonbury. It uses the word ‘Jerusalem’ as a metaphor for heaven.

And did those feet in ancient time; Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God; On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine; Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here; Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The often misquoted ‘Chariots of Fire’ comes from the second verse.

Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight; Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem; In Englands green and pleasant Land.

Of course, none of this is relevant to my blog but we may use the expression ‘green and pleasant land’ to refer to the countryside of England.

This is a collection of pictures of landscapes in no particular order. Most of them are from England but some come from Wales or abroad.



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[41] Transcendent Beauty and Poetry

[41] Transcendent Beauty and Poetry – A Blog about Churches

I want to make it clear from the start that this is about church buildings. I keep away from politics or religion (or football!) in my blogs. My title quotation comes from a Nineteenth Century British historian and journalist called Goldwin Smith. [If you surname is Smith there is a lot to be said for having an unusual Christian name.]

‘Everyone who has a heart, however ignorant of architecture he may be,

feels the transcendent beauty and poetry of the mediaeval churches.’

I love visiting churches just to look at the buildings. I will do a sort of pastiche of all the churches I have visited in a vague architectural order. This will be a cosmopolitan mixture with some churches from abroad and some that call themselves cathedrals or abbeys or priories or whatever…

Church Architecture

The standards for church architecture have been virtually unchanged for centuries in the UK and throughout Christendom – at least for Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. The building is shaped as a Latin cross aligned from East to West (for archaic reasons which depended on the idea that Jerusalem was in the East.)

The main part of the building, corresponding to the lower part of the vertical line of the cross is the nave with a central aisle and rows of pews, perhaps with other aisles to the side. I’m talking about the traditional standard. Most churches seem to have abandoned pews now. Wikipedia says that the central aisle is called the nave but we still talk of a women being led down the aisle as metaphor for a wedding.

The transept crosses the nave and separates the area used by the congregation from the chancel where the service is conducted by the priest. In the transept are a pulpit (used by the priest to deliver his sermon) generally to the left and a lectern (holding a large Bible for readings – known as lessons) to the right. The altar lies at the far end beyond the chancel and choir stalls often come between the transept and chancel. (What we call the altar is now also known as the Communion Table or the Lord’s Table to reflect the fact that is not used for animal sacrifices.)

[I have to admit that there are exceptions to my generalization about left and right for the pulpit and lectern. I may be wrong.]

Somewhere, often destroying the symmetry of the design, there may be a Chapel, like a small church within a church, used for private individual prayers. It may be called the Lady Chapel with reference to the Virgin Mary and large cathedrals will have many chapels in the building.


I will start with a collection of views of the outside. It’s a mixture of old and new, large and small, English and foreign, magnificent and simple. Not all of them fit into the general description given above.


From mediaeval time churches and cathedrals have been built on the top of hills. To make them even more prominent they generally had spires or towers. Bells were often put in these towers so that the church could be seen and heard from afar.


As a tiny diversion let’s look at doors. Normally there is an impressive door or pair of doors forming the main central ceremonial entrance at the top of the aisle. There is also a much smaller entrance at the side and the main doors are rarely used – perhaps only for weddings and funerals.

If you look round the inside or outside of a church or cathedral you may also see some very old wooden doors. They look as if they may guard some secret passages.


Nave and Ceiling

The most resplendent view inside the church building is often looking down the main nave towards the far altar. The buildings are always high and may have magnificent ceilings.


Church architecture has always been limited by the technology of its time and from early centuries this was little more than walls of large stone bricks with timber to support the roof. They were dark buildings and they made the most of limited window space by using pieces of stained glass held together by lead. Not all churches could afford the coloured glass to make these expensive windows. They are like coloured mosaics showing pictures to illustrate biblical characters and stories – although they are generally very difficult to read or understand.

Font, Pulpit and Lectern

The font, usually near to the entrance at the back, needs to hold a small quantity of water for baptisms (known more generally as christenings.) It’s generally made of wood and relatively unassuming.

The pulpit, also generally wood, is much more impressive. It’s an elevated structure with its own steps for the priest. This makes the priest more visible and easier to hear but I suspect it also adds to his symbolic authority making the sermon something appear as if it is delivered from above.

The lectern may be a simple wooden structure but it is often a large brass or gilt statue of an eagle. I don’t think the eagle has any religious significance. It makes a convenient shape to hold a large open book.

The last picture shows a movable lectern in front of a pulpit, both on the right!

Until about sixty years ago the only version of the Bible was the Authorized Version known as the King James Bible. Many churches still have a big old Bible left open on the lectern. The actual readings are now probably from a more modern version using a smaller book on top of the old Bible!

Choir and Chancel

Where there are choir stalls they make the altar more distant from the congregation. In large churches and cathedrals you may see another altar in the transept in front of the choir.

Cathedrals are managed by the Dean and Chapter (not the Bishop) and historically each member of the Chapter House had his own stall behind the choir. These rows of elaborately carved stalls may be the most impressive parts of the building.

The Altar lies in the Sanctuary area at the far end. It is the most holy area accessible only to the priest and his assistants. The communion rail in front of it clearly delineates the limits for the congregation.


The organist is normally hidden away with his complex set of keyboards and stops but the pipes that make the sounds are so large that they are ornately displayed.

You will find many plaques in churches on the walls and many old gravestones on the floors. I have just picked three of my favourites – the Ten Commandments; the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer and an unusual list!

Finally I have to note that many of our old church buildings are no longer used as churches. They make convenient auction houses and restaurants.

I have had too many church pictures but that’s all.

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[44] Fresh Air

[44] Fresh Air – A Pictorial Blog about Quenington

It’s about buildings and landscapes but mostly it’s about sculptures and the Fresh Air 2017 Exhibition.

Quenington is a small village in Gloucestershire with a population of about 600. It appears in the Domesday Book. The name derives from the Old English Cwenenatum, ‘the women’s settlement’ (cognate with the word Queen.)

It is the location of an outdoor sculpture exhibition now held every two years. Fresh Air 2017 was the thirteenth. As it says on their web-site:

‘Set up by art collectors, Lucy and David Abel-Smith, the first sculpture show was held in the Quenington Old Rectory gardens in 1992. Acclaim for the show’s originality and innovative mixture of traditional, modern and cutting-edge contemporary outdoor sculpture has grown year by year and it is now an established and much anticipated fixture in the art events calendar.’

These pictures are from our visit to the exhibition this year.

The Village

It is a small village. They like you to park on the village green and walk down to the Rectory.

It still has a village pub with its own statue – of Mercury, the Roman god of messages, perhaps related to the telephone box beside it.

The Church

St. Swithin’s Church was built around 1100 AD. It was extensively restored in the Nineteenth Century but retains two Norman doorways.

The Location

There has been a rectory since the Twelfth Century but most of the present buildings date from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The exhibition gave us the chance to see some of the actual house and much of its gardens.

The Sculptures

These are some of over a hundred sculptures in the exhibition. I wanted to call them statues but artitistically they are more then that. Some were excellent but I felt that some were not good enough to merit a photograph.


It was a nice sunny day so here are a few flowers before some landscapes of views from the garden.

The exhibition was well worth a visit but you have to wait two years for the next one.







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[45] Digging for Gold

[45] Digging for Gold – A Pictorial Blog about Streets

This will be just pictures – pictures of streets. Some are from England including Cheltenham, Oxford and Cirencester. Some are from France, Croatia or Antwerp. I have randomized them a bit so that you can have fun working out where each one comes from.

Streets remind me of the story of Dick Whittington but also of the song sung by Peter Sarstedt, The Mountains of Mourne. It is sung to a traditional folk tune but the words by Percy French are from around 1900.

Here is the first verse.

Dear Mary this London’s a wonderful sight Oh there’s people here working by day and by night They don’t plant potatoes, nor barley, or wheat But there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street At least when I asked them that’s what I was told So I just took a hand at this digging for gold But for all that I found there I might as well be Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Of course I also remember a bit from the second verse.

I believe that in writing a wish you expressed As to how the fine ladies in London are dressed Well if you’ll believe me, when asked to a ball Oh They don’t wear no tops to their dresses at all Oh I’ve seen them myself and you could not in truth Say if they were bound for a ball or a bath Don’t go starting them fashions, now Mary McCree Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

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[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

I started with a category covering Landscapes and Buildings and thought of Seascapes – but Water as a topic covers so much more than the sea. There are lakes, rivers, waterfalls and fountains. This blog will have a lot of pictures with nothing in the way of comments. Because it’s pictorial I have adjusted some pictures for contrast and colour balance to improve the artistic impression!

Coastal pictures may come from Bournemouth or Croatia or Antwerp or France. River pictures will be mostly from walking along the Thames Path and lakes and wetland pictures may come from my birdwatching haunts – Slimbridge, the Forest of Dean and Pittville Park.


Lakes and Rivers

Boats and Bridges

Canals, Locks and Weirs


Reflections and Water Surface

Water Drops and Fountains

No apologies for another Biblical quote. As always, only the Authorized Version of King James, from Habakkuk Chapter 2: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” I remember it for the stirring hymn, God is Working His Purpose Out.

God is working his purpose out – as year succeeds to year: God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.