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Walking for the MNDA

As some of my followers may remember, last year I did a walk around Bushey Park near Hampton Court, in order to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. I signed up to do it again, and was all prepared to spend my Sunday strolling around.

But then I got an email early Sunday morning to let me know that due to the bad weather that was forecasted the walk had been called off. Had it rained the little room we were using wouldn't have been big enough to hold all the people that were coming, and there was a LOT of rain due! The email said that those of us who wanted to were welcome to do their own walk in their own time, but the South West London organisers wouldn't be setting another "official" date (it takes a lot of organising to set up something like this, so simply rearranging it for another day is not really possible).

Not only did it not look like the weather would be getting any better any time soon, but there are very few weekends that I'd be able to do it. It was either do it this weekend, or end up not doing it at all. Since I was prepared anyway I decided to do it on Sunday anyway.

The next problem though was location. I had never been to Bushey Park before last year's walk and I hadn't been since. It's quite a long bus ride away and I don't know the rest of the area very well either, if I wanted a cup of tea after I wouldn't know where to go. So I looked up Richmond Park, it looked big enough for me to be able to cover a couple of miles and it was close by. So I got my fleece, my QPR hat (which keeps my head dry since I'm not fond of umbrellas) and my backpack and headed off to Richmond Park.

I got off the bus at Petersham Gate. After orientating myself with the help of the map next to the gate I headed down the path towards Ham Gate. And then down to Kingston Gate, across and up to Ladderstile Gate, from there to Robin Hood gate, up to Roehampton Gate, over to Sheen Gate and then finally to Richmond Gate, where I managed to find another bus to me back into the center of Richmond where I followed my Mum's suggestion and went to Cafe Nero for a nice hot chocolate.

It was very tiring. There are more hills in Richmond than in Bushey. There's also more joggers and cyclists whom you have to evade, and you can only find a map at a gate so if you think you're lost you can't really check without finding a gate. At one point I thought I had gone the wrong way so I had to double back to the previous gate to check I was going the right way. The rain started pretty quickly once I got there so I soon got soaked, each time the rain stopped it soon started again so even if I got slightly dry I soon got wet again. It's also difficult to do the walk on your own, not only do you not have anyone pointing you in the right direction but there's also no one to tell you how much further to go. Towards the end it was getting very tiring, if I had planned on walking back to Petersham Gate I probably would have given up before that (as it was I couldn't see a direct route to it from Richmond Gate, hence my decision to make Richmond Gate my end-point in the first place.

According to Wikipedia, Richmond Park is 3 square miles. I don't know what that is in terms of non-squared miles, but my housemates are sure that I walked well over the 5 miles I had been intending. I'm fairly sure they're right, I was very tired afterwards and definitely felt like I'd walked far, far more than last year (although it didn't help that I was soaked by the rain). I was also aching a lot more when I woke up on Monday morning. If anyone wants to try and work out how much I walked using the map I linked above (I think I missed Bog Gate but I'm not sure, I might have taken the sand-coloured path by accident) then I'd be very interested!

Overall I raise £140 for the MND Association! If anyone else wants to sponsor me that can do so here-

I'm currently on holiday in the Netherlands! Watching lots of TV and relaxing. Apologies for the late post, I spent Sunday afternoon getting warm, finishing packing, and resting my tired legs!

Have a good week everyone!

I think we all know from my name and the numerous references, I like books. I don't just sell them, I also read them. Most of what I read is historical fiction, which means I tend to read a lot of Philippa Gregory and that includes her newest book The Kingmaker's Daughter.

Photo from Amazon

The Kingmaker's Daughter is the story of Anne Neville, the daughter of Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick. Her father helped put Edward of York (King Edward IV) on the throne, hence his nickname of "Kingmaker". Anne was married to Edward Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou and then, after his death at the battle of Tewkesbury, went on to marry Richard of York, the youngest brother of Edward IV (her sister Isabel was already married to George Duke of Clarence, the other brother of Edward and Richard).

This book is one of those in Gregory's series "The Cousins War", which features female characters during the War of the Roses. Unlike some of her other books, which feature points of view of two or three characters (The Other Queen and The Boleyn Inheritance are two examples) the Cousins War books focus on one character each.

Having read all the other books in this series I was quite eager to read The Kingmaker's Daughter, especially since it featured a woman that I had never really heard of before. Unlike some of Gregory's other books, when you can sense the obvious bias towards one side or in favour of one character, you don't really get a sense of whether she sees Anne as a woman that was wronged, or the one doing wrong. Instead she portrays Anne Neville as a woman who tries to be strong, like Gregory's other female characters, but who somehow ends up being manipulated by others. She is eager to please her father, lives in fear of her first husband and mother in law, is effectively imprisoned by her sister and brother in law, a situation which then leads to her rushing into marriage with her second husband, Richard.

I liked the running theme of her fear of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV, who is portrayed in all the books as being a witch. Having read The White Queen, which has Elizabeth as the main character, you can see that more often than not, Anne effectively scares herself with her belief that the Queen hates her and has cursed her. I also liked that the book covers all of Anne's life, from her childhood to her death. The White Queen starts with Elizabeth as an adult and includes the death of her mother Jacquetta, while The Lady of the Rivers starts with the teenage years of Jacquetta and ends where The White Queen starts. Anne herself died at the age of 27, and when reading her book you get a feeling that there isn't much about her in historical records compared to some of the other women Gregory has written about.

What I didn't like about the book was the inconsistencies, some of which can be related to the differences in view between characters but others are just baffling. In The White Queen Anne is a tertiary character, referred to as a "sickly" woman. However, apart from her infertility and her final illness, there is nothing in this book that indicates she is anything other than healthy. At one point there is a mention of Elizabeth and King Edward's fifteeen year old daughter Mary dying in the same year as their infant son George, but in The White Queen there was no mention of Mary's death, and considering that they are portrayed as a close and loving family it seems odd that it would just be ignored in Elizabeth's story.

As usual this is one of Philippa Gregory's books that is well worth a read, just don't be surprised if parts of it make you want to shake Anne Neville and tell her to stop being so stupid. I would also recommend reading The White Queen first, just to put some of it into context. I'm now seriously looking forward to her next book, The White Princess, as it features Elizabeth of York (the mother of Henry VIII) who has minor roles in The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker's Daughter.

Have a good weekend!

Walk Around London

A few months ago I saw a picture of a dilapidated church covered in vines and trees. This kind of picture isn't too unusual in the countryside, where tiny Parish churches have been abandoned as the community has moved on (on occasion the community has literally moved on, to another location, so the church spire will be the only thing left), but I was surprised to find out that this church was in London!

St Dunstan's in the East was originally built in Anglo-Saxon times, so a church has been on that spot for a very, very long time. Unfortunately it hasn't been a lucky church. Along with many others it was a victim of the Great Fire of London in 1666 and became one of the projects of Sir Christopher Wren, who is famous for rebuilding St Paul's Cathedral but who actually dealt with the rebuilding just over 50 churches in London. St Dunstan's wasn't rebuilt from scratch, it was simply patched up and given a Wren-designed spire, and then rebuilt properly in the 1800's.

However it only stood for a few hundred years before the Blitz of the second world war led to it being damaged again. Post-war it was decided that the church would not be rebuilt, and in 1967 it was turned into a public garden!

When I realised this church was in London I decided I had to go and see it, and so last weekend I packed up my camera and a book and headed from Kew Gardens out to Monument station (you gotta love the District Line). Monument is one of the stations in "The City", the financial district of London. Normally it's insanely busy and you have to dodge stockbrokers as well as tourists, but on Sunday it was blissfully quiet apart from a few people stopping to gawp at Monument itself (it's a big tower that commemorates the Great Fire).

St Dunstan's in the East

Remember when I said my camera meant I would start putting up my own pictures? Well that's what'll be in this post! That's the entrance to the church, it's a bit difficult to find as you go down a tiny side-street and practically stumble on it. But it's very peaceful and very green!

On my way to St Dunstan's I came across another church, I didn't go in but I did get a snapshot.

Random Church

I wish those bollards weren't in the way, but if I moved closer to get them out then I ended up losing the sense of the narrow street. Personally this is my favourite photo of the whole day, the Italian flags outside the restaurant and the fact that there's actual sunlight suggests you're in Italy rather than London.

I was getting a headache by this point, mostly caused by the underground journey, so I went to a nearby Caffe Nero for a drink and a tasty snack!

Tea and Syrup Waffles

With caffeine and sugar in me I felt much better, and since the rain was still holding off and it was warm without being hot I decided to see how far I could walk. I set off down Eastcheap and simply walked until my legs wore out. I kept finding churches for some reason, I don't know if God was expecting me to pop in for a visit but I always feel weird wandering into a church on my own, so I popped my head round a few doors and then left. There was one very big door I didn't pop in to though, mostly because I want to go back one day and have a proper look!

St Paul's Cathedral

Yes it's St Paul's Cathedral! Excuse the road sign but it's difficult to get a decent photo of the blasted thing as it's surrounded by busy roads, and frankly I was simply relieved that I hadn't over-exposed the sky, which is my biggest problem with these kinds of shots.

Bracken House

I have no idea what Bracken House is but I had to take a photo of the "clock" over the doorway simply for the zodiac signs! It looks even more beautiful when you're right in front of it.

Strand Station

For a year of my life I walked past this station once a week as I headed to Kings for a lecture as part of my MA. Strand Station is an abandoned underground station that is now regularly used for films. During the second world war it was used during the Blitz to store art from museums and art galleries that were at risk of being bombed.

And at this point I was started to get a bit tired, so I walked on a bit further and then cut down a road to the river and walked along until I found Embankment station and decided it was time to call it a day.

If you're ever in London and full of energy then walking from Monument down to the Strand is ridiculously easy and takes in a lot of well-known areas, along with St Paul's you also end up going down Fleet Street, where the newspapers used to be, and go past The Old Bailey, and if you carry on further than I did you'll end up at Charing Cross near Trafalgar Square. Plus there's lots of places along the way where you can stop for a drink and a sandwich.

Have a good week everyone!

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