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Hyde Park

Today I went to Hyde Park for my friend's birthday. It's fast becoming a tradition that he holds some kind of treasury hunt for these events, but not the kind of treasure hunt that involves finding clues. This year we were given polaroid cameras and two lists. We had to take photos of one thing from the first list, combined with one thing from the second list.

We were all split into teams, generally with a mixture of people we knew plus a few new acquaintances. The team I was in had orange sashes and our "secret sign" was a salute. There was a race to get two props, we ended up with a plastic ray-gun and a long black wig. We were given two puzzles, which would give us two more things to photograph on our list, and had an hour and a half to complete everything.

A couple of examples of our work; we combined "An animal or animal statue" with "A BBC documentary" by taking a photo of two of our group with a camera and "microphone" (aka a pen) surrounded by pigeons, ducks and swans. We also had "A willing member of the public" and "Sherlock finds the killer instantly", with me as Sherlock, several team members and two willing members of the public looking shocked, and a baby who was part of our team pointing the ray-gun prop at a pair of shoes (with her Dad's help) as if she had just disintegrated someone.

It was a lovely afternoon coming up with all these ideas and running around the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park to take them all. When I have been to Hyde Park in the past it has only been to see the Winter Wonderland, which takes over most of the park. Now that I've seen it without all of that in the way I think I will have to return again for a proper walk, and with my camera naturally.

Recipes

Another quick blog post as I'm still having a tidy-up around the place and tonight I'm checking my vintage books.

I'm going through another phase of wanting to try new recipes. I've got three cookery books from the library that I need to sit down and go through, and I've also been adding recipe pages to my "favourites" list (they have their own little folder).

The problem is finding the time and enthusiasm to try any of them, let alone all of them. On the one hand they do look very tasty, but on the other hand if I try them and mess them up then I feel like I've wasted both food and my money.

My other problem is that any recipe from a borrowed book has to be written out into my own recipes folder, which involves me sitting down with a pen, and on occasion I'm a bit too lazy for that ;)

Not really sure what the point of this post is, other than to make myself hungry even though I've already eaten dinner.

Also tomorrow may have to be Wordless Friday as I'm going to be busy in the evening :)

Autumn Mist

Woke up this morning to find my corner of London had a lovely autumn mist! It gave a slightly damp feeling to the air and made me feel quite happy as I walked to work.

It had all burnt off by the time my morning teabreak rolled around and the sun was out, which made my lunchbreak later in the day far warmer than I expected.

Naturally this has put me in a very autumnal mood...

Autumn Leaves Lavendar Bag by FledglingCrafts

I hope my previous mentions of my love of lavendar explain why I chose this particular item out of all the other autumn-themed ones on Etsy ;)

Have a nice evening!

Back to Normal

Following my post yesterday from Brussels I can safely say I'm back home in Kew!

I decided to leave my suitcase last night as I couldn't face unpacking after having tea and some dinner. This morning I walked into Richmond for food and stopped off at a Cafe Nero for a hot chocolate and shortbread biscuits as a relaxing way to finish off my holiday.

After food I unpacked my suitcase and made a start on the laundry. I decided to skip baking by buying cake instead. I've tidied away my passport and other bits and pieces, and spent most of the afternoon watching anime.

I've also packed up two sales I made on Creative Classics during the week. They'll be posted out tomorrow. One of these, along with a sale I made last week, meant that I sold out of my "Archaeologists do it in trenches" postcards. I've therefore decided it's time to start selling them in several colours, they'll soon be available in red, pink, blue and purple as well as green!

Have a nice evening everyone!

Brussels

A blog post is needed for today so I thought I'd put free WiFi to use!

I'm currently in Brussels-Midi station, I've gone through the usual passport control and security checking and now I'm drinking and eating a massive slice of delicious chocolate cake. It's so massive though that I may not finish it, which will be a sad waste but on the other hand I don't want to be sixk on the train.

I'm currently waiting for my Eurostar train. Unfortunately while my camera is at my side the memory card reader is in my suitcase and retrieving it would involve unpacking, so there are no cake and tea pictures for today.

My time is also being occupied by keeping an eye on the football score, QPR are playing Yeovil.

Have a nice day everyone!

Last Day

Today is my last full day in the Netherlands as I'm heading back to England tomorrow afternoon. We were going to go for a hike, but in the end Eva wasn't feeling too well and I keep sneezing and blowing my nose (the first cold of the season), so we opted for staying in and keeping warm.

One of the films we watched this afternoon was "United", which is about the 1958 Munich plane crash which killed several members of the Manchester United squad known as "Busby's Babes". The players were all relatively young, hence their name. I actually knew very little about it, but had a read of the Wikipedia page after we finished the movie. I think the whole thing was done very well, and pays a decent tribue to both the deceased and the survivors.

We've also been entertaining the cats, who have been chasing after a pen on and off for the afternoon and at one point one of them skidded across the floor in a desperate attempt to get to the pen first.

This is either Liam or Locke, can't remember which one. They're both a mixture of crazy and sleepy. One of them ended up having a nap on my legs last night which surprised Eva as he's not really much of a lap cat.

This evening we've indulged in Star Trek: Into Darkness, and a takeaway. I went for chicken nuggets, chips and to fit in with the Dutch I had a beef croquette. The chips aren't like proper British chips, but they were delicious, and I managed to avoid the Dutch tradition of putting mayonaise on them.

Tomorrow's blog post will no doubt be very, very short unless I can think of something to write about when I'm on the Eurostar.

Have a nice evening everyone!

Monkeys & Pancakes

Last time I visited the Netherlands our one and only day out was to an animal sanctuary that had a cafe that did very tasty pancakes. We decided to visit it again on this trip, especially since last time we went there were no monkeys out in the monkey area.



As you can see from these photos, this time the monkeys were out and about! Last time we went on a Wednesday and didn't realise at the time that that was the cleaning day for the whole sanctuary, so we only saw a few goats and a pig. This time the monkeys were out, along with sheep and pigs, and a swan and ducks in the river.


My boyfriend emailed me last night to tell me he wasn't sure what he'd prefer, a photo of me being terrorised by monkeys, or a photo of me enjoying my holiday. You can't get close enough to be terrorised by the monkeys (thankfully!!) so I went with looking vaguely worried as close to the fence as you can get.


While this may not look like a tasty pancake, I can assure you it was actually very delicious. I had a cheese and bacon one, while Eva had a cheese one and then an apple one. I had learned from previous experience that bacon and cheese was plenty to fill me up, so didn't bother with a dessert pancake. I also won't need any dinner after this, just some Pringles and a bit of toast to fill in the gaps.

Have a nice evening everyone!

Lazy Day

Today has been a day of lounging around, and a certain amount of stupidity.

We had this day set aside to walk Eva's Dad's dogs, Bruce and Lana, throughout the day. But in the end we went for one walk this morning.

This is where my stupidity comes in, I took my camera with me, and managed to get some good shots of both dogs. But I've just gone to get my memory card out of my camera so I can sort out the photos aaaand...it's not in there. It's still in the card reader, left over from last night XD So, no dog pictures for anyone.

This afternoon has been spent listing badges on my new Etsy shop, Creative History, and sorting out some new colours for some of Archaeologist postcards that recently sold on Creative Classics, and watching TV.

Very little else going on, just generally lounging around. Tomorrow will hopefully involve some photos, if I forget my memory card again I'll be massively annoyed.

Walking Adventure

Today me and Eva were at a loss for things to do, so in the end we decided to go for a walk and then reward ourselves afterwards at a cafe that Eva said did very nice hot drinks.

We're a bit unlucky with the weather, it keeps alternating between sunshine and showers, so we did our best to time our walk between the rain. It didn't work completely, it rained a bit once we got to the forest where the walk started, but once the showers stopped and the sun came out we soon dried off.

I'm under instructions to tell you all that we had to edge around a cliff, and we saw lots of nature and wildlife. In reality we had a bit of a death-defying moment (alright, a moment where we could have fallen into a pond) on a very slippery bridge, edged our way around a tree with a very slippery path next to the river, saw a deer, and found a mushroom. The rest of the time were vaguely lost, in that we weren't sure where we were but Eva was fairly certain we were going in the right direction. There were very few maps around, and no signposts to point us in the right direction, unless we were on a cycle path. Cyclists are allowed to know where they're going, hikers just have to hope for the best :P


We eventually found our way back to the start and went to the cafe for some hot chocolate and something to eat. They had a mixed platter that we decided to share, with me eating the meat and Eva eating the vegetarian-friendly bits (olives, cheese, egg rolls and crackers).


We've now had dinner, got pizza as a reward for walking so much today. And tomorrow will include more walking as we have two golden retrievers to entertain!

Have a nice evening everyone!

Amsterdam

Hello from the Netherlands!


First day of my holiday and since the weather forecast is far from positive me and Eva decided to make the most of the sunshine this morning and head to Amsterdam. We haven't been to the city for a good few years, but every time we go we do something touristy. In the past we've done a canal tour, and the Amsterdam Dungeon, this time we visited Anne Frank's house.

Pretty much everyone knows the tale of Anne Frank. She and her family were Jews who hid from the Nazis, helped by some of her father's staff. Their hiding place was betrayed and they were split up and sent to various concentration camps, Anne and her older sister died in Bergen-Belsen a month before the camp was liberated. Her father Otto was the only one to survive, when he returned to Amsterdam one of the women that had helped shelter them gave him Anne's diary, which she had saved after the soldiers had left. The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the world's best-known books.

The house itself is, as you would expect, very small. The walls are tastefully dotted with some exerpts and quotes from the diary, and there are screens that show video clips giving some of the background, and interviews with various people connected to the family. When you actually see the rooms themselves you realise how small the space was for so many people. What made it more real for me is that my youngest sister is around the same age as Anne was when she was living there, trying to imagine my sister cooped up in such a small space helped me realise how hard it would have been on Anne. No fourteen year old should live like that. If you are ever in Amsterdam then you really should visit it, if only to get some perspective of what various Jewish families experienced in order to escape persecution, the Franks were not the only Jewish family in hiding, hundreds of families were protected and sheltered across Europe.

After the house me and Eva went to clear the cobwebs with a cup of tea and some food.


Eva had a sandwich, I had a pecan brownie and a cup of tea. This is rather posh tea, the bloke that gave me the hot water looked rather confused when I asked for milk to go with it, but it was very nice in the end, even though I was using coffee creamer as a milk substitute.

We also then went for ice cream at a place Eva knows which does the most delicious ice cream ever. It genuinely tastes like frozen cream, rather than sugary ice milk. Really yummy!

Have a nice evening everyone!

Holland

Quick post to A) cover the fact that I need to do a blog post, and B) to say that I'm here!

Packing

I'm off on holiday on Sunday. Naturally I am delaying packing for as long as possible XD

I have however written a list of essentials, namely passport, tickets, my oyster card to get to the train station, and my euros.

Everything else is just there to keep me dry, right?


James Henry Harris

You might remember that a few months ago I wrote a blog post about my great-great uncle, George Harris, who died in the First World War.

Well on this day in 1915, George's older brother James Henry Harris died, also while fighting in the First World War. James had only been in action for a few months, his unit was sent to France in June 1915. However all of this information was unknown to me and my Mum until recently.

Starting at the beginning, James was born around 1885 in Westminster, London. He was the fourth child and second son of William John Harris and Harriet Louisa Harris, who went on to have five more children in the following years. James was followed in 1887 by Kate Harris, my great-grandmother. My Nan always told my Mum that James was Kate's favourite brother, I think her eldest brother William was a bit too old to be close as there were 8 years between them, and George, Albert and Harry were no doubt as annoying as younger brothers can be.

The Harris Boys, not sure which one is which though, the gentleman on the right is their father.

James' life is fairly easy to track, to a certain extent. He can be found on every family census from 1891 onwards, on the 1911 one he's a greengrocer helping his father in the business (William John had his own grocers and fruiterer's shop). He also witnessed his older siblings marry, his older sister Alice Maud married Alfred Latham in 1908 and William married Wilhelmina Koch in 1909, James' signature appears as witness on both marriage certificates. In October 1914 he then shows up on the certificate of Kate when she married her first husband, James Ashby.

Some time after witnessing this ceremony James signed up to go out and fight. He was placed in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, and "died in the war", as my Nan used to tell it. I don't know whether my great-grandmother found it too painful to talk about her beloved brother's death, or if my Nan forgot the details and so didn't pass them along to my Mum. But it's mostly been through the internet and some luck that details of his short service have been pieced together.


The first problem I had is that Harris is a very common surname, James is also a very common first name and many men weren't recorded by both first and middle name, so was I looking for a James Henry Harris, or just James Harris? My Nan had mentioned to my Mum that all the Harris boys were in the Duke of Cornwall's unit, but since I'd already found George in the Machine Gun Corps I knew that I couldn't rely on that info. While searching on Ancestry I came across the medal card above, since the information matched what I knew I saved it, along with two other possibilities (including one from a London Regiment which I felt was more likely).

I then managed to find a bit more information on the JH Harris in the above service register by searching Military Genealogy. I found that the JH Harris with the service number 11042 was born in Westminster and had been living in Holloway when he signed up, which made me 95% certain I had the right man. But 95% isn't 100%, and I was reluctant to say for certain that it was definitely him without absolute proof.

To be honest though, I assumed that proof would never come. His service record doesn't survive, 70% of service records from the First World War were destroyed by German bombs in the Second World War. I checked Ancestry every time free offers came up, just in case I had missed something, but there was nothing new for me to add.

Until recently, when Iron Mountain storage facility announced that it was digitising a collection of soldier's wills that it had been storing for years. It seemed a bit of a far-flung hope, there's only a few hundred thousand wills, and millions of men died, but I typed in his name, just in case...


He was there! I nearly cried when his name came up in the search results. I paid £6 and two days later a PDF arrived in my inbox. It's difficult to read as I've shrunk the image to fit this blog, but it simply says "In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my mother, Harriet Harris, 5 Hatchard Road, Upper Holloway, London". Not only does he name his mother, but 5 Hatchard Road is where his sister Kate listed as her address on her 1914 marriage certificate. Private 11042 is my great-great uncle.

This also means that I know for certain how he died. Eighteen months ago I paid a visit to The National Archives and went through the war diary of the 7th Battalion DCLI. I wasn't expecting much, James wasn't an officer, he was just an ordinary soldier, and it's normally only officers whose death is mentioned by name in war diaries. I was expecting to read the words "One Other Rank Killed". But at least I would get some context, whether they were being shelled or building up for a big push forward, I might at least know what was going on when he died. So imagine my shock he wasn't just named as being deceased, they even mentioned the circumstances.

Sept 12 - Pte J.H.Harris was killed by a sniper, whilst working in VC Avenue.





"Kindest Regards, form your loving brother, Jim"


Have a nice evening everyone.

I mentioned last week that I recently revisited my local library and came away with a large armful of books. At the moment I still haven't sat down properly with the recipe books I borrowed, but I have read another of the fiction ones I was reading.

A Cat, A Hat and a Piece of String is a new short story collection by Joanne Harris. She's one of my favourite writers, along with Philippa Gregory and Terry Pratchett whose books I have reviewed in the past. If the name sounds familiar but you can't place why then it's probably because you've seen the movie "Chocolat" starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche, which was based on the book "Chocolat" written by...Joanne Harris! (As an aside, the sequel to Chocolat, The Lollipop Shoes, is one of my favourite books).

As I mentioned above, this is a collection of short stories. Rather typically of Joanne Harris they're mixture of nostalgia, sweetness and downright creepy. Sweet is covered by two of the stories about Faith and Hope, two little old ladies living in a care home (also, while the story is sweet it does also give one an alternative glimpse into old people's homes that makes you hope you never end up in one). Nostalgia, to an extent, is the man who celebrates Christmas all year round. LITERALLY, all year round. And as for creepy, let's just say the baby made of cake and the ghost on Twitter made me reconsider eating sugar and indulging in social media.

While some of the stories are a little improbable, they are very well written and easy to dip in and out of. The only real problem is that you'll probably struggle to put the book down.

On this day in 1157, the future king Richard I of England (also known as Richard the Lionheart) was born. He was the son of King Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Technically he wasn't supposed to be king, he had two older brothers, William and Henry. William died at the age of 3, but Henry survived infancy and was known as "The Young King", until he died in a campaign against Richard and their father.

Team Richard I by The Creative Historian

Richard has traditionally been remembered as one of England's best kings, but in reality he somply used the country to fund his many military campaigns and left it in a terrible financial position when he died.

Have a nice day everyone!

Draft Excluder

When I was a little girl my grandparents had a draft excluder in the shape of a snake. It took me a while to work out what it was actually for, I assumed it was just a cuddly toy that stayed on the floor. Now that winter is coming I'm starting to think that getting a draft excluder for my room might be a good idea.

Sausage Dog Draught Excluder by TheSherbertPatch

This shop is full of gorgeous handsewn decorations for the home! There's draft excluders, doorstops and cushions, all in pretty patterned fabrics, so whether you like pale pastels or brighter shades you should be able to find something to your taste!

Have a nice evening!

After a few months of sticking to my own bookshelf, and re-reading the same books again and again and again as a result (which I do a lot anyway, but this was excessive) I finally returned to my local library. Luckily after a break of a few months I found some new books there that caught my eye and which were duly borrowed.

One of those books turned out to be a good but occasionally heart-rending read; A Nurse At The Front - The First World War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton.

Edith Appleton was an English nurse who spent the First World War in France and Belgium, looking after wounded soldiers, both Allied and German. The information about her was originally published on a website, and recently her diaries were published in the above book.

If you're of a sensitive disposition then you need to avoid this book. What makes it a good read is that Edith Appleton didn't pull any punches with regards to what she experienced, including soldiers who were maimed or paralysed, or who spent days in agony before they finally died. But she also paints a beautiful picture of areas of northern France before they were devastated by shelling, and the stories of everyone clubbing together to make Christmas decorations make you realise that despite the horrendous numbers of casualties people still tried to make sure that life went on as normally as possible.

It also gives you the other side of the war. Most published diaries are from the soldiers themselves, whether they were frontline infantry or vicars who were running Sunday services and holding burials on a daily basis. In this diary you get the views not only of a woman, but a woman who at times was remarkably close to The Front. While she may not have had to deal with rats or contracted trenchfoot, she did have to deal with soldiers who bled to death, or suffocated as gas ate away at their lungs. The nurses who served in France had to be as tough as the soldiers, and Edith's diaries do occasionally mention those women who struggled to cope.

Overall this is an excellent read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the First World War.

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