Hello Dippy!

I’d recently read that 200,000 visitors had visited Dippy at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. That was before David and I ventured south to visit him. I don’t know what possessed me to book tickets to see Dippy on Tour for the August bank holiday! But (free) tickets I had anyway! So this Saturday we drove the two hours from Liverpool. Luckily, I had planned an hours leeway. On our journey south we hit miles of roadworks, due to the M6 being turned into a smart motorway, to be completed 2022! We also faced a junction closure. Junction 10 was closed, due to a police incident. Recent research discovered that the incident was of a man on the wrong side of a bridge! With the motorway swelled with bank holiday traffic and football supporters travelling to see Wolverhampton v Manchester City and Aston Villa v Reading matches, the delays were up to 90 minutes!

Thanks to motorway signs early informing us of the closure at junction 10, we managed to divert, (though heavily), away from the jam and navigated, thanks to the M6 toll (at £5.30 a car), back and around towards the centre of Birmingham. Adding 40 minutes to our journey.

Our meeting with Dippy was at 1pm, so you can imagine the pressure we were on to get to the museum on time. We parked up at the Bullring and with twenty minutes to spare, rushed towards Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which can be found on Chamberlain Square. The entrance to Dippy was on the Gas Hall entrance on Edmund Street.

With time to spare we checked in and walked into the Gas Hall to come face to face with Dippy, a 100 year old cast of not one, but five Diplodocus skeletons. David commented that Dippy was smaller than he’d expected, but during the time we spent with Dippy we marveled at his size. This sauropod (lizard feet) stands some 26m long, is 4m wide and stands 4m tall. I particularly liked his little face with razor sharp teeth. He roamed the earth some 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic age.

Dippy was undoubtedly the star of the attraction. The surrounding exhibit paled in comparison and sadly did not measure up to my expectation. It was a poorly comprised set of stuffed birds (with pigeons and magpies) alongside skeletons featuring a velociraptor and dodo to emphasise the link between dinosaurs and the evolution of birds. I think the Walking with Dinosaurs Arena show said it more eloquently.

‘We think of dinosaurs as…fierce creatures from a mythical world… they [were on this planet] for 170 million years. If you look closely, you’ll see, they’re not really gone, not completely…remember the raptors, the way their arms folded at the wrists?… The next time you are outside, have a look at a bird and try and imagine it 50 times bigger, with razor sharp teeth. So do not mourn the dinosaurs, they are with us still, their direct descendants are the birds.’

We spent 40 minutes with Dippy. Walked around him three times, and took lots of pictures. I was satisfied that we drove the two hours to see him. We did not linger in Birmingham, though we did casually look at the replica Typhoon, as Victoria Square held a 100 RAF event. We decided to return home, and make head way against the traffic and roadworks, which took three hours instead of two!

We got home to news that an injured pigeon was sitting outside our back door. As you know we have a long standing relationship with the descendants of dinosaurs. I found it rather fateful that this pigeon (a descendant of the T. rex) chose our step to rest upon. He was but a fledgling, his down still protruded from his adult feathers. However we could not save this particular soul. He had suffered a brain injury from what probably was a collision with a wall. His beak was all bloodied and he was labouring for breath. He passed away in our care not an hour later, wrapped him in a towel and placed in a carrier. At least he died safe and warm.

It was rather a mixed day. I’d say Dippy was worth the visit, even if we had to fight through roadworks, delays and road closures to get to him. Dippy will be touring the UK until 2020. If, like us, you hadn’t seen him when he was resident at the Natural History Museum, London, then you can catch him at these other locations:

If you have seen Dippy before, what were your recollections? Do dinosaurs interest you? If so what are your favourites and why?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

mapButtermeretoRannerdale

Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #6

Bev from Confuzzledom informed me that the latest #photoanhour challenge was this Saturday 20th January 2018. I decided to join in on Instagram. Though my day was hectic I wouldn’t class it as exciting! Here’s my 12 hours of Day.

Photo an Hour – 20th January 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began at 8am with the alarm clock blaring. I was the first up and with Artie fed, I waited for the kettle to boil for my morning coffee.

9am to 10am:

I dawdled over breakfast. The morning was cold, grey and raining. It was difficult to motivate myself, but I knew I had to get up as a busy day awaited. I spent fifteen minutes putting on my make-up and getting dressed.

10am to 11am:

First on the agenda was the weekly shop. We spent a good hour in Asda spending lots of money on gym clothes and groceries.

11am to 12pm:

Was spent unpacking groceries, travelling to garages so David could pump up his car tyres and travelling to a spice market that was sadly closed when we got there.

12pm to 1pm:

Arriving later than planned, we took a visit to David’s mum and dad.

1pm to 2pm:

Home, I managed to arrange the cut flowers I’d bought that morning.

2pm to 3pm:

While having a late lunch, David noticed we had an egg in the aviary. It was a tiny owl finch egg.

3pm to 4pm:

Thankfully the rain stopped long enough for me to spend some time in the yarden. I cleaned the bird feeders of mold.

4pm to 5pm:

After doing some house work, I tried on my new gym clothes!

5pm to 6pm:

After cleaning the aviary, we watched as the finches enjoyed their new French Red Anjou Millet!

6pm to 7pm:

Dinner time. I was starving! We both had pizza for Saturday’s evening meal. David’s was topped with chicken, while I had half a goat’s cheese with spinach pizza. I served it with a heap of salad to make it look healthier. Of course I enjoyed a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon too :p

7pm to 8pm:

For the rest of the evening I relaxed with Classic FM and Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type. David and I also snuggled and watched a film together. It was a nice end to a hectic day.

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Walk on the Beach

For the last day of the long Easter weekend, the weather didn’t bode well. We awoke to more rain. However, David and I decided to head out anyway. We took a 50 minute drive to Formby Point. In the back seat of the car was Riley who doesn’t like long journeys. We got to the car park with no hiccup and walked through the squirrel woodland towards the dunes and the beach beyond.

At the beach we let Riley off the lead and played fetch with his favourite toy. We all had so much fun and it didn’t rain!

Before we left the beach for the car, we witnessed a wonderful show of nature. A starling murmuration billowed over the waters edge. It was amazing to watch!

starlings

Starling murmuration

Sadly its back to work tomorrow, but it’s days off like this that make the commute worth it. Roll on the next holiday!

How have you spent your Easter break?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine, David and Riley x

The Lovers (a story fragment).

the-lovers-art-nouveau-tarotThe wind ruffled his hair. She liked how it sent his fringe tumbling over his eyes. This would be the last time she saw him looking like this, strong, handsome, his skin glowing with the last rays of a dramatic sunset. As if sensing her gaze he turned to face her. Sadness tinged his eyes. ‘Are you having doubts?’

‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘Though it is a long way down and the river fast flowing.’

‘It is, but we are together. That’s all that matters.’ He reached for her hand. Their shoulders touched as they sat on the railing of a bridge. They looked down at the raging river below them. The breeze smelled sweetly of honeysuckle. ‘Scared?’

‘A little,’ she tried to look nonchalant, swinging her bare legs over the gorge.

‘We don’t have to jump you know.’

‘But you’ll think I’m a coward.’

‘No I won’t,’ he laughed. ‘Anyway, other people have done it, and survived.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes,’ he leaned in to kiss her. ‘You do trust me?’ A flicker of apprehension crossed his face.

‘I do, I love you!’

‘Good,’ she felt him squeeze her hand.

‘Let’s do this!’ She followed his lead and slid her body over the railing. She screamed into the cool evening as her foot slipped, threatening to send her over prematurely. He threw an arm out to stop her, though she lost a shoe, and watched as it somersaulted towards a watery landing. Nervously they turned to face the tumultuous waters below. Holding hands grimly and with sirens blaring in the distance like birdsong, they stepped out into the air.

24 hours earlier…

He still held the gun. His hand shook as he pointed the smoking barrel towards the man who lay at his feet. ‘Put the gun down, Jack!’ His girlfriend shouted, her voice cracking with tension.

‘I can’t, Aimee,’ Jack’s face had turned ashen grey.

‘Oh F**k I think he’s dead! Oh F**k!’ Jack looked at the body slumped face down before him. ‘Let’s go. I’ve already called the police!’ Moments earlier Jack and Aimee, were stepping out of a restaurant laughing freely at an inside joke. The smell of grilled fish lingered in the air. ‘You are awful!’ Aimee playfully punched Jack’s arm before feeling his hands around her waist pulling her towards him. She closed her eyes as he nuzzled her neck.

‘Just give us your f**king money, lovebirds!’ Aimee opened her eyes to the contorted face of a man. He pointed the muzzle of a gun angrily at their faces. ‘Your money, now!’ Aimee clutched at her bag which the man eyed covetously.

‘I don’t think so,’ laughed Jack, moving his body in front of Aimee’s to shield her.

‘Jack!’ Aimee nervously placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘I’m not afraid to use this!’ The man waved the gun carelessly.

‘I think you are.’ Jack edged closer to the man. He was a scrawny, runt, it would be easy for Jack to overpower him.

‘I mean it!’ The man cocked the gun and aimed it at Jack’s chest.

‘Jack, let’s just do what he wants.’ Deaf to Aimee’s pleas, Jack rushed forward. He reached for the gun with one hand and used the full force of his body to unbalance the man. Aimee shrieked! Both men grunted as they struggled. Reaching into her bag, Aimee pulled out her mobile phone. She started pushing at numbers, hastily talking to the operator.

‘Police please, an armed robbery.’ Aimee finished the call as Jack spun round, in his hand he triumphantly waved the weapon.

‘Unlike you, I am not afraid to use this!’

‘You wouldn’t dare!’

‘Jack! Don’t be stupid!’

‘Yes, Jack, don’t be stupid!’ The man mimicked. ‘Look,’ he supplicated. ‘Let’s all go our separate ways. That way no one get’s hurt.’

‘What? And let a snivelling c**t like you, continue to roam the streets!’ The man looked offended.

‘It’s not like I wouldn’t follow you. Find out where you live.’ He eyed Aimee lasciviously. There came a flash of light, like someone had taken a photograph. A loud crack reverberated around the car park. Aimee watched as the man crumpled to the ground like a demolished building. He lay still. A deafening silence followed.

‘Why did you pull the trigger?’ Aimee cried.

‘It just went off in my hand.’

‘Oh f**k!’ Aimee watched as blood pooled around the body. ‘We’ve got to get out of here before the police arrive,’ she pulled at Jack’s arm. He blinked like he had just woken up from a dream.

‘Let’s get to the car.’

‘What are you doing with the gun? You can’t take it with us!’ Jack had flicked the safety catch, tucking the weapon into the waistband of his jeans.

‘Just get in the car.’ He fired up the engine.

‘How do you know how to handle a gun like that!’

‘We handled lots of firearms on the farm. It’s no big deal.’ He sidled the car onto the main road, switching the headlights on when they were away from the scene. Bumper to bumper in traffic they both watched as a cavalcade of sirens flashed past them, heading in the opposite direction.

‘What are we going to do?’ Aimee dabbed at her wet cheeks. ‘Can we even go home?’ Jack shrugged.

‘Damn there’s cameras everywhere! We’re going to have to ditch the car.’

‘Where?’

‘We can ditch it somewhere near my brother’s, then borrow one of his cars.’

‘My grandmother has a place in Snowdonia, we can go there for the time being. Lay low for a bit.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘Do you think someone saw us?’ Jack sighed.

‘I have no doubt.’

© Christine Lucas 2016.


The story behind the story: 

I was inspired to write the above after reading Taya’s short fragment of dialogue (the bridge scene) on her blog page, Dragonition. She has some fantastic ideas on her blog for writers of any ability. Go check it out!

I found the task quite challenging. To take someone else’s idea and change it into my own was harder than I imagined.

I read quite a lot but not everything inspires me to tinkle on the keyboard. Yet, I have so many characters and scenes flitting around my head at present; so this exercise came at the right moment for me. It’s been very cathartic. Who knows, I may even try and add to the narrative and elaborate on why I’ve used a tarot card for the title.

I hope you have enjoyed reading it? Let me know in the comments any thoughts you may have.

Christine x

Five Go on a Grand Tour.

Five Go on a Grand Tour to Cumbria

Five Go on a Grand Tour to Cumbria

It’s quite amazing how much you can pack into 15/16 hours in just one day!

Saturday was the start of my week long vacation. David for the past week, had been making plans with his brother, Gary and cousin Keith to go for a day out to the Lake District, Cumbria. With Bilgen, Gary’s wife and myself in tow.

Keith was the designated driver and picked us up from no 49 at 8. 15 am on a bright sunny morning in Liverpool. We drove along the M62 and M6 to Windermere (the largest lake in England), stopping at Lancaster services along the way. The journey took just under two hours and by 10 am we were at the lakeside of Winderemere.

Windremere

Windremere

Windermere is not my favourite lake, Buttermere holds that accolade but we spent a good hour walking the lakeside, watching the boats sail by and people struggle with oars as they tried to turn rowing boats to the shore. David said he would like to try a rowing boat, he got scoffs of disbelief in return from Keith and myself. Bilgen and Gary wanted to take a cruise along the river, but the duration was 45 minutes and our car park stay was only for 2 hours. So we jumped back into the car and headed towards Keswick.

DS5

DS5

Keith’s Sat Nav in the new DS5 was appalling! It took us down small dead end roads and streets where barely a Smart car could pass! And don’t ask about the ‘comfy’ seating in the back. It’s safe to say my back and bottom will take days to recover! lol

After a hours drive we finally got to Keswick and the Surprise View. Where we picnicked before the view of Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake. The view was lovely. I could have stayed there all day!

Surprise View: derwent water and bassenthwaite

Surprise View: Derwent water and Bassenthwaite

After lunch we decided to head towards my favourite lake, Buttermere. However we didn’t take the left turn though we had Keith’s Sat Nav and my Google directions leading the way! We ended up on a road towards Loweswater which had no parking places! I was not best pleased!

We then drove endlessly on towards Ennerdale Water which again did nothing for me! During the walk to the lakeside I had a Tortoiseshell Butterfly land on my butterfly printed dress. While waiting for the other ‘four’ to come back from the shingle beach I met with three hikers who were disorientated and wondered on which path to follow. One asked me ‘where have you come from?’ If I had been witty I would have said.

‘By magic!’ However I am not quick witted and simply said, ‘up that path towards the car parks!’ Duh!

After a bit of a lull with sightseeing, we headed towards Wastwater (the deepest of the lakes). The clouds came rolling in and the rain followed after, though Wastwater looked very atmospheric!

Wast Water

Wastwater

It took almost two hours driving from Egremont to Kendal, where we stopped off at an Indian restaurant, called simply India for sustenance. I found it on Google after searching for restaurants in the area.

The restaurant was relatively quiet when we arrived, but after 8 pm it filled up with locals and a Stag Do, the groom was dressed up as a cow! It got quite noisy. The actually restaurant was small. Only had room for say 30 people? The ambiance was made by the people eating as the décor was a bit lacklustre. I did like the authentic Indian music though, it made me want to jump out of my chair and dance! The service was friendly and welcoming. The waiter who served us knew Liverpool and made us feel very welcome. He described the menu expertly and I could have listened to him all day talking about curries. They did not however have a dupiaza on the menu so I had to order a vegetable masala though in hindsight I should have tried the bhuna, the taster sauce we were given was gorgeous!

We all left the restaurant after 9 pm full and satisfied! The journey home only took 1.5 hours. We were home by 11 pm!

Though the day seemed long, we did indeed see lots of sights, some where new while others we had visited before. A journey is always better undertaken with friends!