Monthly Archives: July 2013

What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)

What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and WindsorMany centuries ago some of the Anglo-Saxon kings started a tradition of holding regular meetings in the open air. According to historical evidence the name of Runnymede is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “runieg” and “mede” (“regular meetings on the Meadow”). This tradition has existed from the 7th to the 11th century. On one of these meetings, English democracy was “born”. It happened in Runnymede1215 when some of the barons produced the historic document called “The Unknown Charter of Liberties”, it later became known as the “Articles of the Barons” and finally we now know it as the (Magna Carta), which was forced upon King John to sign by his barons, by the way King John was known as the most unsuccessful monarch of Britain and ever since that time, no other monarch of England has ever been named John. Nevertheless, King John is now known in history as the King who proclaimed the Magna Carta. Later the island where the document was signed, was named Magna Carta Island.

Windsor (2)“The great cornerstone in England’s temple of liberty” inherent in Runnymede played a fateful role in England’s history. The document provided a guarantee of rights and freedoms for the free classes and formed the basis of modern democracy. Later, the document was used for the British constitution and today 3 out of 63 clauses are still in force. The American constitution is also based on this document. Most probably the Magna Carta was also a significant historical document for the United States of America, because the Americans established a memorial at Runnymede in 1932..

The picturesque area near the Magna Carta Island was the perfect place to stay on the fist night during their journey along the Thames for the gentlemen in the novel “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. When traveling along the Thames, it’s impossible not to stop and visit the island.

Runnymede located between the two small towns of Windsor and Staines was also mentioned in history. Staines was known since the Roman conquest, when the Emperor Claudius used it as a transit point on the route to Londinium (London) from the ancient Roman settlement of Silchester. It was at this time that a bridge across the River Thames was built. StainesToday you can have a nice walk alongside the Thames, enjoy the scenery along it’s banks and visit the various old pubs immersed in colorfull flowers in the summer, possibly the same pubs, where travelers stayed and rested in ancient times.

Windsor (7)A palace of Saxon Kings mentioned in documents of 1060’s, was built in Old Windsor on the south bank of the What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)Thames. Old Windsor was popular among the ancient Monarchs because of its convenient location next to the river and the large forest which was used for hunting. This Saxon Palace was replaced by a Norman one, by William the Conqueror What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)in New Windsor now known as the town of Windsor since 1974. The Palace was rebuilt as a castle in stone in the 12th century, since then the castle has gone through many royal dynasties and is now known as Windsor Castle and is the largest What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)castle in the world and the residence of Queen Elizabeth II. The name Windsor came from “Windlesora” (meaning “crooked river” in old Saxon language). The present Royal family’s name was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha from their German ancestry of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria this was changed to Windsor during World War I after the Germans started bombing London.

WindsorWindsor castle was in fact rebuilt many times and many of the original buildings were destroyed. A visit to Windsor is a must, not only for the royal residence, but to enjoy a walk through the ancient streets of the Windsor (1)town and visit some of the unique places. One of them is a tea room ”The Crooked House”, which was used at various times as a butcher’s shop, a jewelry boutique and an antique shop. This cafe took it’s name after the slope of the roof and the angle of the building, it seems like the building is about to fall on it’s side but so far this has not happened yet. The house was built in 1687 on the site of an existing Market House. The building has this unusual lean because the architect used unseasoned green oak in its construction. There is also a secret tunnel under the basement of the house, some say, that it was used for secret meetings with Charles II, others say it was used for delivering produce from the market to the kitchens at Windsor Castle. You will not have experienced Windsor if you do not visit “The Crooked tea House”.

What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)When you have finished walking around Windsor, go to the river and on the other side of the bridge, the oldest on the Thames, you will find yourself in the High Street of the exceptional old town of Eton, famous Eton (2)not only because of it’s antiquity and originality but for Eton College one of the oldest colleges in England, opened in 1440. Some of the political elites of the world have been educated in this colledge, who not only rule and decide the fate of the UK but also affect the whole world behind the scenes. So far 19 Prime Ministers have passed through the What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today? (Part 2 Runnymede and Windsor)gates of this school. No other school in the world can boast to have educated so many British and Foreign ministers. Almost all graduates of this college enter universities in Oxford and Cambridge. After many centuries of its existence Eton colledge has not change any of it’s traditions. The college held extremely strict rules in education and physical punishment was the norm until it was abolished in the 1980s. Strict rules and physical punishment have certainly benefited everyone who attended this school, perhaps because of the severe punishment, most college graduates have achieved a lot in their career. It is a pity that the school I studied in, had no such strict traditions…

Next time in Part three, I shall be visiting Monkey Island which is also on the Thames…

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What would Jerome K. Jerome write about today (part I, Hampton Court Palace)


ThamesWhile reading a novel by Jerome K. Jerome “Three Men in a Boat” when I was young, I laughed again and again as I read what he had written and quoted in his funniest passages. The author describes the adventures of three friends on a boat ride along the River Thames; they started from Kingston-upon-Thames and followed the river all the way to Oxford in order to escape “a general disinclination to do any kind of work.” The whole adventure was described in the book with a subtle sense of humour. The book was published in 1889 and found incredible success and is still published today in many languages. If you haven’t read this novel, I commend you to read it as soon as possible: as you will derive incredible pleasure from the subtle and comic situations in it.

ThamesThe events in the book are intertwined with real facts and some history of the river Thames. Jerome originally conceived the book as a guide to those wanting to know more about the river; hence all the sights along the river are mentioned in the context of a historical aspect. Thanks to Jerome, the Thames has since become very popular with tourists. Since those early years, the number of boats on the river has increased significantly and a day cruise on the Thames is almost a necessity and part of the life of many residents in the surrounding area. A large number of cruises are held daily all along the river for tourists and a lot of small private boats sail up and down it, of course the scenery and the boats no longer look as they did 100 years ago…

Many years after reading the story, I visited all the places along the Kingston-upon-ThamesThames designated by Jerome on his amusing journey, trying to imagine the book descriptions as I compare them to the present day. I believe the old streets of the towns have not changed much in one hundred years nor have any of the ancient buildings. But the atmosphere, the present inhabitants and neighbourhoods of these towns along the Thames are now another world and another way of life…

coronation stoneKingston-upon-Thames was the first town where these three gentlemen started their boat cruise from. It is a historic town where Saxon kings were crowned in the 10th century. As the name suggests, there is a King’s stone, apparently not a very impressive one, unless you know the story behind it. Although, no one knows, if it is “the same stone” that was used a long time ago to crown the 7 kings in the town Church of St. Mary, which was destroyed in the 1730s. Later in 1850 the stone was removed from the ruins and mounted on a pedestal in the market Kingston-upon-Thamesplace and officially named the coronation stone with the names of the seven kings carved on it. Another attractive monument in this town I recently visited is a modern structure made up of red phone boxes removed from the Old London Road in 1988. “Famous” place in the town is the Kingston Hills, were guns installed there some years ago were aimed against the Martians in the novel “War of the Worlds” by Herbert Wales. Today Kingston is one of the districts of Greater London with commercial offices, shopping centres, modern architecture and lots of new housing.

HamptonCourt (3)The next town in the book by Jerome is Hampton-on-Thames. “It looks so peaceful and so quiet, and it is such a dear old place to ramble round in early morning before many people are about”. On the other side of the river is the lovely town of Molesey, also very attractive and peaceful. In the old days so many visited this part of the river that you could only see a brilliant tangle of HamptonCourt (2)bright blazers, gay caps, saucy hats, coloured parasols, silken rugs and cloaks, streaming ribbons and dainty whites on the banks of the Thames. Today, the main streets of the town are full of little restaurants and antique shops, beautiful multicoloured cruise ships waiting in a queue at the Molesey lock. Only the “dark old Tudor palace” of Hampton court nearby looks the same as in ancient times.

When I approached the sculptures on the walls of Hampton HamptonCourt (1)court, they looked very mysterious and fascinating. The Hampton Court Palace was originally built in the Gothic style for Cardinal Thomas Woolsey, then passed on to King Henry VIII, who became the most HamptonCourt (5)famous Christian to be married six times. The history of this palace is perhaps associated with some of the most tragic events in the history of Tudor England. Henry VIII remains to me one of the horror stories of my childhood like the fairy tale of Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard”. Two wives of Henry VIII were executed on his orders. The stories of ghosts still excite visitors and security people at the palace. In a special records book security guards registered some terrible evidence. In 2003, a video camera captured something strange, a spokesperson at the Palace admitted, that it was a figure that looked like King Henry VIII. The “ghost” had no human face. The Security officer added that “this is not a joke.” During the tourist season in the courtyard of the palace you can find a “real life” Henry the VIII, not a ghost but actors, you can also take part in the play and become a member of his entourage setting you in the atmosphere of the Tudor period.

Recent studies of famous people in English history by Professor Kevin Dutton revealed an interesting conclusion about Henry VIII that he was in fact a psychopath. Henry VIII takes first place among other celebrities in the category of outstanding characters. The purpose of the research was to prove that many of the characteristic of psychopaths are useful in certain areas. Probably the Tudor period would not have been so saturated with significant historical changes and reforms undertaken by Henry VIII if he was not a psychopath.

HamptonCourt (9)The Tudor Palace looks unusually beautiful, maybe because of its mystery. In King William III time new parts of the palace were added in the Baroque style. A mixture of styles makes it even more unusual. The interiors barely survived 500 HamptonCourt (10)years, but all the bits that did, create an atmosphere of past times seem very close. Tapestries, beds of Kings and Queens, thrones, wood carvings and a huge royal kitchen with a real fireplace and pans of enormous sizes were really impressive.

HamptonCourt (23)Jerome K. Jerome describes a visit to the green maze in the picturesque park of Hampton Court when he wandered in it for a long time before he found the way out. Still being called the biggest labyrinth in Europe, it did not look too large to me, in fact. It’s impossible to get lost in there with positive signs of how to get out..

Perhaps, only one day is not enough to explore all the rooms of this palace and get to know all it’s history and definitely not enough time to enjoy the walks around the many facets of the park. But it’s time to hit the road with Jerome in my next review with the town of Windsor and it’s magnificent castle.




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The artist’s town of St Ives and its legends

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legends

The beautiful town of St Ives on the western coast of Cornwall in England with it’s amazing sea landscapes, creates a unique atmosphere for artists. Walking along the narrow streets with their multi-colored stone cottages all nestled together in a labyrinth of avenues; you come across a lot of small art galleries. Artists from far and wide come here to paint the breathtaking coastal scenery and they always want to come back again and again. The history of the artist in this town started very recently.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsThe town was well known since the The artist’s town of St Ives and its legends5th century when Irish princess Ia arrived on the coast of the Celtic sea and founded Christianity in this area. In 1549 St Ives was connected with events of the Prayer Book Rebellion. Cornish people were against church reforms which were carried out by the King of England. The English parliament during the Reformation adopted a new law and all church services had to be held in English. Cornish people spoke their native language which was similar to Latin and easier for reading prayers. These events which coincided with the latest trends and other economic sanctions against farmers caused mass discontent among the indigenous population which expanded into serious mutinies. Royal armies suppressed the revolt and cruelly finished off all the rebels. These events radically affected the demise of the Cornish language; the Prayer book was now only written in the English language and the Bible was never translated into the Cornish language.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsOne famous Cornish rebel was executed in St Ives. When the English Provost Marshal arrived in the town in 1549 and stayed at “The Sloop Inn” pub (the oldest known pub in Cornwall since 1312). He invited John Payne, the administrator of the town (named the Portreeve in those days) to lunch, he then asked John Payne the Portreve to erect a gallows in the town. After lunch the Provost Marshal ordered John, the Portreeve to mount the gallows where he was promptly hanged as a “busy rebel”.

This story of the towns chronicle is recorded as one of the negative pages of English violence and some English priests today, consider that events like these were the biggest mistake of the English government of the time. On a wall of St Ia Church, a memorial plaque reminds us of this event.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsThe town has had long history, in the Middle Ages it was the most important fishing port on the northern coast of Cornwall. St Ives remained isolated until 1877, just before the railway was established; it then became the popular holiday The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsplace it is today. During the last two years St Ives was voted best British sea resort. Because of a warm Gulfstream lapping its shores you get the softest winters and the warmest summers in England. Four of the beaches have crystal-clear transparent water and white sand and the cozy bays are surrounded by green palm trees and a rocky coast. Lots of antiquary from ancient times can be found in the narrow streets and lanes of this beautiful town.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsThe art biography of St Ives began in 1928 when a group of artists arrived in town. Having admired the Cornish beauty, they lodged there and founded the Art society. In 1993 the Tate St Ives was opened and was instantly declared “the most inspired art collection of the twentieth century”. The Barbara The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsHepworth Sculpture Museum is another unique center of art. The BBC4 television channel accepted St Ives, to be as famous as Paris and New York, and more progressive than London.

A lot of ceremonial events are staged during the year in the town. One of the most unusual is the ancient ritual, “ The day of St. James” which is carried-out once every five years on July the 25th in memory of John Knills, who was the mayor of the town in 1797. Next to the historic John Knills Monument erected on a mountain nearby in the old days an ancient ritual dance is performed by girls who must be daughters of fishermen and dressed all in white.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsSome time ago while I was walking along the embankment of this lovely small town on a beautiful sunny morning, when the sea breeze brought an appetizing aroma of Cornish pasties wafting passed my nose, which were being The artist’s town of St Ives and its legendsbaked in a nearby café. It is simply impossible to pass these yum-yum Cornish Pasties places. The Pasties can have various fillings, from cheese to chicken and meat with potatoes in gravy. I bought the pie and started eating it whilst walking along the shore engulfed in the aura of the seascape. Whilst enjoying the sunny weather and the blue sea, happily chewing on my Pasty, I suddenly felt something strange behind my shoulder, like someone had gently slapped me. The very next moment I was looking at an empty hand instead of a big piece of pasty, and there in front of me several meters away was this seagull eating the remains of my lunch which she had snatched from my hands, it all happened so quick I was left speechless. Perhaps, of all the memories of this beautiful town, it was the most amusing and one I will always remember about St Ives.

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legends

The artist’s town of St Ives and its legends





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