Up In The Sky

Flying Machine

Renaissance Flying Machine Duxford Museum – copyright Padre’s Ramblings

Maria’s Antonia’s #2020picoftheweek challenge includes a prompt for “up in the sky.”  This photo taken at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford gets visitors to look up as they enter.  It’s fitting for the theme to have something unusual “up in the sky.”

It’s not a bird.  It’s not a plane. 

Nor Superman, or anything plain

It’s wood and canvas

And some Italian wild thought

Leonardo’s futuristic vision

But it came to naught





Read Me, If You Can

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Rosetta Stone, British Museum

Back in the days when we could freely make excursions, I went to the British Museum in London.  One of the priceless artifacts on display is the Rosetta Stone, which was used to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.   For centuries people had tried to translate the forgotten script, but this tablet which bears three different writing systems, each making the same statement was instrumental in our understanding the ancient picture system.

It seems a good photo to offer in response to Maria Antonia‘s Photography Challenge prompt: Read Me.  I am also thankful to my fellow blogger Crispina Kemp for her post which reminded me of the challenge.








The Museum

Factory, Warehouse, Box, Warehouse

Image by 淑媛 孙 from Pixabay

“Is there anything to do in this town?” Tammy, the big city girl, asked her cousin.

“Well, there is the museum.  I always discover something interesting there,” Alex said.

“I’ve seen museums before, there are lots of them in the capital. One with dinosaurs, and others with history stuff, and three different art ones – classical, portrait, and modern,” Tammy retorted.

“I am sure that none of them is quite like this one,” the country cousin replied.

The pair made their way down Main Street and crossed the railroad tracks.  There along railway was a large corrugated steel structure with a sign reading “Museum” on it.

They paid their $2 admission free and entered.

“What is this place?  It looks like a warehouse,” Tammy asked.

“Well, I find it fascinating,” Alex replied.

“But its row on row of boxes.”

“It is the Cardboard Museum, after all,” Alex countered.



Weekend Writing Prompt #122 – Museum



Reflections on the Birkenau Sky


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image: Padre

Reflections on the Birkenau Sky

I stand alone.

Above me -rich blue of heaven

Below – a place

Of horror I could but feign imagine


For Wiesel – this place was night

Even with the blueness of its sky

The darkness of its past

I cannot, nor should any, deny


I stand alone.

Above me – rich blue of sky

Below – I offer a tear and a prayer

In memory of those who died


For the last decade or more, I have been a Holocaust educator. My training and research has taken me to many of the darkest places in human history. On one such study trip I had the opportunity to wander the perimeter fence at the Birkenau site at Auschwitz. As I did, I remembered Elie Wiesel’s poem, Night.  

“Never shall I forget that night,
that first night in the camp,
which has turned my life into one long night,
seven times cursed and seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the faces of the children,
whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke
beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me,
for all eternity, of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God
and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.
Never shall I forget those things,
even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself.

I was there seventy years later under the same sky.  The place itself, no longer a killing centre, but a museum of its evil past.  It was the idea of a silent sky which I pondered. Wiesel, I believe was using dual meaning here. The sky was silent, serene even, despite the horror below; but also God did not act.  Heaven was quiet.

It is here that I beg to differ with the late professor. I do not, and cannot believe God was unaffected by the scenes below. Even such unspeakable evil, was of man’s making not His. We are our own worst enemies when we abuse free will.

My poem is an honest reflection of my own powerlessness in the face of the above. All I have to offer is prayers and tears.  And these continue to go out, not just to those who perished there, but to their surviving loved ones as well.

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image: Padre



A Quick Look at the Home of the Bard

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Jester, Henley Street

We were travelling in the area, so we thought a quick stop in Stratford-upon-Avon would make for an interesting side trip.  We really only had an afternoon, but it gave us a taste of this history packed town in Warwickshire.

We first set out to see and photograph key Shakespeare related buildings. The first of these was Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. While not strictly in Stratford (it is in an outlying village), it was very easy to access.  This was the home of Shakespeare’s wife before their marriage, and it is a lovely thatched, wattle-and-daub building.  It has gardens, and is a real atmosphere setter for a Bard related visit.

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Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Shakespeare’s mother’s home is equally beautiful. What is commonly known as Mary Arden’s House or Mary Arden’s Farm is another example of quality timber framed construction. There has been some misunderstanding of where Mary Arden actually lived, but this house has long been associated with her, though it way well actually be her neighbours’ house.  It is nonetheless part of the Shakespeare story.

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Mary Arden’s House (or Palmer Farm)

It was then onwards to town centre and Shakespeare’s birthplace.  This is a half timbered building on Henley Street, and is in a pedestrian shopping precinct.  Parking is nearby, and it is a short walk to other attractions.

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Nearby are the Shakespeare Centre and the Shakespeare Library and Archive.  These provide a range of resources on the author and his works.

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There was much more to see, but time was waning.  So it was time for some quick souvenir and gift shopping and then on our way.  It is worth noting that their is a quirky magic and fantasy themed shop  not for from the Shakespeare Centre where we got some Harry Potter themed bits for friends and family as well.



Link to Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Magic Alley

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Manchester Jewish Museum and a Couple of Places to Stay

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The Manchester Jewish Museum is housed in the Victorian era former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Manchester. It has beautiful stained glass windows, and elaborate fittings. The bimah is large, and and the upper galleries are equally impressive.

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Jewish Museum

The collections of the museum give a really good portrait of the life of the Jewish immigrants and traders that made Manchester their home.  There are also several Torah scrolls housed here from The Memorial Scrolls Trust.


There are exhibits that relate to the Holocaust, and to the resettlement of Jewish refugees from that sad era.

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Anne Frank Rose

This is an interesting and moving place to visit.

I stayed at the Townhouse Hotel for three nights while attending a conference. I found it clean, comfortable and very professional. The staff were welcoming, and helpful. The breakfast servers were particularly so. The room was of a good size and the decoration tasteful, but maybe a bit dated. The bed was very soft, but a bit high. The quality of sleep was very good. The shower had good pressure and plenty of hot water. The laptop safe provided was easy to use. The breakfast was good, with buffet continental items and hot items cooked to order. It was a very pleasant place to stay.


Another conference related stay was at the Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre. This is a good business hotel, and very convenient to the conference centre and the city centre. The room was comfortable, and the staff attentive.  The Glasshouse, as far as hotel restaurants go, was otherwise average. The general atmosphere was pleasant, but had that “business” feeling with the tables a bit too close together. The vegetarian selections were rather constrained, and the risotto was overly runny, and for the price not a great value. I was really not impressed with it as a place for an evening meal, so only ate dinner there once. To be fair to the establishment and the Crowne Plaza more generally, the breakfast buffet for the three mornings I was there was abundant and well prepared, though once again the “veggy” offerings were limited.


Museum Link


A Visit to Breendonk, Belgium

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I have noted before that I am a Holocaust educator. As part of my ongoing researches, I have visited many of the sites associated with the dark events of the Nazi era. One of these is the Belgian fortress of Breendonk.

Breendonk was constructed as a military fortification in the years immediately before the First World War. But it is more notable as a Nazi prison during the Second. Over three and a half thousand people were imprisoned, or transported through the facility.  Many of these later died in concentration camps deeper within the Reich.

On visiting the fortress today, it is notable that it is an official Belgian memorial and museum. It is imposing, and as one approaches the main gates over the moat, you are met with the eerie sign which translated says anyone passing that point will be shot.

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The inner gates are thick, and one moves through a tunnel to the inner precincts. Here rows of cells can be found, along with latrine blocks and dining facilities.  There is a solitary cell section, and it is a moving memorial marking out the suffering committed there.imageedit_3_7980646651 (1).jpg

The guard’s dining area is troubling.  In Holocaust education, it is accepted practice to not glorify the perpetrators in any way.  But the mess hall still bears the death head ans swastika logo on the wall, prominent over the head table.

The outer quarters in inner wall area are bordered by the moat. This area while peaceful, and somewhat beautiful today still have their tragic past as a backdrop.  The watchtowers along the moat are reminders of this.

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It was a moving few hours as I explored the facility.  The town surrounding has some cafes, and things to do, but the real thing to see is the museum and grounds.


Visiting the Iron Bridge

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Ironbridge and the surrounding Gorge area on the Severn Valley is one of the significant locations in the history of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. While Arkwright and others all contributed to the rapid industrialisation of England, as opposed to the cottage industry which preceded it, it is Abraham Darby’s contribution to the low cost smelting of iron, which gives this area its “claim to fame.”

Darby’s grandson, also Abraham, had the world’s first great fabricated cast iron bridge built to span the gorge. The bridge was erected between 1779 and 1781, opening on New Year’s Day.

The bridge was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1934 is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Visitors can view the scenic valley, the bridge, and also a local museum which houses a large diorama of the area.  We didn’t make a day of it, but it was a great way point and offered some really nice photo opportunities.  It really is worth seeing for anyone interested in the history of the Industrial Revolution, or in 18th and 19th Century history more generally.

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Bridge and War Memorial


Museum Link

The Firs: Elgar’s House

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It was a couple of seasons ago that we visited Elgar’s house, and its accompanying museum and archive. At the time it was administered by the Elgar Foundation, and it has since entered into the joint care of the Foundation and the National Trust.

The National Trust’s site notes that the contract gives the Firs “a new lease of life,” and this is to be appreciated by anyone who values heritage, and musical history.  The cottage is the birthplace of the composer, and his home through much of his life. The gardens are quaint, and in them you can find the burial place of his beloved dogs.

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The grounds also have a modern museum, performance area, and archive.  On our visit we (and especially my wife who is a musician) found the information and atmosphere inspiring.  Since the National Trust has taken on operation there has been a new tea room established, and walks around the grounds have been enhanced.

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I have to admit that I was late in coming to an appreciation of Elgar.  My first “knowing” experience of his work came with the Pomp and Circumstances march at my undergraduate graduation.  Since them I have come to admire the Enigma Variations (one of the things to check out at the museum), with its fourteen variations each representing musically one of his friends or loved ones.

While we have not been back since the National Trust began its involvement, I look forward to doing so soon (as a Trust member) and as an enthusiast for Elgar’s music.

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This is a worthwhile destination for anyone travelling in the west of England, and especially for those who love music.



Link to National Trust Pages




Visiting Captain Mainwaring: Dad’s Army Museum, Thetford

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Statue of Captain Mainwaring near Bridge House

At the end of the summer, I made my second visit to the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford. It has come a long way since 2012. On the surface it is about the popular 1970s BBC sitcom, but it also marks the history of the real British Home Guard of World War Two.

The museum’s displays contain stills from the 80 episodes of the programme, as well as memorabilia and props from the same. It also has an area dedicated to the Thetford Home Guard detachment.


The museum has some really dedicated volunteers, and they are very helpful. While photography is officially banned, allowances are made as long as pictures of the actors, or of BBC copyright materials are not taken. This is a relaxing of the rules I found in place on my first visit.

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Mainwaring’s Office

The museum also houses the Marigold Tea Rooms, and a small gift shop.

Related to the museum, there is a statue of Captain Mainwaring sitting on a bench along the riverside nearby. It is positioned so that the Bridge House (the actual headquarters for the Thetford Home Guard) provides a backdrop.

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Bunker along rail line in the Thetford area

 ” . . . we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . . .” Winston Churchill
“Dad’s Army,” or officially “The Home Guard” was made up of one and a half million men, who were otherwise exempt from service because of such factors as reserved occupations or age.  They were to act as a delaying force in the case of invasion, with the mission to harass and delay the enemy until the regular forces could be organised.  They also operated as coastal watchers, and as guards at airfields, railways, and other strategic locations.
The museum is closed for the season now, but will reopen on its regular schedule in March, and the J. Jones Butcher van will be on display from April. (The Mainwaring statue is always available to visit.)