Monday, 14 May 2012

Oh, the places you'll go!

Can I start by saying that I now have over 1000 pageviews! It may not be much to other bloggers, but it means a lot to me. Hello to all of you in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Philipines, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, and finally, Venezuela.  This makes me appreciate how global the internet really is.  Loads of love to you all!

It's that time of year again! I have to admit it, I'm not much of a birthday person, but it's a fabulous excuse to do get people together and do fabulous things.  The last few years, I've used my birthday as an excuse to do at least one thing I've never done before.  In 2008, a few of us went to a pottery cafe and painted plates.  In 2009, three of my girls and I ran around London in exciting frocks and then went to The Ritz for Afternoon Tea.  In 2010, I went to see Torvill and Dean at a matinee showing of Dancing on Ice up in Manchester with an old friend.  In 2011, my dad was teaching in Warsaw for a few weeks and I spent the weekend in Poland with him, eating fantastic homemade Polish food round at a friends house and drinking much, much tea.

So, for this year, what is the plan? Well, we have plans for a few of us to go to The Icecreamists and get positively tipsy on ice cream cocktails, but all that will come at a later date.  Today, I was up at work for the afternoon, and I had to teach in the evening, so no chance of doing something super exciting today.  I did, however, manage to do something I'd been meaning to do for some time and that it to explore some of my local history in the form of the Westgate Towers museum.  It's actually been open for a while and I used to go into the cafe a lot, but then the owner died and both the museum and the cafe shut and I spent a lot of time wishing I'd gone and had a look.  I noticed the other day that the museum is open to the public again and now free for resident's card holders, hooray!  So I thought it would be a lovely way to at least get some excitingness into the day.

Inside one of the cells
You go up some stone steps and past one row of cells that are locked up, but on the second floor you can actually go into the cells and explore.  There are about four cells on each floor.  They are relatively spacious considering (much more inside than it looks from the photo), and they all had a iron bedstead that was so heavy no-one can move it (so it couldn't be used as a weapon) and a tiny loo behind the door.  Having running water meant that it had to be pumped from somewhere near the river using a big wheel that was turned manually, which was incredibly hard work.  The prisoners would pump the water by hand (among other types of hard labour) because it was believed to be good for them. The flush is located outside the room, but would only be flushed once a day by the prison warden, effectively making it no better than having a bucket - but all that labour was believed to be part of the penance.

Being inside the cell was a bit creepy and I couldn't wait to get out!  They could see out of the window by standing on the bed, and it's a fairly nice view, all things considered, but I was pretty happy to leave.

I then walked across the bridge (that would have been encased in copper plate) to the other side of the museum that housed more weapons and information on what happened to various criminals in which eras - the ones who were treated much worse than the ones in the cells.  There were many documents that listed various people convicted of crimes and what their punishments were.  Most of them were caught stealing, some of them as young as 15 years old. There were lots of weapons ranging from a span of time periods and also information on particular people who had stayed in the gaol.  It was quite fascinating.

Finally, I went to the top of the towers, where there is a magnificent view of the city.  Can I first say that I am a bit afraid of heights (or rather of falling off high places), and slightly scared of small spaces (especially stairwells), so this was a bit of a feat of endurance for me.  But I got up the worn stone staircases and was well rewarded for it.

The view up the High St - see the Cathedral and the new Marlowe

The view over the Westgate Gardens
I'm really happy I took the time to go and have a look around.  The staff were all so friendly, and they work hard to preserve this history for us.  If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend having a gander.

As for the rest of the day, there were no real surprises until at the end of class, the nun came out with this amazing cake that Fluffy O'Bunny had baked me while I was at work. Look at this beauty:

Yeah. Really.
The green bit was a bit squidgy on the outside but mostly solid.  And that thing behind is an urn, not a normal sized kettle, just to give you a sense of scale.  

Anyway, I'm sure that there will be more birthdayness throughout the week - not least cocktails with the girls on Thursday - but I can say that today was just lovely.  To round off, I got this little poem in my Note from the Universe today:

You're the kind of person, Nat,
Who's hard to forget,
A one-in-a-million
To the people you've met.
Your friends are as varied
As the places you go,
And they all want to tell you
In case you don't know:
That you make a big difference
In the lives that you touch,
By taking so little
And giving so much!

Even the Universe loves me! What more could I ask for!

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