Looking back on 2019

In memory of Olive Walker, Tony McGregor, Rudi Van Dijk, Pam Price and Graham Armstrong.

2019 is having its last gasp and frankly I think I am glad it is almost done and dusted. It has been quite an eventful year and not all of it was good. 

In my life the most significant event happened when my mother passed away on 1 October.  I returned to South Africa in February to see her for what I knew would be the last time, and in October I returned to attend her memorial service.

It is hard to know how I feel about her death, there are just so many memories, regrets and guilt that it is easier to not deal with it. 

South Africa on the other hand had changed for the worst. Eskom continues to ruin the economy and at one point imposed rolling load shedding right up to stage 6. The concept of maintenance was forgotten once again and they are counting the costs of listening to bean counters, corrupt suits, cadres and consultants. The exchange rate on 23/12 is £1 = RZA18.54. 

On the political scene the UK held a General Election in November and Boris Johnson is the new PM and hopefully will make sure Brexit happens. It is however hard to know where politics will go in the UK, over here an election can put a different party in power whereas in SA an election just changes percentages. 2020 will be crunch time for this country, although we thought that October 2019 would be crunch time too. 

The weather did wreak havoc in the country with widespread rain and floods, Tewkesbury having 3 flood scares in 2 months. At this moment both the Severn and Avon are running high and there is a lot of water about.

(1500 x 655)

I did quite a few day trips of note this year, with Oxford being visited 3 times as well as visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and Great Malvern. Evesham is still a favoured destination and of course I passed through London on my way to South Africa. 

Oxford was an experience though and I may head back there in the new year to see a few places that I missed.

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I also want to visit Didcot Railway Centre next year and am going to have to return to London to renew my passport in February or March. 

Celebrity, politician and other noteworthy deaths for 2019 include: Jan-Michael Vincent, Albert Finney, Peter Mayhew, René Auberjonois, James Ingram, Ken Kerchevel, Niki Lauda, Grumpy Cat, Doris Day, Rutger Hauer, Peter Fonda, Robert Mugabe, Jacques Chirac, Chester Williams, James Small, Clive James, Denis Earp,  and Marie Fredriksson. A more complete list is available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2019

It was a bad day for aircraft builder Boeing too as the loss of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302  on 10/03/2019 caused the safety of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft to be brought to the spotlight and as at the end of the year it was still grounded. Too many people lost their lives because of this aircraft and confidence in flying took quite a bump. Confidence in America has nose dived too and we all know why that is.

The closure of Reefsteamers is a major shock though, and it came hot on the heels of the 100th birthday of Susan, the only 12AR in the world.

Greta Thunberg has also had her fair share of publicity, and it is difficult to know whether there is an ulterior motive behind her or not.  She certainly has admirers and detractors in her camp but even if she turns out to be a hoax hopefully enough people will realise that our climate is changing and not for the better. A number of animals have gone extinct and we all know who to blame for that.

We certainly live in interesting times, and our Western lifestyles are probably going to bring about our own downfall. At the rate things are going we are heading for a global catastrophe, and the end result of that will not be a good one. Hopefully saner minds will prevail, but somehow I doubt it. 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a peaceful and prosperous 2020, we are now back in the 20’s and that hasn’t happened in ages. 

DRW. 2019-2020. Created 29/12/2019.

Photo Essay: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The Oxford University Museum of Natural History has a fantastic interior. It is quirky, industrial, skeletal and everything else in between. My regular blog post does not leave much space for excess images and I really felt that this was one time when I needed to create a photo essay.

This is what it looks like on the outside

Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

And this is what it looks like on the inside…

Did I mention skeletal? Meet Tea Wrecks and friends

There are other well padded creatures too, although I didn’t look too hard at those.

And lots of important guys standing around…

But its really that train shed architecture that appeals to me. The building was designed by the Irish architects Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward and directly influenced by the writings of critic John Ruskin, who involved himself by making various suggestions to Woodward during construction. Construction began in 1855, and the building was ready for occupancy in 1860. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_University_Museum_of_Natural_History)

And it’s not everyday that you get to see an elephant skeleton from above either.

It’s time to go. Don’t forget to close the door….

or else…

DRW © 2019. Created 25/08/2019


Oxford Cathedral

The cathedral in Oxford is part of Christ Church College and is integrated into the structure of the college so there is no real way that you can view it as a standalone building. To understand the cathedral you really have to know the history behind the college and its buildings, and it is worth remembering that Christ Church Cathedral is the college chapel.

The cathedral was originally the church of St Frideswide’s Priory and the site was historically presumed to be the location of the nunnery founded by St Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. 

St Frideswide
Remember Here

In 1522, the priory was surrendered to Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, who had selected it as the site for his proposed college. However, in 1529 the foundation was taken over by Henry VIII and work stopped. In June 1532 the college was refounded by the King and in 1546 he  transferred to it the recently created “See of Oxford”.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church_Cathedral,_Oxford)

Cathedral floor plan

With that out of the way I would like to show my images of the visit that I made on 23 August 2019. I will make no apologies for my images, these buildings are very difficult to photograph because of their size, varying light conditions, visitors and lousy photographers. I can never do full justice to any cathedral, you really need to see them for yourself.  This was my third attempt at a visit and I was finally able to see what lay at the opposite end of the Tom Quad when viewed from the Tom Gate.

To understand how the cathedral fits into that picture you need to remember that what you are seeing from the Tom Gate is the spire and the entrance to the cathedral. As a visitor you cannot waltz through the gate, cross the quad and pop into the door because it does not work like that. Entry is via the Meadow Building which would be on the right hand side of this image but out of shot.  

Once you have managed to pass through the entrance doors of the cathedral you are literally in a different world. This cathedral is amongst the smallest in the UK but that does not mean that it somehow lacks in stature and beauty. 

Looking from the nave towards the high altar (1024 x 768)

The nave, choir, main tower and transepts are late Norman and there are architectural features ranging from Norman to the Perpendicular style and a large rose window of the ten-part (i.e. botanical) type. The area immediately in front of the camera is roped off and your tour begins in the aisle to the left of this image. It is here that you will find the Shrine of St Frideswide.

Shrine of St Frideswide

This knight in full armour from the late 14th century is probably John de Nowers who died in 1386. He was over 6 foot tall and his coat of arms (three golden wheatsheaves) appears on his surcoat. His head is resting on a tilting helm and crest in the shape of an ox and his feet rest on a collared dog. 

The High Altar.
Looking towards the nave from the choir (1024 x 768)

And naturally I was looking for war memorials and plaques to individual soldiers and the Chapel of Remembrance would be on the left of the image above. 

The Chapel of Remembrance
Altar in the Chapel of Remembrance

Of course in any cathedral it is very important to not only look around you but to look up towards the ceiling.

Looking across to the North Transept

Wall Memorials.

The cathedral has a very fine collection of wall and floor memorials, although many are in Latin. These are only a small representation of the memorials.

The Cloister.

The Cloister, like the Cathedral, is part of the original Priory of St Frideswide, which stood here before the college was built. Human remains from the time of St Frideswide (the eighth century AD) were found in the central plot. The olive tree (a traditional symbol of peace) and the fountain are contemporary additions to the Cloister and mark the threshold of the Cathedral’s sacred space. 

And that is Oxford Cathedral in a nutshell. I am not going to even try explain the whole history behind it because there are many more web resources out that will do a better job. However, I did find an ebook that would be of interest at Project Gutenberg called “The Cathedral Church of Oxford, A description of its fabric and a brief history of the episcopal see” by Percy Dearmer.

The English Visitors Booklet of Christ Church College and Cathedral is also worth reading (PDF Document). I wish I had found a copy of it before I went to the cathedral. The floorplan in this post originated from this pdf as does some of the text. 

The cathedral website is at https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/cathedral

The cathedral is beautiful inside and I am glad I persevered in seeing it. Unfortunately it was jam packed with visitors too so photography was difficult at times. The shop was also packed and I was not even able to get up the one aisle. I did however find a nice guide book about the cathedral in the shop. 

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 24/08/2019