Life’s twists and turns, call them coincidences or serendipities never cease to amaze. In May I had stood by the harbor in Genoa, Italy, the birth place of the infamous explorer, Christopher Columbus. Three weeks later, quite unintentionally, I found myself standing before Captain James Cook, Whitby’s most famous seaman and Columbus’ predecessor by several hundred years but an equally renowned voyager.
In 1766, as commander of HMS Endeavour, (built in Whitby), Cook sailed for the first of three Pacific voyages. Navigating thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas, he mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific, in a detail and scale not previously achieved. Although killed in Hawaii in 1779, he left an unprecedented legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge.
I was nearly a thousand miles north of Genoa on the bleak, english, north yorkshire coast. I had arrived in both places unaware of the pieces of history awaiting me and was enthralled.
As you stare out to the North Sea, cold and threatening even in mid June, you cannot help but admire the courage and determination of such men. Wedded to the vast unpredictable ocean, battling ferocious weather systems in appalling, cramped living conditions on their tiny fragile vessels it is a wonder they survived, returning to share their incredibly brave discoveries which changed history forever.
Beside my sister and our husbands we stood and marveled at Cook’s statue, dominate above the small fishing town of Whitby. Steeped in history, dating back to 684, across the harbor, the ruins of the Abbey, referred to as ‘Dracula’s castle by the locals, quivered menacingly, clinging to its fragile spot on the cliff side.
Hundreds of years of people living sparsely and simply, surviving from the bounties of the forbidding waters, crashing forebodingly in a never-ending rhythm of timelessness. Casting their fishing nets and hauling in their days toil as they were tossed and thrown at the mercy of Poseidon. Once the 3rd biggest ship building town in England and a center for the the Whaling fishing industry from 1753 to 1831 Whitby is proud of its historical links to the sea. I shivered in admiration and a silent thankfulness that we earned our living in a different way.
Journeying across the Moors to Whitby, the ghostly wails of Bronte’s ‘Heathcliff’ screeching in the scrawls of the seagulls, I marveled at how the ravages of the centuries had left this stunningly beautiful yet desolate landscape unchanged. Rolling moors carpeted in low-lying heather and gorse stretching for miles, frequently to be shrouded in swirling coastal fog. Although north of the Bronte sister’s yorkshire home, the terrain was similar. It was easy to imagine Jane Eyre stumbling, blindly lost in both body and mind.
Delighted we watched a small spiral of ‘cloud’ come towards us from the far distance as the north yorkshire steam train puffed and shunted into view. Once a main transport link now full of tourists reminiscing over a time past.
Yorkshire is deservedly deemed as one of Britain’s areas of outstanding natural beauty. From the dales in the south to these northern moors the scenery is spectacular. The golden stone architecture is reminiscent of England’s southern Cotswold’s, the area is also rich in history. Just over a hundred miles south of the sixth century Viking settlements at Lindisfarne, there are castles, monasteries and ruins of dwellings also dating back to the Vikings and before. Dominated by Mills and the late eighteenth century wool industry, powerful industrialists and landowners peppered the area with magnificent stately mansions. Castle Howard, Nunnington Hall, Scampston Hall, Newby Hall and Burton Agnes to name but a few, the latter of which we visited.
Burton Agnes, an imposing country seat, originally a Norman dwelling, still in existence today beside the main house, dates back to Tudor times
Like many similar properties, it is enveloped deep within the countryside and one wonders about the past difficulties of travelling to and fro via horse and carriage.
The immense wealth required to run such an estate is also hard to envisage; the heating, cleaning, clothing and
feeding of such a household. How the staff, both inside and out must have toiled, especially on the occasion of a royal visitor such as Burton Agnes had in 1602, the bed of James 1st, who stayed here on route from Sotland to London, still proudly displayed today.
Outside we were dazed by the beauty and tranquility of the property’s immaculate grounds and delightful walled garden. Here time seemed to have been captured and held, plants and shrubs of all varieties, lovingly tended over many years to still display both their grandeur and simplicity. Such special, treasured moments spending time with those you care about yet seldom see, surrounded by the exquisiteness of mother nature’s bounty, gently revealing all its loveliness.
Hundreds and thousands of people gathered together in London, June 2nd-5th 2012 to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. On June 4th the venue was on the River Thames for the Royal Pageant. Undeterred by inclement weather, torrential rain showers, bitter wind blasts and almost constant drizzle the crowds cheered, laughed and sang, full of patriotism and pride for the woman they hold dear to their hearts, their Queen.
Standing in amidst the excited, flag waving multitude one could not fail to be swept up by the enthusiasm and festive atmosphere. Our place secured at 7.30am by the hardcore younger members of our party on the Chelsea embankment, no one minded the eight-hour wait as the numbers swelled around us and the rain battered our brollies and raincoats! Warmed by Pimms and champers, a large screen TV kept us updated on the royal party’s progress.
Eventually the first of over one thousand boats participating in the pageant began to appear. From Hammersmith, they proudly sailed past in a grand procession to eventually disperse at Tower Bridge. Stunningly dressed for the occasion, adorned with flags, flowers and streamers, people and vessels alike attired in their most splendid rig.
One of the largest flotillas ever assembled we waved and applauded the rowing boats, working boats, cruisers, fire and police, boats from the armed forces, historic boats, steamers and wooden launches.
A spectacle to behold, the floating celebration enhanced by chiming bells, stirring bands and the voices of choirs singing to her Majesty. The majestic, timeless River Thames jubilantly bought to life reminiscent of its working history and splendid royal heritage, a perfect stage for a perfect celebration!
Gracious, dignified, poised, respected and admired by millions across the globe. Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth might only be a figurehead with no ‘real power’ but few others have set a more exemplary example of leadership. Her dedication and tireless commitment to duty demonstrate a work ethic seldom seen by even the most successful of leaders.
As we celebrate with pride, 60 years of this great leader’s reign, there are many lessons to be learned from her steadfastness, loyalty, determination and unwavering dedication to her responsibilities.
Nations across the world, people from different cultures and backgrounds, share a common connection with this incredible woman.
For many, Her Majesty is upheld as a timeless illustration of integrity and leadership – someone to look up to and emulate.
Congratulations to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of leading her people; an inspiring example to us all.
Have you ever wondered what is behind ‘that door’, who lives or works there?