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Lovely Lacock

One of my favourite things to do over a weekend is to explore the many fabulous villages in the UK, and the stunning village of Lacock is up there as one of my faves. 

Nestled in the famous hills of the Cotswolds, Lacock is a village and civil parish in the county of Wiltshire, just south of the town of Chippenham.  

The amazing thing about Lacock is that it is owned almost in its entirety by the National Trust. It attracts thousands of visitors a year by virtue of its unspoiled appearance.  

When you bimble along the narrow lanes and visit the quaint shops, you actually feel like you have been transported back to a more genteel time, a time when you dressed for dinner, had cucumber sandwiches for tea, and had far more time to stop and appreciate life. It is relaxed and enchanting, absolutely perfect. 

Now, if you think that this picture perfect village looks like someone has rolled out a film set for you, you’re not far wrong. 

Lacock is a hot spot for filming both TV and movies, with one of the most notable being the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. 

The 2007 BBC production of Cranford (in my opinion, one of the great British dramas) was also filmed here, as well as parts of the Harry Potter films Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the spin-off film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. 

In the spring of 2012, it was a filming location for the fantasy adventure film Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box and in 2015 it was used for Downton Abbey episodes (my absolute all-time favourite). 

You may not see any famous actors roaming the streets when you visit, but you will see the magnificent Abbey. It’s a must see. 

Lacock Abbey was founded on the manorial lands by Ela, Countess of Salisbury and established in 1232. 

The village, with the manor, formed its endowment to “God and St Mary”. Lacock was granted a market and developed a thriving woollen industry during the Middle Ages.  

Lacock Abbey

At the dissolution, the Abbey and estate, including the village, were sold to William Sharington, later passing into the Talbot family by marriage – Henry Fox Talbot from 1800 to 1877. 

And then there’s Lackham House, which you will find in the north of the parish overlooking the Avon. Lackham House, a three-storey Palladian style country house, was built in 1791–6 for James Montagu, a naval officer. The Montagu family seat was at Lackham, in the north of Lacock parish. 

Today the house and grounds are the home of Lackham College, an agricultural college. 

There truly is something very special about the villages in the UK – I love them.  

Penelope Keith did a wonderful series on the hidden villages in the UK.  If you get a chance, I would thoroughly recommend watching it, and then if you feel so inclined, visit a few of the villages yourself. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Happy visiting! 

Duke Ellington…

One of the great things about having a blog, is that you can be as indulgent as you like, on whatever topic you choose, and for no reason at all. There aren’t many things in life that you can say that to. 

So, with that in mind, I’m going to talk about the great Duke Ellington, who on this day in 1943 played at Carnegie Hall in New York for the first time. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t really a keen fan of jazz, however my wife is, and over the years she has converted me, and Duke Ellington, in my opinion, is one of the greats. 

To me, some of his greats are… 

It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) 

I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) 

Satin Doll 

Take the A Train 

Cocktails for Two 

Duke Ellington was born to entertain. His parents, James and Daisy Ellington, were both pianists, and a young Duke began his piano lessons at the age of seven. 

His mother was a great advocate and surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. This was the start of his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress, all of which gave him the bearing of a young nobleman. 

If I could go back in time, I would love to visit the Cotton Club when it was in its hay day. 

Duke Ellington, and his Cotton Club Orchestra’s stay at the Cotton Club has become one of the enduring legends of Jazz, but Did Duke Ellington make the Cotton Club famous or was it the other way around? The answer may lie somewhere in between, but few will dispute the fact that both the club and bandleader became synonymous with Harlem, an area above Manhattan’s 110th Street where culture thrived and the music was hot. At the time, the Cotton Club was owned by a consortium of mobsters led by bootlegger Owney Madden.  

And then there’s Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie Hall Concerts: January 1943 is a live album that Duke Ellington recorded at Carnegie Hall, in New York City and released on the Prestige label in 1977. 

I can’t begin to cover everything that the great Duke Ellington has done, but there is much to read about Duke , and if you are a fan as I am, I recommend that you make yourself a cup of coffee, snatch half an hour and take yourself back to Harlem, to bootlegging and the romance of the time. 

Enjoy – M H Lord. 

Winnie the Pooh Day….

He’s a childhood favourite, the cute, cuddly yellow bear that loves honey, is a little naïve and is incredibly friendly and thoughtful. Pooh is charming and comforting, and an all-time favourite. 

How brilliant was A. A. Milne when he first created the wonderful character in 1926. I wonder if he ever dreamed that 93 years later, people around the world would still be in love with Pooh, with millions of books, cuddly toys and collectables being sold each year. 

Pooh’s best friend is Christopher Robin, whom he spends much of his time with, followed closely by Piglet, the cute pink pig and the ever-bouncing Tigger, but Pooh’s friendship doesn’t end there.  His kind-heartedness means he goes out of his way to be friendly to Eeyore, the somewhat pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, old grey stuffed donkey. Pooh often visits him, brings him birthday presents and even builds him a house, despite receiving mostly disdain from Eeyore in return. 

We can all learn a lot from Winnie the Pooh. Despite being perceived as a bit slow, his huge heart and kind heartedness is a lesson to us all to be kind and loving to those around us. 

Pooh is also a talented poet. His stories are frequently punctuated by his poems and “hums.” Although he is humble about his slow-wittedness, he is comfortable with his creative gifts. Yet again another lesson that greatness comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Any character that can bring a smile to your face, evoke wonderful childhood memories and give endless hours of happiness for countless years, is all good in my book. 

So to kids of all ages, young and those that are young at heart, I encourage you to embrace Winnie the Pooh Day, give your Pooh a big hug, and if you haven’t got your very own Pooh, go and treat yourself to one, after all, we are all kids at heart. 

Happy Winnie the Pooh Day!

January Blues…

Have the January Blues hit you? Are you coming down from the holiday high? Are credit cards bills mounting up? 

It’s a tough month, that’s for sure.  It’s actually universally acknowledged that January is the suckiest of all months, but I guess that depends on where you live, doesn’t it? 

For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, January probably isn’t too bad. The weather is hot, the nights are long, and the summer holidays are in full swing, so all is good, but for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s not quite so cheery. 

Take the UK where I live. It’s dark at 4.30pm, it’s 2 degrees, raining and grey pretty much every day. 

With little or no sun exposed on our skin, it actually reduces our ability to syntheses vitamin D, a vitamin associated with healthy brain function.  It’s a fact that Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to making us feel low in January and the winter months. 

But enough of the doom and gloom, for January isn’t all that bad. 

If you’re a skier, then January offers some great skiing, be it in Europe or the USA.  For snow fanatics, there is nothing better than a clear, crisp day, surrounded by the snowy white beauty, or if your pleasure is more après ski (as is mine), then a warming drink watching the world go by is an absolute must. 

And then of course at the end of the month there is Burns Night to look forward to. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, a Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), the author of many Scots poems.  

The night is generally a Black-Tie affair, with the running order being: 

  • Piping in the guests 
  • Chairman’s welcome 
  • The Selkirk Grace 
  • Piping in the haggis 
  • Address to the haggis 
  • Toast to the haggis 
  • The meal 
  • The drink 

If you haven’t had the pleasure of attending a Burns Night, I strongly recommend that you add it to your ‘must do’ list. 

January is also a month of all things new… start a new hobby, go to the gym, stop smoking, live a healthier life, try something you’ve never done before. 

So, January Blues, myth or reality – you choose. 

Nikola Tesla…

On this day back in 1943, at the age of 86, Nikola Tesla died. 

What an amazing man he was. I wonder if he knew that 75 years later, one of the most sought-after electric cars in the world would carry his name? 

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Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventorelectrical engineermechanical engineer, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. 

He was born and raised in the Austrian Empire where he received an advanced education in engineering and physics in the 1870s and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry 

In 1884, he emigrated to the United States where he worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before going out alone. 

With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices.  

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What a great mind he had. Nikola Tesla had an eidetic memory.  He read many works, memorizing complete books, and supposedly possessed a photographic memory. He was a polyglot, speaking eight languages: Serbo-CroatianCzech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin. 

During his early life, he was repeatedly stricken with illness. He suffered a peculiar affliction in which blinding flashes of light would appear before his eyes, often accompanied by visions. Often, the visions were linked to a word or idea he might have come across; at other times they would provide the solution to a particular problem he had encountered. Just by hearing the name of an item, he would be able to envision it in realistic detail. 

Tesla would visualize an invention in his mind with extreme precision, including all dimensions, before moving to the construction stage, a technique sometimes known as picture thinking. He typically did not make drawings by hand but worked from memory. 

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Sadly, on 7 January 1943, at the age of 86, Tesla died alone in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel 

Assistant medical examiner H.W. Wembley examined the body and ruled that the cause of death had been coronary thrombosis. 

What a great mind and a great man. I could write pages and pages on him, his story fascinates me so much, but this is just a glimpse into the amazing man that was Nikola Tesla. 

Happy New Year…

Out with the old, in with the new, isn’t that what they say?

A new year and a new start – so what are your resolutions? Do you even make any? And if you do, do you stick to them?

We all start with good intentions, exercise more, lose weight, eat more healthily, save money, take a more active approach to health, take an holiday overseas, learn a new skill or hobby, spend more time on personal well-being, but how many of us actually make it through to the end of January before it’s all gone out the window?

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New Year resolutions actually have Religious origins. Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

And what about New Year traditions? Did you sing Auld Lang Syne, kiss a loved one as the clock struck midnight, eat 12 grapes to bring 12 months of good luck, or set off fireworks? Or do you prefer a quiet night in and let the world carry on around you?

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No matter what the New Year means to you, it’s a great opportunity to take stock of things, have a rethink and ask yourself what do you want from the year ahead?

However you celebrate, and whatever you want for 2019, I wish you a very happy and successful New Year – M H Lord.

Christmas Eve….

My favourite day of the year. To me, all the preparations, the excitement, the planning, all leads to this day. The day before the main event, the calm before the storm if you will. 

But Christmas Eve means something different to everyone.  

For those with kids, it’s the excitement and anticipation of their children as they try to sleep in the hope that jolly old St Nick will come. I remember as a kid waking up at 4am, sprinting into the lounge to see what had been left for me under the tree and what edible delights were in my stocking. The waiting was almost too much to bare.

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Christmas traditions vary from country to country. Some Christmas Eve celebrations for many nations include the installing and lighting of Christmas trees, the hanging of  Christmas stockingscandy canes, and the creation of Nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ 

Christmas carols may be sung and stories told about such figures as the Baby JesusSt NicholasSanta ClausFather ChristmasChristkind or Grandfather Frost. The sending and exchange of Christmas card greetings, observance of fasting and special religious observances such as a midnight Mass or Vespers on Christmas Eve, the burning of a Yule log, and the giving and receiving of presents.

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For me, the perfect Christmas Eve is having friends and family over for dinner, cooking a lovely meal, laughing and talking about the year that was and what next year will bring, singing Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts at midnight. That happy hum of love and laughter that always brings a smile to my face, when it feels like nothing else matters in the world. If I could capture that time forever, I would, pure and simple.

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So, however you celebrate your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wish you and yours all the happiness in the world – MERRY CHRISTMAS – M H Lord.