Hastings and two kitty cats

We are at our last sit for this year in Hastings, England,  We are taking care of two sweet kitty cats, Clara and Fin.

Clara looking up 5x7 net


Finn face 5x7 net


They are very sweet and sleep a lot of the day.

Hastings is a seaside resort town of the southeast part of England.  It is where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 and William the Conqueror invaded England.  It is a lovely place to stay.  The boats on the beach are launched by tractor from the beach into the sea.

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The beach is made up of pebble rock

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The most remarkable thing happened two nights ago when we were walking on the beach.  People were fishing from the shore.  I have seen many people fish from the shore all over the world and most people do not catch a fish or if they do it is one or two.  The fishermen and women were throwing in their lines with 6 hooks on one line and reeling in six fish each time. fisherwoman 5x7 netfisherman 5x7 net

The fish were mackerels that were running the last two days. mackerel 5x7 netOne fisherman told me that he was going home to smoke them and eat them for dinner.  It was like something out of the Bible when Jesus told Peter to put his net in the water and all the fish jumped in.

The next day we had fish and chips ( cod this time) at a famous restaurant on the beach called Maggie’s.  It was delicious.

David at Maggies 5x7 net

fish and chips 5x7 net

This was one serving which we shared

The fishermen throw away the fish they cannot use and the sea gulls are patiently waiting for their fresh fish dinner.

sea gull with fish 5x7 net


David beach gulls 5x7 BW netIt was cloudy and rainy today and so we stayed home with the kitties most of the day.  But David did get to say hello to the sea gulls this evening.


Dreaming of Oxford’s colleges; Christ Church , Merton and Magdalen

We finished our pet sit with wonderful Rufus and Flora a few days ago. rufus and Flora ball fight faces 5x7 netAnd said good bye to their wonderful parents, Sarah and Frank.

William Butler Yeats said of Oxford;  “I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. ”  I doubt that the students who attend the University feel like they only have to dream right before exams.Oxford student 5x7 net

We decided to spend our four day break between pet sitting assignments here in Oxford. I love this beautiful city of colleges and libraries.  It speaks to the academic side of my life.  So we have been staying at a bed and breakfast in Headington on the bus route five minutes away from Oxford center. dial house 5x7 netThere are 38 colleges that make up the Oxford University. Many of the colleges were established from the Middle Ages to the Tudor time in England.  Most of them are composed of a dining hall, a chapel and rooms for the students to live in.  Here are some photographs of Merton College , one of the oldest ones ; established in 1264.

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The inside quad with rooms

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The outside of the chapel

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Inside of the chapel

This is a photo of the dining hall at Christ Church College.  It is famous for the films of Harry Potter which were shot here.

Christ church college dining hall 5x7 net

Christ church Hall

Most of the colleges have a main gate, a tower and a porter’s lodge.  The most famous is Tom Tower and gate.  The bells in this tower ring every night at 9:05 one hundred and one times for each of the original students that attended Christ Church.  It was their curfew.

Tom Tower Christ Church 5x7 net

Tom Tower Christ Church

Christ Church has a large cathedral which is for the Oxford diocese.  It is both a college chapel and a cathedral.  The inside is beautiful and ornate.

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Christ Church Cathedral altar

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Christ Church Cathedral ceiling

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Christ Church Cathedral stained glass window

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Christ Church College Meadow building

We also visited Magdalen College which stands near the River Cherwell.  Students crew the punts (flat boats) for visitors.  It is a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon.

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Punting in Oxford

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Magdalen College view from the cloisters

They have an excellent male choir that sings in their chapel.  I got to sit in during an Evensong performance that was beautiful.

We are staying in today as it is raining and David has come down with a cold.  We have to pack up and take the train to our next sit in Hastings tomorrow.


Nuffield House; Another approach when you have too much money

The previous post was about our visit to Waddesdon, the home of the Rothschild family. These folks made their money in banking, and from the second generation they were pretty much born rich and got richer.  They literally had great difficulty in spending their money, and put a lot into their estate.  Compare the photographs of their weekend retreat with the ones from William Morris’s home.

Here’s another approach.

William Morris was born in 1877 and about the age of 15, he dropped out of school and took on a short apprenticeship to a bicycle repairman.  In a couple of months, he had learned all he could there, and opened his own shop. But when cars began to be built in the UK, he was fascinated. He gathered a few friends and founded Morris Garage (MG — get it?) near Oxford. By 1912 he was making cars, and continued to build this empire through the early ’50s.

William had married a young lady he met in his cycling club, but they never had children. In the ’30s they bought a nice home, built in 1914, about eight miles out of town in an up-and-coming golf club development area, and named it Nuffield Park, after a nearby village. They added to it. It’s in the hands of the National Trust now, which is how we happened to visit it.  The interior is pretty much as it was when he died in 1963. It’s pretty grand compared to ordinary houses, but compared to some of the stately homes, it’s a garden shack. It’s also full of pretty ordinary stuff, including a 1956 television and radio sets from the ’30s and ’40s.

Morris had a workshop built into his bedroom. He re-soled his own shoes, fixed all the gates and fences on the property, and carpeted the hallway with leftover pieces of carpet from the factory office.

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Nuffield house morning room 5x7.jpgNuffield dining room 5x7 net

In the ’50s, the many UK car businesses began to merge, and by 1955 he had sold or merged most of his businesses.

As he had no heir, William started working at giving everything away. He founded and endowed Nuffield College at Oxford, and it’s the fourth-highest endowed college now. During the late ’40s, he was heartbroken at the polio epidemic, so he designed and had built 5000 iron lungs to be given to hospitals throughout Britain.Nuffield iron lung 5x7 net There’s one on display in an outbuilding on the estate. Even though he didn’t like the idea of unions, he understood why they needed to exist, and established a profit-sharing trust for his employees.

There’s a pub named for him in Cowley, near where the factories used to be.

We go to Greys Court and Waddesdon Manor

It has been raining a lot here in Oxford shire during the last week so we mainly have been staying home with the dogs.  I have been cooking and working on my art travel journal.

But we did get some time to go to a couple of National Trust homes that are near the house we are sitting .  The first one is called Greys Court.  This is a Tudor house and gardens near Henley on Thames. It is quite beautiful.  They do not allow photographs inside the house but the outside had many lovely places to photograph. Greys court house 5x7 netThis is the house.  Here are some photos of the gardens.Greys court brick 5x7 net David is standing in one of the garden’s arches out of the rain.David Grey netAnd the garden flowers are exquisite. sweetpea lavendar 5x7 netsoft pink rose 5x7 netGreys court tower 5x7 netThat tower you see in the background is a fortified tower built circa 1347 and is the only remaining part of the medieval castle that stood here.  This estate has an intact donkey water wheel and well.  It is a huge wooden wheel that a donkey walked in to bring up heavy buckets of water from a well that is 200 feet deep.  Here is a photo of the bucket being drawn up.well bucket 5x7 netThis provided water for the house and the animals.

The second National Trust home was Waddesdon Manor.  It was built in the 19th century in the Neo Renaissance style for the very wealthy Baron Ferdinand Rothschild.  This was to be his weekend residence for elaborate entertaining and a place to show off his amazing collection of Dutch and English paintings.  Many of the items that the baron had collected would be seen only in a museum.   It was totally amazing inside.  If you are in this part of England you should try to see it.  Here are some photographs for you to enjoy.

Waddesdon Rothschild 5x7 net

The house

Inside the house were many paintings by famous painters.  Here is a Thomas Gainsborough portrait of a lady in the guest reception room.Gainsborough painting 5x7 netThis is the formal dining room set up for a large party. Waddesdon dinner table 5x7 netThe place settings have priceless china and gold monogrammed wine glasses. Waddesdon table 5x7 netThere were desks used by French Kings scattered throughout the drawing rooms so that guests could write letters from the mansion.  Waddesdon Manor desk 5x7 netAnd a lovely robin who was in the courtyard where people were eating and continued to sing as if no one was there. Robin sings 5x7 net

We are in Oxfordshire taking care of two beautiful dogs

We have moved on to our next to last pet and house sit in Oxfordshire in a small village.  Here are some photos of the wonderful dogs that we are taking care of.  Here is Rufus who is an English Setter.Rufus face 5x7 netAnd here are 2 photos of Flora, a stunning cocker spaniel.  Flora body 5x7 netFlora side 5x7 net We have spent the first few days hanging out at home , walking the dogs and playing with them.  We try to do this so that the transition from their human parents to their sitters is smooth and easy for them.  david dogs 5x7 netWe also went to the grocery store to plan out some meals to make at home.

The house we are sitting is the oldest house in the village.  Part of this house was built in the 1650s.  Of course, there have been additions like indoor bathrooms and a large and comfortable kitchen.  We are right next door to the 12th – 14th century church and graveyard.  This helps us keep our mortality in perspective . St copy net  More adventures to come now that we and the doggies are settled in with each other.

Southampton’s medieval walls and pirates

We are about to leave Southampton and go to our next house and pet sitting assignment.  This has been a lovely and refreshing 9 days.  Here is a photo of the inside of our apartment. Southampton apartment 5x7 netWe took a walking tour of the medieval walls that were around the city to protect it.  This is Bargate.  This was the main entrance to Southampton where everyone who came in had to pay a tax.Bargate Southampton net_edited-1Some things never change.  But some people came to Southampton to steal, not pay.  In 1338, while the townspeople were in church, a pirate raid of 50 ships landed at the part of the harbor that did not have walls and looted the town. They even stole the king’s French wine!   Because of this raid, the king had the walls built all around the town.  These arches were the unprotected part of the harbor where the pirates landed. So they were part of the first new wall construction. Southampton merchant arches 5x7 netOne day we took the train to Salisbury to see the famous cathedral. It was so big and so beautiful.  It has the tallest spire in Britain, and a clock from the mid-14th century.Salisbury Cathedral outside 5x7 netThis is a photograph of the inside ceiling of this enormous church.Salisbury Cathedral ceiling 5x7 netIt is amazing to think that the main body of the cathedral was built in just 38 years from 1220 to 1258.  The cloister where the priests walked and prayed has such a peaceful presence. Salisbury cloister 5x7 netThere is also one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta that was signed by King John in 1215.  It is on exhibition in the chapter house of the cathedral.

And finally, we took the ferry from Southampton to the Isle of Wight.  It takes about 25 minutes to get there and it is so lovely.  This is the harbor with some of the sailboats waiting for their owners to come.Isle of Wight harbor 5x7 netWe took the bus to Osborne Palace.  This palace was created for Queen Victoria and Albert and their nine children as a summer home.  There were a lot of paintings and statues of Victoria and Albert throughout the palace.  queen Victoria 5x7 netWe have been watching Victoria and Albert on TV, so the palace was more interesting for us since we know about them and their family.  This is their formal dining room set for a banquet.Osborne house dinningroom 5x7 netThis is a wooden cradle that held all of Victoria’s children in the nursery.  Victorias cradle 5x7 netIt looks like it is fit for royalty.  The palace is set on the ocean and they had a private beach for the children to explore.  This is the view from the house.Osborne Palace view 5x7 netWe did not have time to go down to the beach but it looked lovely.

We are off to our next sit tomorrow.  I will catch up this blog in a couple of days.