Edith Cavell – Patriotism Is Not Enough

Many of us are familiar with the phrase “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, a quote that remains as true today as it was when it was first coined and is still evident by many politicians in particular around the world.  Not so many people though are familiar with the equally if not more worthy phrase said by Edith Cavell “Patriotism Is Not Enough” which given her courageous actions seem very sad.

I must say I have been past her statue in London several times in the last year and though I always stopped to read her quote and think to myself that Edith Cavell must have been a remarkable woman, I still didn’t know much about her.  Neither did any of my tourist guests which I showed round London and considering I have guided people up to 90 years old, this is a little bit sad.

As we approach Armistice Day, I want to write just a few articles about World War One but from a different perspective and there is no better place to start than with Edith Cavell.

Edith was born on 4th December 1865 in the village of Swardeston in that beautiful English county of Norfolk.  She was the eldest of four siblings and her father being a Reverend, grew up to realise that despite her modest means, she should always try to help those less fortunate than herself.

Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell

Upon reaching adulthood, Edith trained to become a nurse at the Royal London Hospital and upon qualifying soon found herself in Belgium where she began to play a prominent and pioneering effort it modernising the nursing system and standard of care in that country.  When war broke out in the summer of 1914, Edith was visiting her mother back in England but immediately returned to Brussels where her hospital was commandeered by the Red Cross.

By November 1914, Brussels and most of Belgium had been occupied by the advancing German Army and those horrendous acts collectively known as Rape of Belgium were underway in which the local civilian population underwent the most despicable acts at the hands of their occupiers and went someway not only to increasing recruitment in the British and Commonwealth armies but also as useful British propaganda that more than played its part in the eventual American entry into The Great War.

Under the guise of being a nurse, Edith along with one or two brave individuals and in stark contravention to German Military Law, began to shelter and then smuggle out of Belgium, sick and injured British soldiers.  Fake papers were produced, monies arranged and a network of safe houses were established allowing trusted guides to get these British and then also French soldiers out of the warden and to the neutral Netherlands.

Soon though, German authorities became suspicious of her activities, something not helped by Edith’s outspoken attitude to the war and the atrocities going on all around her. In less than a year, she was betrayed by a Frenchman, Gaston Quien, who was later found guilty of being a collaborator.

For the next 10 weeks she was held in Saint Gilles prison where she confessed that she had harboured and assisted in the escape of 60 British and 15 French Soldiers as well as helping around 100 Belgian and French soldiers mach the front lines.

An important point in her trial was her admission that many British soldiers had contacted her from the U.K. to thank her for her kindness and bravery which in German eyes implied she had helped soldiers return to an enemy country.   The penalty according to German military law was death. Paragraph 58 of the German Military Code said; “Will be sentenced to death for treason any person who, with the intention of helping the hostile Power, or of causing harm to the German or allied troops, is guilty of one of the crimes of paragraph 90 of the German Penal Code.”  The case referred to in the above-mentioned paragraph 90 consists of “Conducting soldiers to the enemy”, although this was not traditionally punishable by death.

Article 7 of the First Geneva Convention of 1906 was in effect and observed by British and German forces and this secured the safety and wellbeing of all medical staff but this protection was notable removed for those involved in belligerent action.

Any plea for Edith from her home government was likely to make things only worse for the brave nurse and so London asked the then neutral United States to state their case.  The leading member of the U.S. administrative staff in Belgium a Mr Hugh S. Gibson asked Germany to show clemency as executing Edith would further damage their already tattered international reputation….

We reminded [German civil governor Baron von der Lancken] of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would rank with those two affairs and would stir all civilised countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the rather irrelevant remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to the humblest German soldier, and his only regret was that they had not “three or four old English women to shoot.”

The German governor later retracted this and stated he believed that Edith should be saved due to the fact that she had also saved countless German soldiers with her medical care but his request was overruled by the local German military commander who insisted her execution should be carried out with immediate effect and so did not allow time for her case to be considered by superiors in Berlin.

Four others were also sentenced to death although in the end only two were executed.  The trial of Edith was far from perfect and though she was questioned in French, her answers were noted in German, allowing plenty of scope for changes to have been made to her answers.  However it should also be noted that Edith never in anyway tried to minimise her role or contest anything.

Finding herself stuck in solitary confinement, it became clear that Edith Cavell was going to be made an example of and on her final night, she was permitted to receive Holy Communion by an Anglican chaplain, Father Gahan.  It was here that she said her famous line.

“Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Moments before her execution she asked the German Chaplain to convey a message

“Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.”

Despite last minute interventions from the USA and Spain to ask for at least a stay of execution, at 7am on 12th October 1915, 8 German Soldiers formed a Firing Squad.   Incredibly despite the remarkable nature of the case, it is thought that the Death Penalty put on Edith had not yet even come into force, she was even by local German law, murdered illegally.

Apparently Edith refused to even wear a blindfold and it has been alleged that it is possible  Edith was shot dead by a German officer using his revolver whilst she was unconscious.  Either way, the callous actions shocked the world.  All except for German whose Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Dr Alfred Zimmerman reported.

It was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed, but it was necessary. She was judged justly…It is undoubtedly a terrible thing that the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a State, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women.

The body of Edith was immediately tended to by local Belgian women and she was buried until the war finished when she was taken back to England for a service at Westminster Abbey before being once more buried but this time at Norwich Cathedral.

British Empire Union WW1 Poster

British Empire Union WW1 Poster depicting the execution of Edith Cavell and other outrages including the sinking of the Lusitania and the Rape of Belgium

Of course Germany may have been fearful that if Edith had been pardoned then it would open a loop hole for other women to act against the German state.  Germany also insisted its laws were well known and publicised but as in many instances, most notably the sinking of the Lusitania, the British replied that forewarning of illegal acts does not in anyway make them ok when they are carried out.

Edith Cavell is now memorialised around the world, including the statue that I pass often in St Martins Lane, just above Trafalgar Square.  She will also shortly be commemorated on a £5 coin.

Edith Cavell Memorial in St Martins Place, London.

Edith Cavell Memorial in St Martins Place, London. Photo by Docben

As brave as the men were who fought and died in WW1, I think it’s important to remember people such as Edith Cavell who were every bit as brave and selfless and whose example we would all do well to follow today.

If you enjoyed this post please do consider looking at my WW1 History book, Lest We Forget, published by Endeavour Press of London and available in paperback, Kindle, iBooks and other formats.  It details WW1 from every angle and the point of view of many countries including the role of Women in War.

Lest We Forget

My easy to understand but comprehensive history of WW1 in Kindle and Paperback.

And also my photo guide to the Western Front, In The Footsteps of Heroes.

In The Footsteps of Heroes on Kindle and paperback.

In The Footsteps of Heroes on Kindle, iBooks and paperback.

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Sights from the moors

During our days out on holiday we spent quite a lot of time just driving around.  The weather was entirely perfect every day and we all enjoyed just being somewhere where there were no people and often no birds or animals either.  There aren’t many places in England where you an drive around for an hour or two and not see anyone.

Of course though the moors are not picturesque in a barren sort of way, they weren’t always quite so empty of people.  Since before Roman times these areas have been mined for their precious minerals and coal and it was the coal from these areas that largely powered the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Britain in the last few centuries.

These days if you know what you’re looking for the terrain is still littered with unexplainable hillocks and small stone buildings and though some of these are bothies (places where shepherds or walkers traditionally sought shelter), most of them are mines.

Well preserved mine entrance

Well preserved mine entrance

The photo above is of a well-preserved mine entrance, the actually entrance to the shaft having been sealed to stop idiots like me and sheep going off exploring.

Some mine were very small and only employed a handful of men for a few years whilst others were bigger.  Sometimes the stone from the buildings was re-appropriated for other buildings.

Small mining complex

Small mining complex

These photos show the remains of a more substantial mining complex.  Now ruined by years or possibly centuries of neglect.

Abandoned mine

Abandoned mine – the entrance is somewhere down under our feet. The deep gulley also contains a stream. Mines made great use of water to power wheels and power early industrial equipment as well as to clean and separate the material being mined from general soil and rock.

Old mining buildings

Old mining buildings

Of course some mines employed many thousands of men in more recent centuries although almost all of these were closed in the 1980’s in a highly controversial economic and political policy to close them down by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as apparently it is better to get import our coal from Australia and such secure places as Russia.   As a result many areas were left entirely deprived with not a single income earner amongst entire streets.  Only in recent years have some of these places started to recover.

Victorian Mine

Victorian Mine

This mine above is one of the best preserved Victorian era mine not too far from the towns of Hexham and Allendale.  It has been granted a listed heritage status which means though it can be re-developed into a museum or an outdoors centre or even housing, it has to be preserved.

Heather burning

Heather burning

Sections of the moors on the left are being burned under controlled conditions.  As well as sheep farming, large areas of the moors are breeding grounds for Grouse, a type of large and not particularly clever game bird.  They nest and bread in the heather, bracken and gorse and are a big source of income to farmers as a certain type of person will come up here from the cities and hunt them.  However the birds do best if the heather is young so by burning the heather, it grows more vigorously.

Great care has to be taken though as the heather is very dry and grows on a very peaty soil and fires can spread…. like wildfire with the peaty soil itself burning underground and spreading for miles in dry weather or if hikers drop cigarettes or glass bottles.    In parts of the northern UK, peat was a popular source of fuel for burning and cooking with if one couldn’t afford coal or find wood.

Old Quarry

Old Quarry

This looks like an old quarry but there are places where the rock naturally comes out of the ground on long cliffs down locally as Sills or Scars.  The photo shows though how thin the soil is to the bedrock and how even without the climate, it is only “good” for sheep farming.

Of course after the last ice-age nearly all of Britain was covered in forest and there are many areas around here with very deep gorges where even small rivers have calved away the soil which now has nothing much to keep it together.  One thing I have noticed  is that a lot more of these areas are being planted with trees compared to 20 years ago in attempts to hold the soil together, improve wildlife and even on a large scale, moderate the local climate.

Tree planting in the Pennines by volunteers

Tree planting in the Pennines by volunteers – Photo by Durham Wildlife Trust

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Britain and America – Two countries separated by a common language

In the last day or two, Scott Waters from Florida has hit the headlines after his recent stay in the U.K. with his list of generally complimentary things he has to say about our country.  I must say he makes us and Britain sound like a nice place.

Feeling in a sarcastic mood and with sarcasm being one of the things that slightly differentiates the British and Americans, I thought I would write back to his points below.  I hope this doesn’t offend anyone, heaven knows I complain about my own country enough!

* Almost everyone is very polite

Why thank-you.  Have you ever been in the London commute?

* The food is generally outstanding

It is, my tourists get so so surprised but by the end of their stay they do generally say our food is tastier, fresher, healthier and generally better.  You have to remember our country was ruined in WW2 and there was rationing for a long time afterwards.  We were poor until the 1980’s.  Our food in the 60’s and 70’s is not what we used to eat previously or what we eat now.

* There are no guns

Yay!  If people have guns then they might shoot people for no good reason.

* There are too many narrow stairs

You mean in old castles or cathedrals right?  I must admit I have never found narrow stairs to be a problem, not that I ever come across them more than once a year or so.

* Everything is just a little bit different

A bit narrower?

* The pubs close too early

They stay open all night given the slightest excuse.  Our beer is stronger so maybe you just have to start drinking early, besides no-one wants to go home in wet and cold weather at 2am in the winter.

* The reason they drive on the left is because all their cars are built backwards

Alternatively, we just copied the Romans.  We need to be on the left of the road so that we can use our sword hands when we meet trouble.   I guess if we had guns we could shoot people with either hand.

* Pubs are not bars, they are community living rooms. 

Some people never ever leave the pubs.  They are too cosy.

* You’d better like peas, potatoes and sausage 

Hmm, you making me hungry.  Mushy peas are best!  Lucky we have more varieties of potatoes and sausages than we know what to do with.  Maris Piper Lincolnshire potatoes and Cumberland sausage is a nice combination.

* Refrigerators and washing machines are very small

How big do you want them to be.  We fit all our clothes for the week in one load. Same with the fridge, it lasts us for 2 or 3 weeks if needed.  Not that much food has to be in a chilled cabinet.  Our potatoes come in a brown sack and they last months and months sitting in the pantry.

* Everything is generally older, smaller and shorter

What you mean?  I’m 41, 5’9″ ok I lost about 20 lbs since July but thats the gluten and dairy diet…. oh you mean our buildings, cars, fridges etc.

* People don’t seem to be afraid of their neighbors or the government

Why would we be?  Do you live in Islamic State or North Korea?  If you’re afraid of your neighbours or government then you either need to move or you either you or the government have something wrong going on.

* Their paper money makes sense, the coins don’t

Yes the paper money is cool.  We are getting our first plastic £5 notes soon.  The coins do make sense, each one has a different size, shape and weight so the elderly and blind can tell what they are handling… just like our paper money.

* Everyone has a washing machine but driers are rare 

I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a drier except for one person who has opted out of the whole electricity thing.  Most people do still prefer to dry their clothes outside, they smell fresher, it saves money and is better for the environment too.  Plus we don’t have any regulations of hanging out washing in gardens as in some places.  An Englishman’s home is his castle right?

* Hot and cold water faucets. Remember them?

Is that like Farrah Faucet?    Oh you mean taps!  They just work a lot better than a uni-tap. Besides most of our piping is older than your country… well you know what I mean.

* Pants are called “trousers”, underwear are “pants” and sweaters are “jumpers”

I don’t know what happened there as underwear are called underpants but its true we have trousers and not pants.  Jumpers and pullovers too but a few use the term sweater.

* The bathroom light is a string hanging from the ceiling

This is the law, no wall switches in a bathroom.  It makes sense too with steamy hot baths and showers and sparks in wall switches.

* “Fanny” is a naughty word, as is “shag”

I go 3 years without swearing and now you do this on my blog.  That’s shagging fantastic isn’t it?!?!

* All the signs are well designed with beautiful typography and written in full sentences with proper grammar.

That’s true, lots of people comment on them.  I even get told how much politer our signage is “We apologise for your delay” on motorways or baggage reclamation signs at Heathrow.

* There’s no dress code 

Is that good or bad?  You think we’re still living in Downton Abbey time aren’t you?   Actually there are still dress codes in places , so maybe you’re not mixing in the right circles :-)

* Doors close by themselves, but they don’t always open

What, you lost use of your arms or something?

* They eat with their forks upside down

We eat with our forks properly.  Real fresh food needs to be impaled by the fork.  Get some manners why don’t you!

* The English are as crazy about their gardens as Americans are about cars

That could well be true.  Do you put gnomes on your cars instead of in gardens?

* They don’t seem to use facecloths or napkins or maybe they’re just less messy than we are

Possibly a bit of both.  I must be honest, I haven’t used a facecloth since I was about 4.  I just use a regular hand towel.  No, we don’t generally use serviettes at home its true.  If you used your fork properly you wouldn’t make a mess!  If we do, just go and grab some toilet paper.

* The wall outlets all have switches, some don’t do anything

The switches are a long story, we don’t explain it to outsiders.  Most of them do things, those that don’t once did so and maybe in a hundred years will be used again.

* There are hardly any cops or police cars

That’s true, we like it that way.  Narrow stairs keep people in their place and the less capable people are kept in line by taunts of proper fork protocols.

* 5,000 year ago, someone arranged a lot of rocks all over, but no one is sure why

It’s true.   We also play a lot of cricket which leaves many people similarly stumped!

* When you do see police they seem to be in male & female pairs and often smiling 

As it should be!  Whenever you’re in trouble you should go to the police.  We all learnt hat when we’re about 3 years old.   Never met a none smiley or helpful one yet.

* Black people are just people: they didn’t quite do slavery here

Of course they’re just people.  Are you in the KKK?  We did do slavery but not segregation and we were also about the first to abolish it.  Besides we were slaves our selves too.

* Everything comes with chips, which are French Fries. You put vinegar on them

Yes, proper chips not those namby pamby poor excuse for chips from the likes of McDonalds but big thick chunky chips.  Salt and vinegar and preferably lots of it and all wrapped up in newspaper to carry home.

* Cookies are “biscuits” and potato chips are “crisps”

No no no, you’re just wrong!   Crisps are crisps because they are crisp… not soggy or chewy.  Chips are chips because they are chips!  Think of carpentry or masonry, you knock off a little bit by accident, it’s a chip, not a crisp!

* HP sauce is better then catsup

What on earth is catsup?  Is it how cats greet each other instead of saying watsup?  HP Sauce is unique, lots of my tourists think it is just brown sauce or bbq sauce or spice sauce but it isn’t and its better than all of them.

* Obama is considered a hero, Bush is considered an idiot.

I think with Obama, we’re talking comparatively.  Most people over here are very disappointed in him but realise he is one man against the system.

* After fish and chips, curry is the most popular food 

My favourite is Chicken Balti, Bombay aloo, peshawar naan, rice and poppadoms.  I love all the dips, especially the mango chutney!

* The water controls in showers need detailed instructions

Hmmm! On, off and a dial for hot and cold.  If it is more simple where you live, please tell me how!

* They will boil anything

Food wise I guess.  We don’t boil iPhones or carpets.  Sometimes people if they are witches.  For food, yes we boil everything.  Its healthier for you and preserves the taste. Plus you can drain the excess water and use it as a basis for soups, stocks and other things.  You don’t have to fry anything!

* Folks don’t always lock their bikes

People don’t always lock their cars or houses either but tend to after they get robbed for the first time.

* It’s not unusual to see people dressed different and speaking different languages

Is this about the black and slavery issue again?  We’re a democracy people can dress and speak however they like.  In fact London is said to have 60% of its population as being born overseas and of the remaining 40% this includes many whose parents or grandparents were born overseas.  There is no pressure to conform… for good or bad.

* Your electronic devices will work fine with just a plug adapter

You think we are Klingons or something with an energy dampening field?  Why on earth wouldn’t they? I mean really?  Can’t you go to any country on the planet and use an electronic device?

* Nearly everyone is better educated then we are

Only when it concerns using electronic devices abroad I fear.

* If someone buys you a drink you must do the same

It’s polite to but you don’t have to.  If needed, remember it next time you meet and buy them a drink then.

* There are no guns

Aren’t  we wacky enough as we are.  Do we look like we need guns to add to the hilarity?

* Look right, walk left. Again; look right, walk left. You’re welcome. 

I have no idea what you are on about :-)  Are you talking about crossing the road?  No jaywalking does mean you have to take responsibility for looking the correct way, it is true.  Otherwise, what are you on about?

* Avoid British wine and French beer

That is broadly true but there are nice British wines and nice French… I mean Belgian beers. Actually some bubbly white English wines are now winning awards as they taste as good or better than champagne.  You can guess what our continental neighbours think of that,

* It’s not that hard to eat with the fork in your left hand with a little practice. If you don’t, everyone knows you’re an American 

Look, if you can’t handle a fork, just use a wooden spoon like everyone did before we evolved into using forks. There’s nothing wrong with living in the past, our whole country does that.  Why even kid yourself about using a fork as a spoon in your right hand? Just use a shagging spoon!   Fine, shoot me, I’m still right.

* Many of the roads are the size of our sidewalks

But still much lower accident and fatality rates.  It helps that our cars are the size of our refrigerators I guess.

* There’s no AC

You’re talking about our electrical switches again right?   No, we don’t do Air Conditioning,  we spend 6-9 months of our lives freezing cold and spend a fortune on heating.  It’s just nice to be miserable because we’re too hot for a few weeks each summer.

* Instead of turning the heat up, you put on a jumper

That’s very true.   Why waste heating/money?  We have a system in our house.  Stop wearing shorts in September, wear Jumpers in October, put on a fleese jacket or a blanket on our laps in the evening in November.   Put on the heating as a last resort.   If you time things right you can cook your food from scratch in the oven which will warm up the downstairs for a few hours and if it is cold, dry your clothes in the drier which also warms up the house.

Honestly, young people today!!

* Gas is “petrol”, it costs about $6 a gallon and is sold by the liter

Petrol is petrol and is sold by the litre.    Gas is that gaseous thing we use for heating or cooking if people favour it over electric.    Where did you get your petrol from?  I’d love to pay just £4 a gallon.  More like £10-13 though it is currently at the lower end of that estimation.

* If you speed on a motorway, you get a ticket. Period. Always

It’s true.  Obey the laws and our narrow streets are very safe and we have about the lowest fatality rates in the world. Have some discipline man or if not then work out where the speed cameras are.

* You don’t have to tip, really!

That’s true.  Our restaurant staff are paid by their owner of the restaurant.  Why would you want to pay someones wages for them when you are eating out?  Tip them if they did a good job but not just for doing their job.  This only goes for waiting staff and drivers.   If all the waiting staff in America refused to do their job for measly wages then they would have to pay a living wage.

* Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Cornwall really are different countries

Scotland and Wales are different nations but not different countries.  There is no such place as Ireland.  The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Cornwall is a county not a country, they just think they are a country… kind of like Yorkshire, Northumbria or Texas.

* Only 14% of Americans have a passport, almost everyone in the UK does

Every one here does have a passport, except for the illegals I guess.  Funny, every American I have ever met in London does have a passport.

* You pay the price marked on products because the taxes (VAT) are built in 

What’s the point of kidding ourselves?  Why pretend that something costs $10 but the taxes are $2 on top.  Why not just put $12 on the sign… thats what the consumer is paying.

* Walking is the national pastime 

It’s true.  I’m going for an 8 mile walk after posting this blog…. just because.

* Their TV looks and sounds much better then ours

NTSC Never The Same Colour as American TV engineers used to say about American tv broadcasting standards.  Ours is PAL, maybe it just wants to be friends.

* They took the street signs down during WWII, but haven’t put them all back up yet 

We’ll get round to it when we sort out those wall switches.  If you’re lost just ask a policeman or even a stranger.

* Everyone enjoys a good joke

I’m hoping so as this blog post is clutching at straws now.

* There are no guns

You have a military bigger than the next 9 nations in the world combined, 7 of which are allies.  Don’t you have enough guns?   An Arab with a beard is a terrorist, a white guy with a gun is defending his constitutional rights…. I know, I know.  but things change.  The people who wrote the constitution were clever men, but just men.  Who lives their lives according to what a bunch of criminals wrote 240 years ago?  Get with the times man.   You used to have the right to do all sort of things that you now think would be crazy.

* Dogs are very well behaved and welcome everywhere

We love our dogs.

* There are no window screens

That’s true.  I’m not sure why as our castles did/do.

* You can get on a bus and end up in Paris

You can pretty much all the way to Australia apart from the last few miles.

* Everyone knows more about our history then we do

History is our specialism in life, don’t feel bad we’ve been learning it for much longer.

* Radio is still a big deal. The BBC is quite good

Radio is still a big deal.  The BBC is amazing, quality and no adverts.  We even have documentaries on the radio!

* The newspapers can be awful

Mostly yes.  The Times, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and FT can be quality though.  However it is the lowlife tabloids that can do the best investigations.  All the scandals only come about from them digging up dirt and good on them for that.  We have an unexpectedly large lack of respect for figures of authority.

* Everything costs the same but our money is worth less so you have to add 50% to the price to figure what you’re paying

You noticed, trust me its worse for us.  You put up with it for 2 weeks on a vacation, we have to live with it.  We know that we’re being ripped off…. Apple… Amazon…. etc

* Beer comes in large, completely filled, actual pint glasses and the closer the brewery the better the beer

True enough.  Ditch those girly Budweiser bottles for something that will put hair on your chest.  Go on a brewery tour and you can drink it fresh!

* Butter and eggs aren’t refrigerated

Hence the smaller fridges, I can see the penny is about to drop on this one.  Buy less, consume less and less space is needed to store the food.

* The beer isn’t warm, each style is served at the proper temperature

Each beer is served according to its requirements.  If beer is warm it is because the fermentation process contains live bacteria that need a degree of heat to develop and ferment the drink.  Serve it cold and you kill off the bacteria and yeast and you end up with a bottle of Bud.

* Cider (alcoholic) is quite good.

Very popular too!

* Excess cider consumption can be very painful.

Yes, often worse than beers.   Now I see why you had a problem with stairs and doors.

* The universal greeting is “Cheers” (pronounced “cheeahz” unless you are from Cornwall, in which case it’s “chairz”)

I’ve never ever heard anyone greet anyone this way.  They might say it when having a drink , a few young people use it instead of ‘thanks’ but not a greeting, ever.

* The money is easy to understand: 1-2-5-10-20-50 pence, £1-£2 coins and £5-£10, etc bills. There are no quarters. 

I thought you said the coins made no sense?

* Their cash makes ours look like Monopoly money

My tourists do love our money, apart from that the larger notes are too big for wallets that only store monopoly money.  I was shocked to find out a 1 dollar note is almost identical to a large denomination note.  That must cause some expensive problems if you’re not careful or at least be a bit annoying when you are in a hurry and can’t differentiate would money you have in your purse or wallet.

* Cars don’t have bumper stickers

No, we don’t.  It’s tacky.  Besides why would you want everyone to know what political party you support or what weird issue or sports team you like.  You want someone to shoot you?  No one cares that your son or daughter is a star.

* Many doorknobs, buildings and tools are older than America

I saw a door a few weeks ago that is 1,000 years old!

* By law, there are no crappy, old cars

Specifically the law makes sure that all cars are maintained to a very high standard.  The expense of ensuring an old car meets this standard means that often it is cheaper to get a new car every 5-7 years.  Also our winters that keep going above and below freezing a hundred times a winter and lots of road salt mean especially southern European cars just don’t cut the mustard.

* When the sign says something was built in 456, they didn’t lose the “1”

I don’t know, quite a few things were built around 1456BC.  You’re mostly right though.

* Cake is is pudding, ice cream is pudding, anything served for desert is pudding, even pudding

Pudding is pudding, desert is what you have in the Sahara.  Anyway, Yorkshire Pudding isn’t a dessert and Black Pudding definitely isn’t either…. no its not to do with slavery or racism.  It’s dried blood and its flavoursome, you eat it with a properly held fork and a pint of beer.

* BBC 4 is NPR

I’ll take your word for that.

* Everything closes by 1800 (6pm)

Why would you want to be shopping or anything after 6pm?  In the country many places close much much earlier.  There is more to life than money and consumerism.

* Very few people smoke, those who do often roll their own

I don’t know anyone who smokes.  Funnily my tourists often remark how people smoke much more in London than in the USA.  I refer them to the whole 60% of Londoners were born overseas and London is just a tiny bit of the country.

* You’re defined by your accent

That’s true.  I’m judged by mine and I judge others by theirs!  Actually I love accents and don’t really judge them.  What I do judge people on is their grammar and clear pronunciation.

* No one in Cornwall knows what the hell a Cornish Game Hen is

What the hell is a Cornish Game Hen?  What is it game for?  A game of football?  A drink? Sex?  We also don’t know what on earth an English muffin is.  While I’m at it, I’m also baffled by the terms French toast and various eggs sunny side up and over easy.  Be a bit more precise for goodness sake.

* Football is a religion, religion is a sport

Football isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s more important than that.  The words of a very famous and prominent football manager.  Not soccer, please please note.  How would you like it if we called your Baseball, glove catch or stickball?

* Europeans dress better then the British, we dress worse

That’s about right.  When I’m on holiday Germans always seem to dress like they are going to Church, Italians like they’re out clubbing and British… I try to avoid British on holiday.  Americans though, easy to spot.

* The trains work: a three minute delay is regrettable

They broadly work yes.  We just expect better.

* Drinks don’t come with ice 

No they don’t generally.  Why do all drinks need to be cold or with ice?  That will mess with your tastebuds.

* There are far fewer fat English people

Maybe but I’d say most people here are fat.

* There are a lot of healthy old folks around participating in life instead of hiding at home watching tv

Definitely, isn’t it great!  Why would they shut themselves away.  They worked hard all their lives, they should make the most of there new found freedom.

* If you’re over 60, you get free tv and bus and rail passes. 

Close but your heart’s in the right place.  Also big discounts on various other things too.

* They don’t use Bose anything anywhere

Speak English to me.  Obviously Bose anything anywhere isn’t as anywhere as they think it is.  Still, bring the right plug and it will work here.

* Displaying your political or religious affiliation is considered very bad taste

Absolutely!  We like to stay private, no-ne needs or wants to know anything about you unless they ask.  Also, displaying wealth is very bad too.

* Every pub seems to have a pet drunk

I’m writing this from home, I’ll have you know.  Many pubs have more than one.

* Their healthcare works, but they still bitch about it

The NHS works brilliantly.  I have never had anything but the very best experience with it and its nice that when you’re ill the one thing you don’t have to worry about is money.  Generally people don’t complain, it’s a certain political party and a branch of the media who support them.    Just in July I rang the doctors at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon and was being seen before 6pm in the hospital and it didn’t cost a penny.

* Cake is one of the major food groups 

It is in Cornwall at least.  I haven’t had cake for months.

* Their coffee is mediocre but the tea is wonderful

Our coffee is the same as anywhere else.  People here just prefer tea so perhaps are not so good at making coffee.  I don’t know, maybe we don’t use enough ice.  Anyway I hate coffee, I don’t even like the smell.  I’ve had two mouthfuls in my life and despise the stuff.

* There are still no guns

Look, civilised people don’t need guns.  Having them 250 years ago when you were worried a militia might show up could have been a useful idea (though we managed without it when Nazi Germany was about to invade) but now what’s the point?  People have missiles, drones, nuclear weapons, lasers.  If a foreign or your local government wants to kill you, they can and will.

I’ve never seen a gun, never heard a shot, never met anyone who even knows anyone who has been shot or who carries a gun.

* Towel warmers!

Hmmm, I like how you end this list.

* Cheers


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Day 5 of my holiday – Killhope Lead Mine

As I mentioned in previous holiday posts, the entire area of NorthEast England is rich in heavy industry and particularly mining history. Despite there being centuries more material underground, most mines are now closed as it is somehow supposedly more … Continue reading

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Visiting the magical land behind a waterfall and underground caving!

So far on our holiday no two days had been the same and this was to be no different. After doing a soot of shopping in Alston, the highest market town in England, we headed east over the Peninnes and moors into neighbouring County Durham. Though perhaps common place in larger or less densely populated countries, we enjoyed our hour long drive without seeing a single car which as someone who drives round London regularly was a blissful delight.  
  Our destination was High Force waterfall, one of many in the region though wrongly assumed to be the tallest in England perhaps because of impressive 700 metre gorge it has carved out or because of the volume of water that flows through it in the name or the River Tees.

Not all of the waterfall is visible in my photos but it is 71 feet or 22metres tall as against nearby Cautley Spout which has a single drop of 590 feet.
We could hear the roar of the waters from the carpark despite the water flow being affected by the lack of recent rain. To hear it close up and see the water flowing down the canyon was something else though as painter JMW Turner obviously thought 150 years ago when he stopped to paint one of his renowned paintings.

Next up we drove back westwards, stopping off at abandoned mines and quarries before having a drink and snack at the Langdon Beck pub. When suitably refreshed we headed to our second waterfall of the day Ashgill Force. It is a waterfall that you can walk behind and I had always wanted to experience that. There are a number of similar waterfalls in the valley, one of which was the home of a 16th century outlaw who hid from the world behind the falling waters.
I had read on TripAdvisor that this was a much less visited waterfall and that the approach to it could be a little difficult. For various reasons, I was the only one in our group able to get very far with it. Bizarrely though we expected it to be quite easy, was anything but. For a start the waterfalls are hidden under a very tall road bridge and the gorge itself seemed deeper than at High Force.  Not knowing how to access the falls, I headed off down a rough pathway which after a few minutes walk seemed to be taking me further away from the falls rather than closer to it.

It must be said that I’m not one for extreme sports. I like an easy life but on the other hand what phobias I have are weird ones like flying or talking in public. I have no problem st all with doing things most would run away from such as backpacking through a warzone or horse riding across the Sahara. I’m not afraid of heights, confined spaces or weird animals but I was as surprised as I could be when I decided to leave the path and follow the noise of the water.  I soon found a hidden cave and wrongly assumed this was the slightly difficult route down.

It looked almost impossible to get through and as I had no gear, helmet or light it seemed slightly crazy but I soon found myself lowering myself down into the darkness.
It was very dark inside and  barely wide enough to squeeze through. Additionally the floor was very rocky and uneven with hidden drops and I was mindful of my iPad if not myself. More than once a few choice swear words were uttered  and I had no real idea how to get out the other end let alone how I would return. I decided I would find a way somehow.
   The hardest part was actually when I reached the far end. It involved a lot of clambering over huge boulders which seemed to be positioned precariously. What’s more there was a 6 foot drop from the final stone onto the path. However I am not 6 foot tall, the path was narrow and slippery and if anything went wrong I would surely fall another 39 feet or so into the rocks and river which wouldn’t be good as no-one knew where I was and I can’t swim (I’m a desert person not a water baby).

You can see below the view from the cave exit but it doesn’t really show the details as I was torn.between photography and wondering how to make it out alive!
 I lowered myself down, taking care to leave my iPad somewhere safe. With my feet a few inches off the ground, I  let go and managed to fall vertically without leaning forward. I made it!

The view and the effort was worth it and I could see the waterfall in front of me. I followed the very slippery route to the falls buzzing with the excitement of navigating my first cave and approaching the waterfall whilst also acutely aware of several loose rocks and the huge amount of rock above my head.Here is the view, I took lots of photos and videos too!
  Proof I made it for you and also for the police should they find my body stuck in a cave or washed down the river weeks later!  I stayed for 10 minutes before I could hear voices of others approaching so I made my way back to the cave. Some clambering, pulling, heaving and utterances of how do I find myself in these situations and I got on top of the big rock and stood in the cave entrance. Minding my wet trainers on the rocky floor, I was soon pulling myself out into the open.

I later found out that the pathway I ignored was in fact the slightly difficult route that takes people to the falls in a long winded way as a school party all equipped in climbing gear went down the path. There are very few references to the cave I went through, it is hidden and according to lay people, impossible looking but surprisingly do-able. Experts have recently advised people not to enter the cave due to the very real risk of cave-ins, accidents and the unstable rocks that I had problems with along with others just outside which had become unstable due to last winters storms.

I was and still am thrilled  to have stood behind a waterfall, even a water depleted one like Ashgill was. The fact that on a regular trip from the car I unexpectedly and confidently conquered my first cave and one which experts deem risky is even better too in its own way. I am better than I thought :-) and even if it was dangerous, I like that the spirit of my earlier adventures in war mine fields and madcap adventures in the middle-east still lives on. You can see why I do t like beach holidays!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and the Lakes

Following my early morning walk to the abandoned mine, we headed out for a day of touring. We headed towards The Lake District, a large area designated a National Park containing many of England’s highest mountains and numerous large lakes as well as smaller lakes or tarns situated high up in the mountains as a result of glacial events. There are also many large forests and countless picturesque villages.

The first place we went to was Castlerigg stone circle, the most visited stone circle in Cumbria and just one of around 1300 in total. This one is around 100 feet wide with about 40 stones that date back to around 3,200BC. 

Castlerigg is in a natural amphitheatre and surrounded by mountains around 3,000 feet tall with experts believing the circle orientated to key celestial events such as the sun rising over a particular mountain on midsummers day.  Whether sunny, raining or snowy, Castlerigg has always been my favourite stone circle.

  Derwent Water, a beautiful lake with numerous islands, one of which is populated. A boat service operates a cruise to various points around the lake.

  This photo is taken from an area called Friars Crag and is one if my favourite viewpoints. In the distance is Borrowdale and behind the mountains you can see lies the tallest mountain in England, Scafell.

This is coming down the Honister Pass which is a notorious route through the mountains and very treacherous in winter. Keswick and this area of the Lake District is famous for its slate mines and here you can see the walls made of slate and loose stones or scree lay all about.

  Buttermere… If I remember rightly. Mere is an old English word fora body of water.

This is the Main Street if Cockermouth which was recently flooded with 9feet waters… Those lakes wouldn’t be there without lots of rain. But known as the home of poet William Wordsworth.

 We returned to the stone circle to see it minus the toùrists in late evening sun. Here you can see a small inner rectangle within the circle.  

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Fell walking and an abandoned mine

Early on Tuesday morning I decided to take advantage of the dry weather and walk up a Fell (the local term for the high moors in this part of the world). I really really like the outdoors and the lack … Continue reading

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