A few weeks before Olive turned three, I helped her to make a star chart.
If it's not clear from the picture, the look Olive went for was 'the expanding universe'. She achieved this via the liberal application of glitter glue, supplemented by the sprinkling of pure English glitter. The chart was topped off with some silver star stickers and some heart stickers. A classic design, I'm sure you'll agree.
Now she has reached the big '3', she's at that age where she needs a little motivation to tidy up, avert boredom at meal times, do as she is asked, say please and thank you unprompted, and go to bed without and fuss. Ten stars gets her a small treat, whilst the completion of all five lines results in a large treat (yet to be decided).
She is generally pretty good and being good, but is an excited participant in this exercise of encouragement.
Last weekend the Heritage Open Days took place. This is a brilliant national event that sees public and private buildings and organisations open up to the public.
Here in Leeds there was plenty to see, but unfortunately for me there was no time in which to see most of it. I work Monday to Friday, and on Saturday we went to a wedding. But we made time on Sunday to go and visit one of the open buildings.
Given Olive's young age and low boredom threshold, we decided against my initial choice of the Town Hall and plumped instead for the Central Library tour. Andrew, Michelle and Scarlett also came along, and I was lucky to book the final six places on the tour. We got to town early, so waited for two o'clock to show itself by spending time in Leeds Art Gallery. We had a nosey at the Damien Hirst exhibition (be prepared only for examples of his iconic works, rather than the actual headline pieces). We then went to the children's area, where we were joined by the others.
Then it was time to meet inside the Calverley Street entrance of the library, which (surprisingly to me) was the original entrance. At first it seemed like no-one was going to show. Then a score of people arrived en masse, and a guide made himself known.
Alas, this was another tour, one for the Art Gallery, poorly planned to commence at the same time and location as our more modestly attended trip. They quickly moved on, leaving a handful of us and our own guide. He was quiet and thoughtful, and initially talked about the building's construction in the last quarter of the 19th century, a little of its design by George Corson (who was also responsible for the Grand Theatre), and something of the materials used. I was interested to note that in today's money, the building cost around £6m to put up. I can't imagine a public building today costing less than twenty times that amount (and then some, as it is likely to be subject to some ridiculously unfair PFI scheme). But I digress.
That was interesting, but we were here to look at the library building itself. We were eager to see and learn about the public areas, but we were most of all itching to see behind the scenes, beyond the doors marked 'private'.
The structure of the tour was a tease. We worked our way up the building, initially staying in the main lending library, the music library and the reference rooms. It was only then did we get to see some hidden-from-the-public rooms and balconies, some disappointingly devoid of any original features, some richly panelled or tiled and crammed full of wonderful books, maps, newspapers and records.
It was interesting and saddening to see the various effects of time, and particularly the brutal and unsentimental alterations of the 60s and 70s that affected most areas of the building. I can't for the life of me think why such destruction is not considered a crime.
All too soon our hour was over, and I was over. Our guide ended the tour in the Tiled Hall, in which it was once feared "people will be continually gazing up at it, instead of quietly reading the magazines and newspapers". This room was insanely hidden from view and subjected to officially-sanctioned vandalism for years, before being recently restored to something approaching its former majesty. Formerly the reading room, now a tea-room, this was a suitably upbeat end to our Heritage Open Day.
The snow, the ice, the dark nights. Nothing can stop the relentless torrent of take-away menus that continuously leak though our letterbox.
I was intrigued by the one that greeted me when I got home from work tonight for two reasons. The name of the restaurant, Adams, suggests that the owners surname is Adams. But I can't help but wonder if in fact the owner is called Adam, and of course if this is the case his establishment should be closed down immediately until such time as an apostrophe can be located.
I certainly admire Adams' / Adam's honesty though. Note the amendment (in blue biro) to the four-star rating awarded by Leeds City Council. And I appreciate the concession to the health-conscience take-away patron, in the form of a singular healthy option.
When I was doing research into places to go in North-West Wales, I found that some of the narrow gauge mountain railways were used by Wilbert Vere Audry as inspiration for some of his Railway Series books. And coincidently, after the abandonment of said holiday we found ourselves at Thomasland itself, the ultimate commercial evolution of the Rev's writing.
So I decided to have a little read up about Rev. Audry's life and times. And one of the interesting things I found out is that he developed extensive, historically plausible back stories for his books. And a map of the fictional island of Sodor, on which his tales of anthropomorphised steam locomotives are set.
Sodor is supposedly located between the Cumbria coast and the Isle of Man. Pre and post this neat Amos Wolfe rendition there have been a variety of versions, including Audry's own sketches, tourist maps, a Google Earth rendition of the island and even a Harry Beck style transit map.
We would have been packing up and driving back today. I still can't believe how crummy the weather has been (and that we picked this week to go camping). Even leaving aside the storm, I don't think that there has been a fully dry day in North-West Wales in the last seven days.
There's quite a lot to see and do in the top left hand corner of the country. We were all looking forward to the following points on the tourist trail:
Exploring the dunes and beaches at Shell Island - the dunes here are some of the highest in the United Kingdom, and have been known to top 125ft.
Castles - Harlech, Caernarfon - this corner of the land is liberally peppered with castles and fortifications, built following the successful conquest of Wales in the 13th Century by Edward I. The castles at Caernarfon and Harlech are particularly fine examples, and are both readily accessible from our temporary base on Shell Island, either by car, or by foot and / or train.
Beaumaris - from the french beaux marais (beautiful marsh). Home to one of Gemma's university friends who we planned to visit, Beaumaris is located just across the Menai Straight on the island of Anglesey. The town features a medieval castle and a victorian pier.
Anglesey- I came here on a family holiday many years ago; if memory serves, we stayed in a toll house somewhere near the Llangefni. Just across the Britannia Bridge is the village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch(which translates as St Mary's Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of St Tysilio with a red cave).
Porthmadog - the town owes it's existence to the large-scale landscaping efforts of William Maddocks, who built The Cob (a sea wall) that served both to reclaim a large area of land for farming and caused the formation of a new harbour. The nearest sizable town to the campsite is made easier to access by the existence of a narrow toll bridge across the River Dwyryd. I remember from when I came here during my second week of university that this was a nice little town. I guess I'll have to wait a while before re-discovering it.
Portmeirion - a unique experiment near to Porthmadog. A village designed and constructed in the fifty years after 1925 by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, the distinct Italiante flavour lends itself well to use as settings for television programs - the most famous probably being CBeebies' Gigglebiz (oh, alright, and perhaps the original series of The Prisoner).
Snowdon - at 3,560ft, it is the second-highest mountain in the UK. It sees one of the highest amounts of rainfall in the land (180 inches annually) and an average temperature at it's peak of just 2.5°C. You can even see what the weather is doing right now here. It can be conquered on foot relatively easily, but the least taxing way to the top is by catching the Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Welsh Highland Railway / FfestiniogRailway - two of the Great Little Trains Of Wales, the former currently runs from Pont Croesor (just north of Porthmadog) to Caernarfon, skirting the base of Snowdon, whilst the latter tackles the 14-mile uphill slog to Blaenau Ffestiniog. If we try again in 2011 the Welsh Highland line extension into Porthmadog should be completed.
Llandudno - 'Queen of the Welsh Resorts', apparently. This town was developed during the Victorian period as a seaside destination. I used to go a fair bit when I was younger, I recall. There's an obligatory Grade II listed pier, as well as some fine 19th century architecture. We like going to the likes of Scarborough and Filey, so this destination sounds right up our street.
As well as not getting to go to any of the above, we did not get the chance to use any of the new camping equipment we purchased in the weeks before the holiday. Specifically, we tried and failed to get our windbreak to stand against the wind (surely its sole purpose), and the built but did not use the twin-hob / grill combo stove.