Tuesday, 30 May 2017

At Cliveden, rolling down a hill

I refrained from calling this entry "How to roll down a hill" as I'm not an expert on the subject. Anyway, it's been ages since I've done this. What I remember is if I raised my arm, I wouldn't go very fast. Please excuse bossy Hermione Granger, err, my daughter, talking in the background.

Except for M who's been to Cliveden with her class last December in a field trip that culminated in a school art exhibit, it was all our first time to visit the estate. Mike and M went into the maze and whilst waiting, I overheard this guy just coming out with his family thanking another guy for "saving their lives." He said it was so hot and they got so bored he was ready to give someone else a fiver to help them get out. Then in the middle of the maze, there was some sort of memorial and he feared they were for all the people who didn't make it out of the maze alive. He was just joking, of course.

We had a very relaxing afternoon just walking around and lying on the grass. The gardens overlook the River Thames - this is why I remember the area, because of its proximity to the river, and how we'd gone there whilst house-hunting in 2011. Cliveden is in Maidenhead, some 37 minutes drive from where we live. For more than 300 years it was home to dukes, earls, viscounts and for a while, a prince. A glittering hub of society, Cliveden hosted exclusive parties and political gatherings, later becoming infamously associated with the Profumo Affair.

Cliveden National Trust gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk
(Left photo) Cliveden is NOT Jane Austen’s inspiration for Pemberley, I just thought it'd make a good book photograph. "Death Comes to Pemberley” by PD James is the murder-mystery sequel to Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” set six years into the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth. Shown on the book cover are Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin who portrayed them in the 2013 BBC adaptation. 

Cliveden National Trust gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk
 I live here only half the time now whilst they’re doing repairs, can’t you tell I just got out of bed???! 
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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Strawberry Fields/ Nothing is real

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham
At Gray's Farm
Or nothing stays the same.

I don't know much about Gray's Farm although it's very close to where we live. Like anyone driving past it once in a while, I recognise it because of the giant strawberry by the roadside. It is the nearest Pick Your Own farm to us but we haven’t visited before (we always go to Surrey). Donald Gray died in 2011 and the farm was sold to the Wokingham Borough Council three years ago. I read in the news that they would turn the farm into a sports hub for the new development. We decided to visit last Saturday before it's gone. We learned the farm will still be open for a few more years but this is the reality in so many parts of England where, sadly, a place is valued so much more as land/housing 
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham
It's always sad when things that are identifiable with a town close down, I remember this about some spots in my hometown that I knew as a child. My husband grew up in the area and every time we drive across towns, he would see recent changes. The other day, we saw that the only garage in his hometown had closed down. It had been a trend for years, those little shops he used to go to as a little boy were all gone. A few years ago, he took me to this shop that sold all sorts of things and he noted how it didn't change that much. I bought some thread. I expected the price to be higher as it wasn't a big shop but it actually cost cheaper than most. That could also have been one of the reasons why that shop had closed down not long after that visit. It was a small shop so it was probably losing out to those big chains, the way Fox Books Mega-Chain put Meg Ryan's character's small and personal bookshop out of business in the 1998 film You've Got Mail.
gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Gray's Farm Pick Your Own Wokingham

It doesn't end there, up until recently, there was a hotel on the same street where my husband's childhood home was. I thought that the hotel was a listed building but it wasn't. My friend the late Rev. Gallagher stayed there the night when he flew from Ireland to officiate our wedding the next day. Anyway, the land had been sold as well and last week, we saw signs around it saying retirement homes would be built on the site. I joked to Mike, should we retire there? It'd be both funny and strange to retire next door to where he grew up.

The land where Mike's childhood home once stood had also been sold to developers. Numerous flats and houses were built there. The saddest thing? They didn't build on that particular land where my husband's house was. It's now a carpark.

Right here in our little village, we don't have much, the village shop and post office had long been converted into houses. Gladly, one pub still stands and I was told there used to be a pub, probably decades ago, right across from our house. Oh well, at least we still have the church and primary school, ones we could really call our own as they are geographically part of our little village. Everything else we need we get from the bigger town that we are a part of. It's not that great there, either, good thing the "Big" town has a bakery but they don't have a butcher. The local garage had also been turned into Tesco, as though we don't have enough Tesco stores around the area. 

There are farms and shops being transformed into houses, and some hectares of land are being transformed into parks. One of these is a country park near where we used to live. Around the time my daughter was born in 2010, some 11,000 trees were planted in said country park. It didn't make the parish councillors very happy, branding it a waste of money. I don't know much about the issue to comment on it, but from my standpoint I'd say, trees must be good, right?

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Monday, 22 May 2017

"My Family's Slave" by Alex Tizon

Read it on The Atlantic.

I've never been so moved by a journalism piece in my life. I read it to Mike last night. We never had maids or nannies so we could not relate to this, and it was very apparent when I paused whilst reading or Mike made a sound, that something in the essay was very strange, unbelievable, or unfamiliar to us. But house helps are very common in the Philippines. I remember watching Filipino films when the very rich have uniformed maids and they call their masters "señor/señora," or "señorito/señorita" for the younger members of the family. The maid in this essay (I couldn't bring myself to call her a slave, but she was, sadly) was originally from Tarlac, which is the province next to my home province, Pampanga. Majority of those living in Tarlac speak kapampangan like me.

I think one of the reasons why some well-to-do people choose to come back to the Philippines. is they find it so hard living without their servants, and also very expensive to hire them abroad. And it seems, sadly, that like Alex Tizon's family, there might have been others who brought [slaves] with them when they emigrated.

There are mixed reactions about this piece, most are heartbroken by the story of Eudocia Tomas Pulido ("Lola" or grandmother) and some are defending the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alex Tizon. Whatever his intention was in writing this piece, and whilst I feel he could have done more for Lola, his words (and I emphasise Words, as sometimes merely words could make us find excuses; I might have a different opinion had I known them personally) made me feel that he really cared about her and that he wanted to tell her side of the story. What's sad is that he died not knowing that his story had been told and had reached out to so many people. For Lola and the life she had, I could only have tears.

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Monday, 15 May 2017

Oh the things we do in England

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Shaftesbury Cheese Race 2017
Shaftesbury Cheese Race 2017
On Sunday we headed to Shaftesbury in Dorset for the Food and Drink Festival and the Cheese Run! The festival was from 10am to 4pm and seeing that there was more effort to advertise this event this year, we expected the town to be packed. In the end, it wasn’t that bad. There were lots of interesting stalls, but of course we were drawn, predictably, to the cheese, cider, homemade ice cream and chocolate stalls.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Shaftesbury Cheese Race 2017
M is one hardy beast, though not quite!
The cheese races were scheduled at 1-2pm, with the finals from 3-4. The run is a tribute to a millennia of cheese making in the Blackmore Vale. According to the website, organiser Charlie Turnbull got the idea from local lore about medieval cheesemakers, brewers, millers, and butchers racing to get their goods to the Abbey gates first so that they would be chosen by the Abbess for her High Table, thereby fetching the best price. Basically, there were different categories participated in by the slightly mad, with the men tasked to carry 25 kg cheese, the women – 13 kg, and the children – polystyrene. Now this is not cheese rolling, neither running on a flat boring path. We’re talking about scrambling up Gold Hill, more popularly known as Hovis Hill after the 1973 Hovis bread ad voted as Britain’s favourite ad of all time and directed by Ridley Scott. My photo here can’t justify how steep this hill is, add that those ancient cobbles won’t be of much help. Participants were literally dumping the cheeses upon reaching the finish line (the first rule of the race is not to drop the cheese as a 25 kg of cheese will disappear really quickly when it reaches the bottom of the hill). A 25-kg cheese takes 500 pints of milk to make. I can only guess what joining the races is like, all I know for sure is looking across that magnificent view – those houses down the hill and the Dorset countryside – can hypnotise anyone to do anything. First aiders were at the ready, with the host quipping that this race was a stupid thing to do. I didn’t see what the contract looks like but it must contain a clause about signing your life away when you take part. I urged my daughter to join the kids’ race but never the competitive type, she declined, even after I had told her she didn’t really have to run. There were a few who just carefully climbed up the hill, carrying the cheese; “that would be me,” the husband said about the last guy who barely made it to the finish line. It was a whole lot of fun, though, and it seemed a good time was had by all. I programmed my camera to do continuous shots of the race so I have hundreds of pictures that I might add here or post on Instagram later.


gaslighthouse.blogspot.com Shaftesbury Food and Drink Festival 2017
Gold Hill, Shaftesbury Food and Drink
Festival 2017
Not directly related but I kind of felt nostalgic being back in Dorset, remembering that when I was 23, I was accepted into a Master’s Programme at Bournemouth University, some 28 miles from the spot where I’m sitting (see photo on the right). I painted a watercolour of the Dorset coastline, a belief that my drawings come true (some of them did). I did some research and even contacted the British Ambassador to the Philippines that time to seek advice about studying in the UK. I had met him twice before, at my first job, with Shell Philippines.  He rang me one morning about the options (it was pretty cool that he had called me, especially that this very person is now a knight – years later he also helped me when I had difficulty getting a UK tourist visa from Helsinki during a semester in Finland, but that is another story). I did some research at the British Council in Manila. Long story short, the scholarships were very competitive and there was no way I could pursue the degree without one. It took five years and I got a scholarship somewhere else in Europe, and eventually, a university job in England. Patience is indeed a virtue, and sometimes our wishes are granted in other, usually better, forms. And always, no matter how numerous frustrations are, they’re forgotten when that one big dream comes true.

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