Summer Photo Fun – Week 1 – The Messy Collection

Well I had no idea what would happen when this 6 week project Summer Photo Fun was launched but photos have been popping in all week and I (and especially the kids) would like to thank each and every one of you for contributing and getting into the spirit of things.  What I hoped would happen has, which is really interesting interpretations of the theme, photos from different places from people I don’t know.  Each time something has popped into my timeline I feel a little shiver of excitement wondering what that photo will be and it’s been great sharing these with the kids who of course pass their critical eye.  They have taken photos that they have also contributed to those that have come in from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Norway and Australia as well of course of plenty of Yorkshire based ones.  Can you tell which comes from where though and which have been taken by kids or adults.  The very first photo was the one above of the ceiling at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and I’ve collated all the others below (in no particular order).  When the photos were first sent in there was often a little comment of explanation (which you can see if you go to the #summerphotofun hashtag) but I’ve decided to leave them out here and just show the pure photo which I think works well.

So thanks once again for those who have contributed, hope you have enjoyed week 1 and will carry on over the next 5 weeks.  The new theme will be launched tomorrow morning (Saturday 28 July).  In the meantime have a browse at what has come in and feel free to comment.



The Olympics are here!

After years of planning and talking about it, we’re nearly underway (I don’t count the football matches that have already taken place I’m afraid, why on earth were they before the opening ceremony?). I’ve no patience with the nay-sayers and doom-mongers, this is going to be great. Is it expensive? Yes, but would the government really have spent it on anything more useful? Was the ticketing a fiasco? Yes, but we’ll get over it. Will there be traffic congestion? Yes, but surely we can cope for a few weeks out of a lifetime. People were also saying that we’d never manage the construction. But we’ve come in on budget (which was only revised once as far as I’m aware, and that was pretty early on), and way ahead of the start. Don’t forget that in previous years other countries were still building practically up the opening ceremony, but our last permanent venue was finished a year ago and all the major venues at least have been holding competitions, and making sure things are working properly. That’s pretty impressive for a project of this size.

No, I’m really looking forward to this, and not only because I’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket (and no it’s not for the 100m final). It’s a spectacle and the pinnacle of so many sports. Everyone wants to take part. Who or what are going to be the big stories this time? The glory of winning a medal, or even more than one? Or will it be someone with indomitable fighting spirit that we all get behind, like Derek Redmond hobbling over the line on his dad’s arm when his hamstring snapped in ’92 just because he had to finish the race, or Eric the Eel, who had only learnt to swim a couple of months before the Sydney Games and was cheered to the end by a crowd who thought he wasn’t going to make it.

The Olympics also give us the chance to watch sports that aren’t normally given much, or any, air time. I think I’ll tune in for some archery and canoeing, and now I come to think of it, I’ve never seen any water polo, so maybe I should give that a go this time.

I heard a surprising statistic this morning – that for 75% of the GB&NI team, this is their first Olympics. It shows how much new talent we have in this country, and presumably a lot of that has happened because of the investment brought about by bringing the Games here. For the future of our sports, that surely has to be a good thing. Given how wonderful it’s going to be for them all to perform on home turf, I just hope this doesn’t spoil them for the next time!

This won’t be quite as interactive for me as the Olympics Games of my youth, where I’d conscientiously (obsessively?) make a note of all the results in whatever book tie-in had been produced that time. That doesn’t really seem as “necessary” anymore, now that we have the results published for ever more on the internet. A far cry from one games when I was getting them off Ceefax and wondering how to get the ones I’d missed. But nevertheless, this is all going to be great fun. And one of the best things about it? No time zone problems to worry about for a change!

Ability not a prerequisite for fun (my 100th post)


So back in January we started this blog (and shortly after I started up a twitter account) and for me it has proved a most remarkable experience.  The act of sitting down to write something is, I’ve come to realise, a totally unique and creative experience.  There are few other areas over which you have total and utter control.  I decide whether or not I wish to write something, what it will be about, how long I take over it, what the editing process will be etc etc.  It is me and only me with no other elements to the process at all and I’ve found this experience to be very liberating and in general I’ve been happy with what I’ve come up with, clearly some posts have been better than others but that is all part of the learning process.  As the blog has developed from the initial beginnings of myself and Deano we have begun to branch out and ask other people if they would like to write posts that would fit in with the philosophy of The Orchard which is, in essence, writing about experiences and interests that bring a smile to you face.  Remarkably, slowly but surely, people began to read some of the posts and provide feedback and I’ve even been asked to write posts for Culture Vultures which has been very gratifying.

I realised that the next post that I would write (i.e. this one) would actually be my 100th post since we started and hence this short post of reflection, I’ve also been laid out flat for the last few days after hurting my back so have been unable to sit and do any writing (or anything else for that matter) but I have been able to do plenty of reflecting.  I originally wanted to write some super duper special post but totally changed my mind after thinking again about what The Orchard is all about which is about enjoyment and sharing things, ideas and experiences that we enjoy and one of the things I enjoy most is cycling (hence I write about it a bit).  Now as I’ve mentioned before I’m not a very good biker, I carry too much weight (built for comfort not speed), don’t have much bottle and my technical ability leaves a huge room for improvement but I massively enjoy it and that is the point.  Each experience I have in life I look to enjoy and I’ve realised that the blog has also helped in this as I remember all the fun I have so I can write about it which to put it simply makes me a happier person.  Yesterday I had a brief twitter exchange with Tom Hill (@24Tom) who is everything I’m not on a bike (and writes a good bike specific blog here) and he summed it all up brilliantly in a phrase which I think will become my new motto – Ability is not a prerequisite for fun !

So whatever it is that you do enjoy it, have fun and if you don’t have a space to write about it but would like to share it then contact us, come into the orchard and let the good things grow.

Castle People

Carlisle Castle gate – who worked in a place like this?

I’m a castle person, no doubt about it. I visit them, watch TV programmes about them, I’ve even studied them at university for heaven’s sake. But what about the people who actually built them, lived and worked in them? It’s the stories of human interaction with these wonderful buildings that often bring them to life.

Obviously there’s the grisly – the executions within the Tower, the traitors’ body parts being displayed around the country and the ludicrous story about Edward II’s demise at Berkley Castle (though probably not as far-fetched as the tale about him skipping the country and living for another decade or two as a hermit in Italy). After all, there’s no getting away from the violence that went on in the medieval period. Yet there are far more ‘normal’ stories about the castle people that also deserve to be remembered.

At the top of society is the monarch, possibly not the most normal of people, but we have to thank them for our castle legacy. Edward I, for example, is a famous castle builder, and a pragmatic one at that. For him, castles in Wales were just another tool, with several functions. There are the obvious, like a safe place to sleep and a base from which to launch attacks, but no less important and perhaps more so, were the logistical and symbolic. There were already castles in Wales when he arrived, but they were in the wrong places for protecting his supply lines. After all, an army won’t last for very long without its vittles. They were also a very clear statement – here I am, I’m not going anywhere, so you’d better just get used to it. On the other hand, he didn’t do much building from scratch when he turned his attention to Scotland, because he didn’t need to. He just took the ones that were already in convenient locations, like Berwick, which was described as being at the centre of his administrative web. You can just imagine some bureaucrat sitting in the castle above the river Tweed, waiting for his minions to bring him the latest news and despatches.

What about the men who really did build the castles, rather than just giving the order to do so? Edward’s favourite architect seems to be Master James of St George (St George being from St George d’Esperanche in Savoy). His trick was to bring together various innovations from around the world to produce a new type of castle for the British Isles. These new castles had projecting towers on the curtain wall, concentric rings of defences and vastly strengthened gatehouses from what had gone before. Sadly he wasn’t given the same scope in Scotland as he had been in Wales (though not for the Scots), with his minimum 1290s budget of £250 per week reduced to a measly £20 per week at Selkirk and Linlithgow in the 1300s. Quite a comedown really, but possibly made up for by the rewards – a salary of 3s a day, a promised pension of 1s 6d for his wife should she survive him, the position of constable at Harlech, worth £66.66 (100 marks) and a manor worth £25 a year. This was certainly more than other master masons got for their troubles.

Andrew de Harcla defends the siege of Carlisle

Someone I’ve come across that I feel rather sorry for is Andrew de Harcla, who was keeper of Carlisle Castle for the decade or so until his death in 1323. Here was a truly dedicated public servant, defending various parts of northern England from the Scots. After the battle at Bannockburn in 1314 he “dared not leave his post for fear of Scottish attacks by day or night”. And importantly from my point of view, his tenure saw considerable investment in the maintenance and development of the castle. There were several surveys in the 14th century, highlighting its deficiencies and need for works, but they were largely ignored or only received a token response. This makes the amount spent during his watch stand out all the more. In recognition of his service, he was elevated from a humble knight to a baron and then an earl. So what went wrong? To put an end to the destructive Scottish raids he agreed to recognise Robert Bruce as King of Scotland, an act deemed to be treason, and for which he was executed. After being hanged, drawn and quartered, he then had the further indignity of having a quarter of his body hung on the walls of his own castle. Harsh enough, but only five years later the new king, Edward III, signed a truce and recognised Bruce as king (because it’s ok when the king himself does it). Edward also gave the macabre order, on 10th August 1328, that the quarters be returned to his sister for burial at long last. An apology perhaps?

Perhaps the most interesting though are the glimpses into the lives of those who don’t usually make it into the guidebooks. More than a decade after I read a few short lines about him, I remember the name of William Barber. On 20th December 1339, he was granted custody of the gate of Carlisle castle for life, in return for his “good service” in Scotland and Antwerp. He crops up again the following March – his appointment had merely said he should receive the “usual wages and fees” and this made him rather uneasy. Suspicion of government is clearly nothing new! Apparently worried that he’d have to wait a while to receive anything he, probably wisely, asked for clarification. He was given the news that he would have 4d a day (significantly less than Master James) plus the same fees as his predecessor. Only days later, though, is a very intriguing entry. Barber is allowed to use a deputy to carry out his duties as he is away “attendant upon other business for the king”. What does this mean? If only I knew! Unfortunately, Barber’s reward was short-lived. In March 1343, custody of the gate was granted to Peter de Routhe as Barber had died. Interestingly, the bureaucrats didn’t make the same mistake with Peter, and specified his wages straightaway (the same as Barber’s).

Obviously there are many many more stories like that, hiding away in obscure places. Some will be enlightening, others will be frustrating because they ask more questions than they answer. But all will be fascinating. The trick is knowing how to find them.

Summer Photo Fun

Photo Credit: UCLA

So despite the rain the summer holidays are almost on us as this is the last week of term (for those of you reading this outside the UK, and incredibly there are people, most schools break for the summer at the end of this week and the kids don’t go back until the start of September).  Thinking back through the fog of time, my summer holidays consisted of 5 things 1) kicking a ball about 2) throwing stones into the river 3) lying on the sofa watching cricket 4) camping with the family somewhere 5) daydreaming.  In fact I became so good at number 5 that the skills I developed in it as a child remain strong in me to this day.

The world is of course not what it was and recently I’ve been chatting to my kids about what sort of things they might be doing over the holidays and as well as all the usual stuff we thought of coming up with a fun idea that would last throughout the 6 weeks.  The kids, partly inspired by the photo theme in the Guardian magazine each week, came up with the idea of having a different theme each week of the holidays (eg Blue, Movement etc) and we’d all take a photo and see what we could come up with.  They then suggested I put it up on the blog to see if anyone else was interested and if word spreads we could create a global summerphotofun project.

The 6 themes (one for each week) have been decided by the kids and the first one will be announced on Saturday and then each Saturday thereafter.  If you take a photo you can tweet me @ianstreet67 and use #summerphotofun and the hashtag of the weeks theme so others can see.  I’ll also retweet everything and will collate the photos and possibly put them on here at the end of each week (depends on how many we get of course, we don’t know what we are starting here!)  Then depending on what happens perhaps I could get some of my clever creative friends to create some sort of exhibition that would sum it all up at the end of the summer holidays.

This may all sound a bit wacky but even if no one else likes it our family will have a lot of fun with this.  We hope that you will as well and that you join us for some summerphotofun

The first theme has now been decided by the kids and it is – Messy – which will run from today (21 July) to Friday (27 July) and the next theme will announced next Saturday.

The second theme decided by the kids is – Float – which will run from today (28 July) to Friday (3 August).

The theme for week 3 that the kids have chosen is – Green – which will run from today (4 August) until the end of Friday (10 August)

The kids have chosen the next theme for week 4 and it is – Joy– which will run from today (11 August) untill the end of Friday (17 August)

Week 5 theme has been chosen and it is – shadow – running from today (18 August) until end of Friday (24 August)

Well I can’t believe it but we’ve got to week 6 already ! The kids have come up with the new theme for the last week and it is – Calm– which will run from today (25 August) through to end of Friday (31 August). We look forward to seeing your interpretations.


Riding in Ruskin’s View (aka The Snail from South Wales)

The latest ride saw us head a bit further North and West than we usually do as we headed over to Kirby Lonsdale to ride in Barbondale, criss crossing the River Lune (an appropriately named river for us I felt).  The area’s beauty was made famous by John Ruskin (via Ruskin’s view)  who described the view (above) into the valley as:

The most beautiful in England and therefore the world

Nothing like a bit of hubris eh but the view was immortalised in a painting by JMW Turner (below) and judging from our brief stop, there were indeed plenty of people stopping to admire it.  My thoughts however were lets get into and explore the view rather than simply look at it and once outside the small market town we were quickly into some of the most sparsely populated but beautiful parts of the country.

Very quickly we were riding across boggy bridle ways before coming out onto a small road that starting going seriously steeply uphill.  I shifted immediately into the lowest ring possible and set about having a quick mental battle with myself about how and whether I could get up this climb, decided I was going to and then set about grinding out a ridiculously slow metronomic pedal turn.  As I was climbing thoughts turned to the riders in the tour and the stunning admiration for how easy they make climbing look.  It’s interesting too how your mind works on a climb, mine certainly wanders all over the place – partly I think  to act as a distraction to the difficulties that I’m going through.  On this occasion my thoughts switched for some reason to the nicknames that riders have or have had – The Cannibal, Pistolero, Spartacus, The Tashkant Terror, Manx Missile, Super Mario, The Pirate, The Engineer and for one of my favourite riders The Shark of Messina.  Now the Shark or Vincenzo Nibali goes uphill faster than I can go down and as for his descending one can only dream.  As I was plugging away I realising how very very average I am as a rider (slow up hill and down) I was thinking what my nickname would be – easy really in an antithesis homage to Nibali it would have to be The Snail from South Wales !  The reward for all that climbing was a lovely gentle descent along the shoulder of the hill, nothing too steep so you could just float along that brought us out to these views of the valley

Heading across country again we were still on the downward trajectory which made me realise how much climbing we had done.  This slope was a very different beast, rocky and wet and way above my technical abilities but I slowly picked and stumbled my way down as best I could while watching PB effortlessly pick his way down.  It’s on stretches like this that make me think I need to switch from clipless to flats which might help provide a bit more confidence to the inevitable dabbing down that happens for me.  Finally though the Snail from South Wales emerged wet but unscathed.

The route then led us back across the river, I took the bridge while PB hilariously attempted to ford it resulting in him getting seriously wet as he ground to a halt half way across.  I would have caught it on camera but was simply too busy laughing but as you can see it was not the easiest crossing point.

A lovely easy section then took us through woodland as we followed the river bubbling away gently as we turned back and began the return leg of the loop.  Riding was smooth and easy until we came across a felled tree that required a bit of undignified scrambling

Before we had set out on this new route we had been advised to check the Westmorland racetrack website to make sure that no races were taking place.  This seemed a slightly bizarre instruction until we rode out of the woods and onto a racetrack where we took childish delight in pinging ourselves round a few bends.  It seemed very surreal to have been riding across this beautiful countryside to then find this racetrack which I think would have been even stranger if it had been in use and even more so if you had not been forewarned and just stumbled out onto it.

We had been riding for a few hours by now and covered a real variety of terrain, something for any rider until we came to a section that should have been lovely single track.  However it had clearly not been ridden or cleared for some time so we were left having to face running a gauntlet of nettles and brambles. Plunging into it as best we could it was difficult to know how to ride as you could not see the path and therefore the rocks that were hidden in it so going too fast spelt disaster and anyway this is the Snail we are talking about.  Speed also enabled the brambles to get a good rip at you but it seemed to avoid the worst of the stings from the nettles.  Too slow helped avoid the rocks and brambles but the nettles took their revenge.  I have to say it was a singularly testing and pretty unpleasant experience which left my legs somewhat sore

The final stretch saw us pootling back towards the starting point of Ruskin’s view and I must say that although I might have to disagree with him on his ranking of the view it is an incredibly beautiful area with some fantastic unspoilt countryside and great riding.

After 4 hours riding and our legs stinging like I can’t remember since I was a child I anaesthetised myself the only way I know how.

There’s a plane going down my street

So the advertisers and branders have been having a field day in the run up to the Olympics with every conceivable product having some tie in.  One such one is the current British Airways ad that has a BA plane appear to move through various London streets and landmarks before appearing to enter the stadium.  All well and good but there is a clever little gimmick whereby you can go to the website, stick in your postcode and the advert replays but this time your street (presumably using Google street view) is spliced into the advert.  So you see the cockpit view (that’s my street above) and then a view out of the window.  The views vary of course depending on what your google street view is like but it’s a clever little trick I think.  Made me smile anyway even if it will have no affect whether or not my next flight is on BA.