#thursdaysspecial

A glass menagerie

What can I tell you?

Whisper it very softly

Watch her like a hawk!

She doesn’t mean any harm

Don’t cry fish!  It’s not so bad.

I always find fascination in the National Glass Centre at Sunderland.  Sometimes I can find Juxtaposition too.  But today I wanted something to please my Lazy Poet friend, Gilly.  She’s been sad lately.

LLanbadrig- Church of St. Patrick

A place to turn up your coat collar and watch the sun’s rays lengthen the shadows, St. Patrick’s Church at Llanbadrig sits on a lonely headland. Dating back to AD440, it’s one of the oldest sites on Anglesey.  The Welsh name Llanbadrig means ‘Church of St. Patrick’.  Legend has it that Patrick was shipwrecked on Ynys Badrig, found refuge in a cave and water in a nearby well and later founded the church to give thanks to God.

I love that feeling of remoteness and serenity, and there’s something wonderful and unfathomable about the Welsh language too.  I suspect that it will appeal to my friend Paula, who is patiently Waiting over at Thursday’s Special.

What was I waiting for?  Why, the church to open in May, of course.

Wishing you all a blessed Easter.  Fuller details and a peak inside the church can be found at Anglesey-Hidden-Gems.

Scaling the heights

It had never occurred to me to think of Florence as a walled city, so it came as something of a surprise to find that the city walls had been rebuilt as many as six times.  Florentia, as a Roman garrison, came into being around 59BC.  The first wall would have encompassed the area of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio, with Piazza della Repubblica at its centre.

With the rise and fall of the city’s fortunes, in a chequered history, the walls were redrawn a number of times.  The second wall covered a smaller area than the first.  The third extended to the River Arno- previously considered unstable marshy ground.  In the 9th century Florence was increasingly prosperous and the walls were extended again.  As new villages mushroomed south of the Arno, the defence system needed to include them, and in 1172 work was begun on a fifth wall.  By 1333, Oltrarno finally received complete protection and the walls were 8.5 kilometres long, with gates 35 metres tall.

In sweeps the Black Death in 1348 and the city’s population, in common with most of Europe, was decimated.  In the 16th century additional fortifications were added to face the army of the German Emperor Charles V, and the Fortress of Belvedere was commissioned.  All of the city gates were pollarded to make them less vulnerable to artillery, save for San Niccolo.

The tower that marks Porta San Niccolo

Looking down on the walls from the cemetery at San Miniato al Monte

Florence became the provisional capital of Italy between 1865 and 1871.  And after all that building?  The walls were demolished in order to establish a new ring road.  Today, only the walls in Oltrarno have survived.  For a more complete history, this is an interesting site.

Still in Italy, you absolutely must see the magnificence of Mantua in Paula’s Traces of the Past.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

St. Mary of the Flower, the Duomo, in Florence, and a cherished dream.  Would she disappoint?

I arrived mid-evening, after a long days travel, with legs that needed to be stretched and a bubble of excitement inside.  Into the darkening streets, gay voices filling the air and a buzz of purely Italian sociability.  Waiting for that moment when, rounding a corner, there she was, shining like a beacon.  Beckoning me to come closer, in adoration, and gaze on her transcendent beauty.

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Round and round her I walked, gazing up at every aspect of her beauty.  Dizzy with the wonder of it all and beaming like a child.

Arms spread wide, my eyes followed her majesty up to the heavens.  I did not want my bubble ever to burst.  Easing myself away, with many a backward glance, I tried to reassure myself that she was real.  Never could I conjure such a figment of imagination.

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In the days to come I will be sharing with you some of the history, as well as the beauty, that is Florence.  Right now I’m clinging to the Indelible memory of that first night.  Thank you, Paula, for such a very apt prompt.

Focus on Fountain’s Abbey

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I very often lack focus and tend to meander through my life.  Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, in Yorkshire, were a case in point.  Looking for somewhere to admire snowdrops, I ventured there last week.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Swathes of them nestled beneath the trees.  I captured one or two shots, but I was soon drawn into the magnificence of the water gardens.

It was a gloomy old day and I stopped to read the cheerful sign inside the fishing tabernacles. They are part of the balustrade and cascade into the lake and date back to 1719.  Probably designed as a base for fishing excursions, they cleverly concealed the sluices used to drain the canal quickly in time of flooding.

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The water gardens must be one of the finest sights in England, and neither I nor the swans allowed ourselves to be depressed by the weather, while the pheasants seemed positively immune.  Not well focused though!

It wasn’t long before I was ambling among the ruins of the Abbey, smitten by the hues in the aged stones.  Snowdrops there were aplenty but I’m afraid that they played second fiddle.

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Fountains Abbey, 3 miles south west of Ripon in North Yorkshire, is one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, it had an active life until 1539, when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

A full history can be found here.  Today the Abbey and Water Gardens are successfully managed by the National Trust and they have some delightfully focused snowdrops on their site.

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Paula focused on black and white photography in her Traces of the Past on Sunday.  It’s not my forte, so I’m compromising.  But I would love to draw your attention to her very beautiful Focus in Thursday’s Special.