Tag Archives: Great Britain

This sceptred isle | Editorial | Comment is free | The Observer

But if we eschew for a moment the national pastime of self-deprecation, it’s easy to take pride in our island’s astonishing variety and splendour. Castles on volcanic redoubts, petrified forests uncovered by the tides, wind-sculpted tors on haunted moorland, peregrines hunting from museum chimneys, bridges slung like webs across gorges, hillside orchards, wild deer glimpsed from railway carriages, otters in the becks, Roman walls and Bronze Age burial mounds, Tudor mullions and Victorian stained glass, barges on the Avon, wherries on the Fens, wattle and daub, half-timbers, flying buttresses, lakeland and heathland and lochs and dunes and dales and mountains.

The Observer has been reading my blog. I doubt it, but isn’t it uncanny how they’ve come over all sentimental about a forthcoming bank holiday?

Planning ahead

I’m getting to a certain age where I must begin to consider what I’m going to do with my time when I become “retired”. Leaving aside the rather worrying notion I may well never actually retire as the UK’s official retirement age creeps ever upwards as we all live longer, I still need to think about how I’m going to live out the autumn years of my life. There is an age disparity between myself and Best Beloved of some quarter century, and it’s pretty obvious to both of us I may well not have the pleasure of his company into my dotage. We don’t have dependants, so once he’s gone I will have to be self-sufficient for as long as I can manage it. 

Moving swiftly on from that rather depressing thought, I’m currently letting myself have a little daydream, which I amusingly call my Retirement Plan. There’ll be none of that checking into a retirement apartment, or sheltered accommodation, or even getting myself on Crusty Cruises around the Mediterranean. My plan is predicated on my inheriting Best Beloved’s estate. As we have no mortgage or major outstanding debt, I would hope to be able to liquidate the house and invest the proceeds. I would then purchase a mobile home (RV, self-propelled tin snail, whatever you fancy) and set off to explore the glories of the land of my birth.

The vehicle will need to be large enough for me to live in comfortably. It will need sufficient secure storage for my camera gear and a laptop, as well as clothes, food and the usual prerequisites of life. It will need to be self-sufficient for the times when I can’t plug into the grid. It will need internet access of some kind. To offset the size of the living van, I can hitch a small car to the back. Once I’m safely berthed in a campsite somewhere I can use the car to explore, reasoning a small car is easier to park than a bus, and drier than a moped or bicycle! 

The basic idea is now settled. I am assuming I really will be setting off on, and be able to fund in some way, a Grand Tour of the British Isles. What’s happening now is I am beginning to think about the places I want to visit, and the best way to cover the country to see the best bits. It’s not like I will have a time limit. My time will be my own, to spend as I please. If I land up somewhere, I might spend a week, a month or even longer. It would be really great to get to know an area on more intimate terms than the usual tourist traps. When I’m ready, weigh anchor and away I go.

It would be useful to have some kind of underlying tour plan, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to book berths in advance when I can. To avoid traffic I am considering overnight driving between stopping places, allowing myself a day or so once settled to prepare for my visit. Although I plan to be on the road permanently, I should also allow for times when I may be unwell, or the weather just too inclement, where I ought to heave to in a hotel for a time.

I’d love to be doing the Grand Tour until I am incapable of doing it any more. I certainly don’t want to spend my dotage in a “care” home, or dying in my favourite armchair in front of the goggle box, and there won’t be anyone in my immediate family who can “look after” me. I want to be out and being active for as long as I can manage it. I need to be independent and self-sufficient until I can’t manage any more.

What’s brought on this late-onset wanderlust? I think I can lay the blame on the BBC for giving us excellent documentary television programmes like Coast and Town. Both these shows have opened my eyes to the wonders that abound in my homeland. I have lived my entire life in the bottom right-hand corner of England, with all too rare and painfully short forays to other parts on holidays and odd trips. I simply have not experienced much of my own country, and I plan to see as much as I can before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

Book

As an added incentive, I’ve recently acquired a copy of The Lie of the Land by Ian Vince. Subtitled A spotter’s guide to the Britain beneath your feet, I thoroughly recommend it. Superbly written, easy to read, and sufficiently in-depth to seriously whet your appetite for more, it will act as my guide book on my journey. While considering the book, you might also take a look at the British Landscape Club web site, where you can currently buy signed paperback editions of the book, and become a member of the club. Membership is free, and you get a lovely badge you can wear with pride.

That’s enough for now. I shall go back to planning trips and day-dreaming about my retirement.

 

Britain’s volcanic past | Ian Vince | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Our glory days are in our past, but we have inherited a landscape shaped by every paroxysm, twitch and twist the Earth throw at us. On Mull and the Ardnamurchan peninsula lie the massive remains of volcanoes at least as awesome as anything Iceland can clog the skies with. On Skye, an entire range of mountains, the Cuillins, is formed from what was once a magma chamber – a vast underground reservoir of lava. On the Giant’s Causeway and the Hebridean island of Staffa, what’s left of 700,000 square miles of lava traps – where molten rock simply poured through fissures on the ground to create a flood of basalt – are such a striking sight that they are not so much a tourist attraction but a place of pilgrimage.

A nice little article over at the Guardian. This is one of the reasons my “retirement plan” is to travel around Blighty in a campervan, just taking photographs and enjoying the variety of my home country’s landscapes.

You may also be interested in the British Landscape Club. The club was founded by the Guardian article’s author, Ian Vince.

BBC News – The tent that turns into concrete in less than 24 hours

The past 12 months have seen a remarkable number of humanitarian crises with earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and deadly tornadoes in the southern US being among the most recent.

Among new innovations which could help relief efforts is a fabric shelter that, when sprayed with water, turns to concrete within 24 hours.

Invented by two engineers while at university, Concrete Canvas allows aid teams to construct solid structures in emergency zones quickly and easily.

Will Crawford and Peter Brewin showed BBC News how the concrete tent is put together and spoke about what inspired them.

Skipping lightly over the “new innovations” tautology, it’s this kind of original thinking that we should be encouraging in this country. Reliance on service and financial sectors isn’t going to help the UK out of the mess we’re in.