Circle Game

Now join hands. Everyone step to the left and sing. “Ring around the…

The song changes from generation to generation and from one culture to another. The idea of children (or adults) joining hands and moving in a circle could be taken as the first step in developing or learning a folk dance. Perhaps a drum was added first – a stick against a hollow log. Flutes and harps are older than Bible stories. And the human voice may have been the very first musical instrument.

But not all circles are fun and games.

“Circle the wagons!” The cry is heard in multiple American West movies and television shows. Two or more people with their backs together make a good defense.

A circle with the people facing in allows many to see the same object or event at the same time. (Think theater in the round. Or a boxing “ring”.)

This circle has stood the test of time. It wasn’t created in a hurry and if they designed it as a puzzle they were successful. Even the best of scholars include lots of qualifiers ¬†– may, believe, approximate, unknown – in their explanations.


“Ring around the giant stones.

They’ll be standing when we’re bones.”

Timeless Design

The water source is at Location A.

Water is required at Location B.

Humans have been working on this problem since the dawn of civilization. (Or before. Depends on your definitions.)

Gravity gives a big assist. Men have scratched trenches of various sizes into the earth. Sometimes the water flowed from point A to point B without soaking into the ground or evaporating into the air. Tools and technology able to carve a channel into rock aided in the soaking away problem.

But then along came a group of people with excellent engineering skills. They combined materials. Refined and shaped metal. Experimented. Passed knowledge gained to the next generation – via oral and written language.

Computer modeling in recent years verifies the excellence of their work. Even though today we would choose a different material, the principle continues.

lead pipe

This Roman era lead pipe is still functional to transport hot mineral water into a pool.


Standing Tall

The Reformation did not come peacefully to Great Britain. Land, money, and valuable assets were at stake. Monasteries and convents suddenly were under attack, instead of protection, by the crown.

Clergy converted. Or scattered. Or died.

Their buildings were left behind. Some in better condition than others. The best built remained standing in their communities. After the roofs were removed, some of them collapsed. Others were viewed as convenient stone quarries for other building projects. (Need some dressed stone for a bridge? Build a road or barge it from the old monastery.)

A few remain in ruined splendor to this day. This example near the border of Wales and England has become a tourist attraction.



An Artful Welcome

First impressions are strong. Objects as well as people will at times give an instant surge of emotion – either positive or negative.

Our tour group stopped at a “typical English village”. Translate to lots of old buildings and shops selling tourist items including candy, photos, books, and clothing.

I saved money that morning. Our stop occurred before many of the businesses were open for the day. With the bookshop closed, I got out of town cheap.

It was also pleasant to take a stroll. I found a thatch roof to admire. And the village church to photograph. (It would be considered old in the United States. I’m not sure how “old” to be “old” in England.)

But the first thing that caught my eye – gave that first impression – as I walked away from the bus was this lovely cottage door.


Mister Twig

Our group arrived in the village a mere week before the 400th anniversary celebration.

No — not of the town. Not of the house. Rather, the death of the most famous of residents.

Tourists arrive from every portion of the globe. (Fitting since his work was performed in The Globe Theater.) Like many historical sites they begin with a video and then you are “turned loose” to explore within the fence, listen to docent, or spend money in the gift shop. (Or Shoppe.)

The house is his birthplace. A portion of the house was his father’s glove shop – made as well as sold. The building was also his home during the early portion of his marriage. (Adult children staying with parents is not a new thing.)

It was difficult to select a favorite portion. Historical houses intrigue me. The gardens were lovely. On this fine afternoon it would be natural for a servant, or the unemployed son of the house, to be assigned some garden work.


Was Mr. Shakespeare as thin as a twig?

Conservative Celebrity

Photographers appreciated her long before the movie debut.

Students studied, joked, and prayed within her walls.

The entire English town has a reputation for excellent education. A visit would not be complete without a visit to at least one of the grand buildings.

So I paid my fee and entered with several others from our tour group. A beautiful, serene quadrangle greeted us. And then we entered the cathedral. Captivated by stained glass windows and intricate wood carving on pulpit and choir, I failed to notice when the others departed.

No harm done. I remembered my way to the market and lunch.


The exterior was featured in a popular movie series. But the interior has her own sort of ability to awe and charm.

The Garden Assistant

Gardening can be difficult work. A person can use an assist with many of the tasks.

Two to dig a hole and plant a post. One to bring a wheelbarrow of dirt or mulch and the second to spread it. Sometimes the assistant can be a child in training for simple things.

And some gardens are simply too large for one person to keep up with. All the trimming, planting of seasonal blooms, care of the pathways. The work requires an entire crew. A team of professionals works in many public gardens in all parts of the world. And even the team needs a small, quiet assistant now and then.

Cherb holding gardner's jacket

Cherb holding gardner’s jacket.

This silent assistant was spotted at Hampton Court Gardens.

Defender’s View

The concept is as old as warfare — or snowball fights.

When defending a building, a fort, or a castle– create a way to shoot out without unnecessary exposure to the attackers.

Hence: snow forts. At least that was the seasonal result when and where I was a child. Build up a wall of snow. Throw at the opponent. Duck. Quickly pack a new projectile.

You still see the concept on the evening news with reports from war zones. Defenders use windows, or shell holes, or create small spaces where they can fire their weapons out while keeping a barrier between them and incoming fire.

Today’s photo is an example from several centuries ago. Picture the scene. You are in the castle, standing on an earthen embankment inside the wall. The enemy is massing at the foot of the hill. Wait. Wait. Patience until they are within range. Don’t waste ammunition.

An Archer's View

An Archer’s View

Snappy Uniforms

First you hear the drums.  Then the brass. A good solid, marching tune.

I can’t help it. A marching band is the highlight of a parade in my mind. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. Or even genetic. I’m aware of one great grandfather who played the baritone in the town band. (I’m not sure if they marched. They had uniforms.)

Left foot first. Stay in step. Even steps. Trombones in the front row. (If you’ve ever sat in front of them in a concert band you understand why.) Keep the row straight on a wheel turn. Eyes front.

This fine group of military musicians and guards never miss a step. They are known for their hats. But I like the bright red tunics even better.

Doing the Queen -- and their commanding officer - proud.

Doing the Queen — and their commanding officer – proud.

Surrounded by Art

What’s that mix of emotions as I shake the umbrella outside the door?

Relief that I arrived where intended? Timidity at the crowd? Curiosity at what I will find? Expectation of grandeur?

The exhibition rooms at The National Gallery did not disappoint. It was large enough to become lost. Yet the rooms were carefully numbered. And signage at specific intersections guided those who took the time to read.

School children with notebooks moved as a mass from artist to artist. Family groups strolled past Biblical art. Tourists of all ages, shapes, and nationalities paused to admire work from the past.

While crossing the building from one grand wing to another I realized the building itself was a work of art. Including the very decorative vents in the floor.

National Gallery - floor vent

National Gallery – floor vent