Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Teenager in the House! -- a Birthday Blast (Chestnut Centre & Eyam)

Happy Birthday to Nicole who turned 13 on Saturday.  We had a collective whiff for her birthday last year so we set out to do better this year.  She's having some friends over for a sleepover in a month when things have settled down a bit more (upcoming exams and travel in the weeks ahead), but we had a nice family weekend to celebrate her special day.

It helped that we have had some fantastic (dare I say hot) weather this past week and into the weekend.  It's been in the upper 70's (25C) most of the week.  This could very well be our summer as there is no guarantee that warmer weather comes in the traditional summer months.

First order of business:  Dad's famous crepes for breakfast (nutella w/ strawberries and bananas).  Not to brag, but my family preferred these to the ones we had in Paris.  I've conditioned them I guess.

Ready to dig in.

Here's the haul for the year.  Official teenage Chuck Taylor lowtops, gel pens, books, nail polish, iPod connections, a wallet and a bookend.  Part of the problem last year was Nicole had a hard time coming up with a list, much less us buying anything.  We were all better prepared this year.

We did regular errands and helped out at a fundraiser for Alex's school during the day, then it was off to Nicole's restaurant choice, Pizza Express, for dinner.  Garlic dough balls for starters . . . 

 cheese (margherita) pizza for the main (off the adult menu, natch)

Nutella dough balls for dessert with an espresso -- okay, she's not that old.  I drank the espresso.  Good times all around.

On Sunday, we drove through the Peak District north of Buxton to visit the Chestnut Centre which has been on Nicole's list for some time.  We've been waiting for some good weather and we certainly got it today.

The Chestnut Centre is a wildlife preserve set on 50 acres and focuses on owls (Nicole's fav) and otters (also cute).  We had a great time.  Notice, we are even rocking some shorts -- I think that happened once last year.  Maybe a couple of times.  (Nicole's outgrown hers and we haven't exactly rushed out to get her some with the weather we've been having).

The park was fun especially given the excellent weather.  The animals weren't cooperating with my blog though as pictures (at least with my skill and equipment) were tough to get.  Here's one of an otter, but he was a little fast for me.  He would swim the length of the pond, get out, walk around and do it again, always in the same direction.

Two smaller ones having fun.

You can't tell, but here are two giant otters playing in the water.  They are a little lower on the cuteness scale.

My photography skills completely failed me as I couldn't get my point-n-shoot to focus on the owls instead of the screen.  We thought it was funny to see the 3 of the tawny owls all bunched up.

Eagle owl -- also not so cute.  Looks like Gonzo the Muppet to me.

 One of the better exhibits was the polecats (look like ferrets).

In some cases, we saw more than we wanted (I'll spare you the XL size photo).  I know I shouldn't post this, but we got quite a chuckle from it.  Perhaps the jeans are lower riding here because this phenomenon seems more prevalent here (maybe not).  This fellow was really nice too (sorry mate).   We struck up 2 or 3 conversations today where we were asked where we were from, etc.  More so than usual.  Our American accent is commented on less than we would have thought.

We got a good laugh from this Burrowing Owl as he hopped around with an unusual gait.

After lunch in the cafe we made it to the next stop (my stop!) in Eyam.  This has been on my list for awhile because of the historical significance of the village in the 1600's. (link)   The village is best known for being the "plague village" that chose to isolate itself when the plague was discovered there in August 1665, rather than let the infection spread. We started off in the museum and then had a nice walk around the village (and beyond).

From the excellent wiki link:

The plague had been brought to the village in a flea-infested bundle of cloth that was delivered to tailor George Viccars from London. Within a week he was dead and was buried on 7 September 1665. After the initial deaths, the townspeople turned to their rector, the Reverend William Mompesson, and the Puritan Minister Thomas Stanley. They introduced a number of precautions to slow the spread of the illness from May 1666. These included the arrangement that families were to bury their own dead and the relocation of church services from the parish church of St. Lawrence to Cucklett Delph to allow villagers to separate themselves, reducing the risk of infection. Perhaps the best-known decision was to quarantine the entire village to prevent further spread of the disease. The plague raged in the village for 14 months and it is stated that it killed at least 260 villagers with only 83 villagers surviving out of a population of 350. This figure has been challenged on a number of occasions with alternative figures of 430 survivors from a population of around 800 being given. The church in Eyam has a record of 273 individuals who were victims of the plague.

The plague is transported by rats and their fleas.  The museum has a rat weather vane.  Nice!

I had take this (frowned upon / illegal) photo in the museum quickly.  I found the fact that they would launch infected corpses into enemy towns to induce surrender interesting.

I couldn't subtlety take a picture of their Plague Doctor so this pic off the internet will have to do.  The doctors filled the snout with herbs to try to ward off the disease.  Read more here.

Interesting note:  Because the plague killed so many of the working population, wages rose and some historians have seen this as a turning point in European economic development.

Survival seems somewhat random (at the time).  It's been determined that those in Eyam area have a higher concentration of the "delta 32" gene mutation (14% of direct descendants) that has show some immunity to HIV (and perhaps the plague).  Researchers found no evidence that that the Delta 32 gene mutation had protected the survivors of the plague but it makes for some interesting hypotheses!  I'm nearly talking out of my backside for this, so I encourage further reading for those interested (another good link here).

Enough of the museum on such a fine day.  We took a nice stroll through the village.  Had to pose on the old stocks (though Nicole was apparently thinking about next year's presents).

if that's not an invite to come back in September, I don't know what is

Obviously a local's tricked out, homemade dune buggy (not sure what to call it).  Note the black rat on top.

Many of the houses in the village had the old time look (and were likely old time as well).  Theses were some of the plague houses and had various plaques describing them.

enjoyed the small, unique church with many old gravestones about

 including this 8th century Celtic Cross

and this sun dial though I'm not smart enough to read it.  Looks like it was saying 1:40 but it was 3:15.  I think there are some correction factors to apply based on the time of year but it didn't seem to add up.

We set off on a short walk from the town square to find the boundary stone beyond the outskirts where goods and money were left for exchange during the quarantine.  Required domesticated animal photo on the way -- Jay expects nothing less.

From this link:  A footpath leads out of the village, towards Stoney Middleton via the Boundary Stone. This stone was the place where residents of Eyam left money during the plague, in exchange for goods. The stone has six holes that were filled with vinegar to disinfect the money.   Just another 350 year old historical rock -- common stuff around here (more or less).

pretty much out in the middle of nowhere -- about a half mile or so from town (they are sitting on the boundary stone)
And here is the view from above of Stoney Middleton.  A very English view.  The wind was pretty strong up here and we enjoyed the cool breeze and the view.

 another week of me in a photo!

That pretty much sums up a nice, long, successful birthday weekend for our teenager!  Happy Birthday Nicole.  Love, Dad.

No blog next week as we head to Scotland (yippee!).  Have a good (two) weeks everyone.

1 comment:

  1. Nice crack shot - I spend all day bugging out my eyes on my blog then I have see that. Nice job getting the pic sans black eye though. Interesting history on Eyam - I knew that was on your list so congrats on knocking it off.