Sitting in an English Garden: London 2009

This post is focused on photographs from 2009, but the content remains relevant today. England has always been a country of beautiful green fields and exquisitely curated gardens, whether these gardens are stately and formal fixtures of country houses or charming and relaxed patches of colour outside a timber-framed cottage. The climate of England is ideal for all manner of flowers and vegetation, with its general mildness and abundance of rain. I always feel calm and happy in a garden, and gardens always remind me of England. I hope you enjoy these photos of selected gardens and flowers from London!

Aerial of English Fields

The patchwork fields of England, in their varying colours of green and yellow

England is mild enough- at least in the south- to support the growth of palm trees. In 2009 I was obsessed with the allure of tropical locales, and so I was delighted to see palm trees growing in London!

Greenwich Palm Tree

Thanks to the cobalt blue awning and palm tree, this looks more like Greece than Greenwich!

London Fuschias

I loved the contrast of these fuschias against the ruggedness of the brick

Flowers Near Temple

Flowers and gardens are everywhere, even in the metropolis of London! This was taken in the City itself

One of the most restful and historic areas of London is the Temple area- populated during working hours by barristers and solicitors who frequent the nearby Royal Courts of Justice. The ancient Temple Church is a fixture of this area, and the architecture is wonderful. An especially charming spot is Fountain Court, which I discovered in 2009. The Court is home to Fountain Court Chambers, a high-profile set of barristers in the City.

Fountain Court

The tranquil centrepiece of Fountain Court

Garden near Fountain Court

Another fountain not far from Fountain Court

There are also many dedicated parks in London, many of which are known world-wide. Regent’s Park, Hyde Park, and Green Park are only a few of the most famous. I love Regent’s Park in particular- in 2009 I walked through it, and discovered its many beautiful water features, its plentiful wildlife, and stunning Queen Mary’s Gardens.

Queen Mary's Gardens

Queen Mary’s Gardens have a lovely, romantic atmosphere

Peach Rose Regent's

A splendid rose, with the colours of a soft summer sunset

White Rose Regent's

I was so impressed by the variety of roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens

It would be wonderful to live near Regent’s Park and use it for jogging or cycling- as many people did while I was there! There is so much to see that one would hardly need an iPod to keep oneself distracted!

Regent's Park Sculpture

An avian sculpture in one of Regent’s Park’s many water features

Coots Regent's

Two cuddly-looking coots

Pigeons Regent's

A flock of perky pigeons, ever hoping for some free food

Lilies and Palms Regent's

Traditional lilies and exotic palms are both at home in Regent’s Park

I also love the summertime flowerbeds in front of Buckingham Palace. Gracefully circling the road around the Victoria Memorial, these beds add a fabulous flash of colour and cheer to the pale stonework of the Palace.

Buck House Flowers

These flowerbeds are often filled with tulips in the spring

Perhaps my utmost favourite park or garden of London, though, is Kensington Gardens. Housing Kensington Palace, the Albert Memorial, and loads of green lawn suited to dog-walkers, I think this is the perfect park. I have many fond memories of playing with my brother at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground; and of watching countless dogs bound with delight over the paths and grassy expanses. I often dream of how happy my own dog would be if he could ever visit this wonderful park!

Kensington from Royal Garden

The edge of Kensington Gardens and roofline of Kensington Palace, seen from the Royal Garden Hotel

See, the rain that London so often experiences is good for something- it gives life to all these gorgeous blooms and parks. If you’re ever tired in London and feel the need to sit down and rest, don’t simply sit in a coffee shop somewhere. Instead, bring your coffee into one of the many amazing parks and enjoy the world-class scenery!

Commemorating the WWI Centenary

Today, the world marks 100 years since the beginning of its first universal war. World War I began on July 28, 1914, after the invasion of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Due to my family history, WWI does hold some particular interest for me, but I don’t know a great deal about it. Seeing as 2014 is the centenary, I am trying to learn more about this tremendous war starting today. This post outlines my knowledge and observations of the war, and how it has affected me personally.

I have Welsh heritage, and one of my Welsh ancestors fought in WWI. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme in France, and his death has given me a personal reason to appreciate and contemplate the terrible and enormous cost of the Great War.

Wounded Brits Somme

Wounded men of the British Army after fighting on Bazentin Ridge. Image #Q800 from the Imperial War Museum via Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, I was always aware of stories of WWI; for example, I knew of Vimy Ridge and the fact that Canadian troops featured largely in the battle there. One of my first introductions to the actual conditions of the war came upon my first visit to the Imperial War Museum in London, where I visited the WWI Trench Experience. More about the Trench Experience can be read in my IWM London post here.

The Second World War is my foremost military interest, so (unfortunately) on vacations and museum trips I tend to pay minimal attention to WWI stuff. However, when I traveled to the UK in 2011, one particular and unexpected WWI object caught my attention and had quite an effect on me. It was at Stokesay Castle in the western county of Shropshire, which was accessed through a churchyard. While walking through the churchyard, I was looking at all the surrounding gravestones, and noticed one which commemorated two brothers who had died while in France.

WWI Grave Stokesay Full

This grave made me stop and take a closer look

 

 

WWI Grave Stokesay

It was these strangely emotionless, matter-of-fact words that made me so sad

It wasn’t as if I had never seen war graves before, but this one made me especially emotional. Maybe it was because I wasn’t expecting to see such a grave, or because it contained the remains of a family broken by war. I often think of that grave.

Stokesay Churchyard

The churchyard at Stokesay. It’s likely- and tragic- that every tiny English churchyard holds at least one or two graves from WWI.

Something which I feel is very evocative of WWI’s hugely scaled terror is the poetry of Wilfred Owen. Owen was a soldier in the Manchester Regiment, and he died in France one week before the Armistice. But he was also a poet, and he wrote vivid accounts of the suffering, chaos, and senselessness which he saw everyday. His poems were very different from the prevailing contemporary tendency to glorify and romanticize war, and thus give a more realistic and personal look at WWI. I would really encourage you to read some of his work- particularly Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et Decorum Est.

Grave of Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen’s grave in France (centre). Image from Wikimedia Commons, CC-SA 3.0. Attributed to Hektor

When I think about WWI, I see a world that had no idea of the horror it was capable of creating. The naivety and excitement of the men going off to war in 1914 was soon shattered by machineguns and choked by mustard gas. It’s heartbreaking that World War I had such a cost, especially since it was fought to satisfy imperialistic greed and because its conclusion laid the foundation for the next World War twenty years later. However, I believe that its 9 million dead should be remembered and honoured regardless of the perhaps unfortunate and misguided causes of their leaders. I hope that 2014 and every year after will provide us with new reasons to commemorate something which we- although we have failed in this before- must strive to never repeat again.

2013 Hamilton Airshow: The Flying Displays

Not long after we claimed a spot by the taxiway at the 2013 Hamilton Airshow, the weather began to improve slightly and the cloud ceiling lifted sufficiently to allow for flying. It was so exciting to hear the first aircraft powering up, and it was even better when they rolled straight in front of us on their way to the runway! I was deeply impressed by the vast variety of aircraft at Hamilton- not only did they have the usual aerobatics planes and customary Canadian Forces contingent, but they also had a stunning assortment of old aircraft, and many- to my delight- from World War II.

The first plane to set off was a Consolidated PBY Catalina; an American flying boat used in extensive anti-submarine, convoy escort, and search and rescue roles during WWII.

PBY Taxi Hamilton

The sleek, boat-like shape of the PBY makes it obvious that this is an amphibious aircraft

PBY Rear Hamilton

The PBY is a surprisingly large plane- quite close in size to an Avro Lancaster

Next to materialize through the fog in front of us was a B-25 Mitchell, painted in invasion stripes. I’d seen this particular aircraft a few times before, but never up close and on the ground. Most impressive was the noise of its two radial engines, and the purpose with which it moved along the taxiway.

B-25 Taxi Hamilton

On the ground, I think the B-25 looks a bit like a mosquito; with long legs and odd appendages

B-25 Close Taxi Hamilton

The dorsal turret is easily visible in this photo. B-25s were armed with over a dozen 50 cal machine guns

Once it got into the air, the B-25 put on a wonderful performance. The pilot was not hesitant to execute some low passes and sharp banks, and it was pretty cool to see a vintage bomber flying so enthusiastically.

B-25 Air Hamilton

Despite the low cloud cover, the B-25 put on an impressive display

 

B-25 Banked Pass Hamilton

Look at those beautiful invasion stripes!

Another warbird at Hamilton was the Vought F4U Corsair. I’d never seen one of these planes before, but my brother is into aircraft scale models and he had recently completed a model of a Corsair; so I was familiar with the plane and was quite excited to see one. The Corsair is a very quick airplane, and it served with the US Marines, US Navy, and British Fleet Air Arm during WWII.

Corsair Ground Hamilton

The peculiar and distinctive gull-winged Vought F4U Corsair

Corsair Air Hamilton

The Corsair was built as a carrier-based fighter in WWII, and featured folding wings

Next up was a true icon of the war- the C-47 Skytrain. Used in such missions as D-Day and the ill-fated Market Garden, this aircraft is synonymous with both supply drops and American airborne troops. I am still staunchly determined to someday parachute from an original C-47!

DC-3 Ground Hamilton

The workhorse that is the C-47

More obscure wartime aircraft were also present; such as the Westland Lysander and Fairey Firefly. Seeing aircraft like these (which are not really widely-known names, unlike the Spitfire or Fairey Swordfish, for example) reminded me of how huge the war effort was. It was not only fought with phenoms like Avro Lancasters and Spitfires; lots of less impressive aircraft also made essential contributions.

Lysander Ground Hamilton

Westland Lysanders were used for secret missions in occupied France; a role they were well suited to, with STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities and a stall speed of only 65 miles per hour

Firefly Ground Hamilton

Although similar in shape to the better-known Spitfire and Hurricane, the Fairey Firefly was a carrier-borne aircraft that was often used for anti-submarine warfare

A modern-day Canadian Forces anti-submarine aircraft was also present- the Lockheed CP-140 Aurora. Slightly slimmer and smaller than the well-known C-130 Hercules, the Aurora has a range of nearly 6,000 miles, and can carry a wide array of torpedoes, rockets, and other ordnance. Four Allison turboprops power the Aurora, which made its numerous low passes a treat to experience.

Aurora Ground Hamilton

CP-140 Aurora taxiing past a commercial airliner and a Lysander

Aurora Pass Hamilton

The distinctive airborne profile of the Aurora, with faint contrails visible

The fabled Harvard team was at Hamilton, as it seems to be at every airshow. Even though I’ve seen them many, many times, I always look forward to the Harvards. I think the Harvard (which is actually the British Commonwealth version of the T-6 Texan) is very appealing to look at, and the sharp drone of its props is beautiful. I’ve loved this aircraft since I was a little girl.

Harvards Ground Hamilton

Three Harvards awaiting their turn in the sky

Harvards Steep Climb Hamilton

Because of its role as a trainer aircraft, the Harvard is easily maneuvrable

Harvard Pass Hamilton

The Harvards can perform maneuvers that are nearly as impressive as those of the Snowbirds demonstration team

The Snowbirds, of course, had a performance at Hamilton as well. As great as they are though, the Hamilton routine seemed very long and I got a bit bored. Fortunately, the next performers snapped me out of the tedium. I watched, thrilled, as two heroes of the wartime Luftwaffe taxied by: a severe grey Fw-190, and a softly dappled Me-262!

Fw-190 Ground Hamilton

The Fw-190 was used for many tasks by the Luftwaffe; it was a ground-attack aircraft,fighter-bomber, and fighter in all conditions

Me-262 Ground Hamilton

What a unique aircraft- nothing else even resembles the Me-262 Schwalbe

It was fantastic to see these two planes. The Fw-190 was great, but the Me-262 was one of the most memorable things I’ve witnessed. Due to engine troubles (which bring to mind the engine problems it had during its operational life) it only made one pass, but that lone pass won’t soon be forgotten. The Me-262 was like nothing else seen in WWII, and was the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter plane.

The undisputed highlight of the show for me, however, came a little later. It was the appearance of (what was at that time) the world’s last remaining airworthy de Havilland Mosquito, along with a legion of other aircraft all powered by the illustrious Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.

Mosquito Taxiing

 

The Mosquito is special because of its wooden construction; and it was even more special for me to see one because of its unfortunate rarity. Photo by Andrew Jacobs

Mosquito Flying

 

Elegant in flight and fearsome in combat, the “Mossie” is a sight to behold. Photo by Andrew Jacobs

The Mossie rolled past and then took off, doing some solo passes, before it was joined by the other aircraft. There was an Avro Lancaster, two Spitfires, and two Hurricanes- all aircraft that would have flown in support of one another during WWII. What an unimaginably amazing thing to see; it made me wonder how many times since the war anyone had seen what I was witnessing.

Lancaster Taxiing

 

The Avro Lancaster utilized four Merlins to lug around its 34 ton frame. Photo by Andrew Jacobs

Lancaster, Mosquito, and fighters

Six beautiful RAF legends. No words can describe how phenomenal this was to see and how blessed I felt to see it. Photo by Andrew Jacobs

These six aircraft flew around together for perhaps ten minutes, and the noise of their combined ten Merlins was so evocative and poignant. I imagined old WWII newsreels telling of these aircraft’s accomplishments; and pictured them above the green fields of England which came so close to ruin in 1940, saved only by airplanes like these and the bravery of the men who piloted them.

The airshow commentator stressed over the loudspeaker how unusual it was to have these six aircraft together in the air seventy years after the war- very true, since there were only two flying Lancasters and one flying Mosquito left as of 2013. The display was a very emotional moment for me, and there could not have been a more fitting finale to the show. I came very close to crying- it was that special- and I left the airport feeling slightly sad, extremely delighted, and above all, blessed beyond belief to have been at Hamilton that day.

Summer on the Steppe

Summertime is when I think about the Eastern Front most often; probably because the Soviet Union was invaded on the second day of summer, and many of the most significant battles on the Eastern Front occurred over the summer of 1941. And because WWII is always on my mind during summer, I find myself even more drawn in this season to military and ’40s fashions. I own an old Canadian Forces field shirt which I wear almost every day in the summer- although it’s not so much a fashion statement as a futile attempt to protect myself from the horrible chill of the air-conditioning! The following Polyvore set is easily something I would wear in the summertime, and which would remind me even more of the immense events of summers past.Summer on the Steppe
Beautiful muted green pieces are the foundation of this outfit, giving it a vintage military feel. However, soft pleats and draping (plus the charming lace top and exquisite gold jewellery) prevent a feeling of severity. A leather satchel and blood red nail polish are appropriately 1940s, and worn Oxfords add a final touch of period charm which also fulfills one of today’s most popular footwear trends.

2013 Hamilton Airshow: The Static Displays

This weekend, the skies southeast of London have been abuzz with the sounds and sights of aviation’s newest and greatest machines, thanks to the biannual Farnborough airshow. I dream to someday attend this fabled spectacle, since it is home to extensive static displays and impressive flying ones. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening this year, and I am forced to follow news of Farnborough 2014 from afar. This airshow does, however, remind me of a fantastic aviation experience I had last summer at the 2013 Hamilton airshow.

Hamilton, Ontario is home to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which houses a collection of many former military aircraft and which also does much restoration work. Notably, the Museum possesses one of the world’s two flying Lancaster bombers. Last year, Hamilton held a full airshow, and I was fortunate enough to attend.

Airshow day- despite being in mid-June- was very overcast, breezy, and chilly. Rain was a constant worry; I was wearing an unseasonal coat and jeans; and the flying took awhile to get underway because the cloud layer was exceptionally low and would have obscured the aircraft’s demonstrations. But that meant we had several hours to peruse the static displays first, which were not disappointing.

F-86 Hamilton

An F-86 Sabre of the RCAF. A Sabre set an official world speed record of 670 miles per hour in 1948

P-80 Hamilton

A typically dull-coloured RCAF CT-133 Silver Star; a Canadian-built licensed version of the T-33 Shooting Star

CF-104 Hamilton

A very fetching tiger-stripe paint job adorns this RCAF CF-104 Starfighter

F-5 Hamilton

An F-5 Freedom Fighter; also known as a MiG, according to Paramount Pictures…

F-5 Wing Hamilton

Close-up view of the F-5’s hardpoints, one of which holds a drop tank for extra fuel

Vampire Hamilton

The ever-distinctive de Havilland Vampire

C-130 Prop Hamilton

The imposing props of a C-130 Hercules

F-18 Rear Hamilton

An F-18 Hornet, the staple of the modern-day RCAF

The tarmac where the flying aircraft were sitting was visible from the static display area, which added to my anticipation of what was to come. Several incredible WWII-era aircraft (many of which are quite unusual and rare) were to be flying later on, and it was a true privilege to even see them on the ground.

Tarmac Me-262 Hamilton

A German Me-262 sits beside an American DC-3 troop transport

Tarmac Lanc B-25 Hamilton

This view could be straight out of 1944- it features a Westland Lysander, Avro Lancaster, and B-25 Mitchell

Although the skies were still distressingly grey and misty, we took up a prime position alongside a taxiway of sorts in preparation for the real show to begin. I was massively excited, as I always am around airplanes. Static displays are wonderful, since they allow one to see aircraft up close- but there’s nothing better than seeing an aircraft up in the air where it’s meant to be, and hearing its engine screaming or droning above. Moreover, Hamilton always puts on a great airshow, but this one was something truly memorable, as the upcoming second part of this post will attest!

 

 

Seaside Stroll

Two of the most appealing fashion styles- if you ask me- are 1940s, and nautical. The former is charming, feminine, and well-presented; while the latter can be either whimsical and casual or tailored and stately. With this Polyvore set, I have decided to combine both styles into one cohesive and fetching look.Seaside Stroll
Seaside Stroll by adairjacobs on Polyvore
A nautical 1940s theme is introduced most noticeably through the navy blue polka dot tea dress. Cute leather sandals and a satchel are suitably utilitarian, while a neutral cardigan is also practical for keeping warm in the brisk sea-breeze. Dainty gold ship’s wheel earrings add to the nautical feel, while a final feminine ’40s touch is brought by the ravishing red nail polish and lipstick. This outfit makes me wish I could be walking along the English south coast in the ’40s!

When Britannia Ruled the Waves

Recently, I have come to a realization of sorts- I have realized that naval and maritime subjects are truly quite fascinating. For many years, my military and historical interests have hardly strayed beyond the army and air force, or indeed farther back than World War I. However, in the past month or so I have developed a huge interest in everything naval and sea-related, and not only in their modern manifestations! The Age of Sail and the Napoleonic Wars are now of as much interest to me as WWII corvettes and modern nuclear submarines. This new appreciation has also compelled me to appreciate naval-inspired fashion; and from this inspiration comes the following Polyvore set.When Britannia Ruled the Waves
This outfit mirrors the uniforms of early 19th-century British naval officers, but has been slightly changed so as to make it wearable and appealing to a modern-day woman. Tan slim-fit pants contrast smartly with the ruffled white blouse and  gorgeous navy blue jacket. Knee-high leather boots add a sleek modernity , and the intricate gold jewellery provides finesse and an old-fashioned feel. Striking, nostalgic, and obviously naval, this outfit references a time and place that can still be appreciated today.