Where were you when World War II was announced?

This morning, my Aunt Selina and I went to a Reminiscing Morning at Bedford’s Bunyan Meeting Rooms. This adjoins the John Bunyan Museum in Mill Street.  It was our first visit and came about from the Bedford Tweet-Up when the lovely Gemma and Kristian were telling us all about what was happening while the Museum was bring renovated. We walked into the Bunyan Meeting Room and were greeted by a room full of smiling faces, simply delightful. The group co-ordinator was Carmela from Bedford Museum.

I can’t remember all the names I’m afraid but it was fascinating to sit there and listen to people being recorded whilst talking about their memories.  They spoke of the times when bombs fell on Bedford and seeing the bomb doors open as they were dropped.  Next to Bedford is Cardington, where the kite balloons were manufactured in the huge airship hangars and also, where the RAF was based. They spoke of playing in the ruins of the houses in Albert Street, where there was a direct hit. They spoke of the hardships and the fun, but most of all, they spoke of the community spirit, each helping, and looking out for, the other.

Aunt Selina spoke of the Morris shelter they had in the house and then they asked whether she remembered anything of World War I, and she did – she was born in 1912!  Her Dad, Edward Turney, went off to war and came back, like so many, a changed man, who never mentioned the horrors he had witnessed.  He had contracted TB in the trenches and Auntie was only 15 when her beloved father died. There is so much more to the story, but that’s for another time.  What she spoke about is now taped and will be put into the living history section of the Bedford Museum.  Fabulous project.  The next meeting is on 1st December and we’ll be there again.

Bedford Tweet-Up

Yesterday evening was the fourth Bedford tweet-up, at the wonderful Embankment pub along Bedford’s Embankment by the River Great Ouse.  Not that last night lent itself to admiring the river or flower beds ~ the heavens were chucking it down!

The first Bedford tweet up came about when Eric Swain received a text from 4Square saying he had been usurped, as Mayor of Bedford Station, by James Parton!  Eric sent a text to James saying he wasn’t too happy about that and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s not a fast networking event, it’s a great evening to relax amongst lovely people and chat.  I was lucky enough to meet some fabulous new people last night, Rachel BentonNicola Cameron, Leigh Frost, Dawn Giles and Ian Henderson.  I didn’t get to chat to everyone, but then there is the privilege of meeting them next time :-)

We had an inspirational talk from Gemma Hutton and Kristian Purcell from the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum. These two great institutions have been merged into one and the buildings are currently undergoing a massive redevelopment project ~ just as well really, as Kristian was saying he was giving a talk there just before it closed and the ceiling suddenly gave way and let through gallons of rain water that had collected! This must be one of Bedford’s crown jewels and, when it reopens in the spring of 2013, I would encourage everyone to go along and experience all it has to offer.  Beautiful artworks by Turner, Degas and Picasso, to name a few and collections of objects that will blow your mind away.

I love living in the shire of Bedford , the passion and purpose of the people is infectious. Gemma and Kristian, and everyone else who works at @chagandbm, are to be congratulated on what they have achieved already, what is going on during the redevelopment and the new experience it will be to go there when open. Their latest tweet was; This weeks object of the week blog, as Halloween is nearly upon us, includes a web footed skeleton with a scythe.

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday (Sunday 17th July)  was my birthday, something that happens on an annual basis I know!  I am a very lucky girl as my daughter, Kezia, son, Aleck and grandson, Finlay, spent most of the weekend with me. Friends popped in and the slice of birthday cake was much bigger than it should have been ;-)  I blew out the one candle and we relit it so Finlay could blow it too, to give me extra luck ~ it just keeps on getting better!  My front room is full of flowers, cards and balloons.

I thought I’d write about how the amazing world of technology impacted on the day.  On my mobile, I had some lovely texts from friends.  And I’m lucky enough to have great friends on Twitter and Facebook and that is where the wonder of today’s technology kicks in.  I had birthday greetings from all over the world ~ Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, United States of America, Brazil, Iceland, Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Spain, Romania, India, Rajasthan, Bhutan, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England :-)

For any of you sitting there reading this and saying ‘So what?’; to me this is still inspiring and the fact that you can also live chat to any of these wonderful countries is wonder-full!  This has only developed in the last few years, something our children and grandchildren will, and do, take as the norm; but something that we older beings had to explore and teach ourselves.

The travel and tourism industry on these social networks is refreshingly open, friendly and sharing.  You can easily see the difference between the bigger companies and organisations who are really talking to people and those who are just paying lip service ~ but that’s for another post!

Thank you to all the lovely people who took the time to send birthday wishes, I am very grateful :-)

5 off-beat things to do in Bedford

When I was asked to write this post last month, I thought of lots of different activities, but have kept them to within a few miles radius of Bedford.  The county of Bedfordshire is rich and diverse in what it has to offer, and ‘bodacious’ Bedford has some of the best!

I went to an interesting tourism meeting recently that asked us to name 10 attractions in our town, so have recently done a blog post covering that, but this is different, this is for those with adrenalin, adventure and curiosity coursing through their veins!  Those who want something just that little bit different.

1. I live in a village, three miles outside the town and on the very edge of our village is Twinwoods Business Park.  There is a number of very interesting companies there, one of them being the successful F1 racing team, Red Bull.  Another is Bodyflight and it boasts not one, but four, exhilarating activities.

Want to be like James Bond?  Well, you can here as this is the world’s largest indoor sky-diving facility and was used in ‘Quantum of Solace’.

You can fly through the air with the greatest of ease ~ when you’ve mastered the art, that is!

The second, Vertigo, is a leap of faith, literally!  Vertigo is definitely not for the feint-hearted as you leap 30 metres from the top of the tower, experiencing freefall, before you gently touch down on the landing platform below. (Body-harness provided!)

The third evolved from the success of Vertigo and is called Swoop.  Woo hoo; it’s an extreme 200 metre zip-wire, on which you can reach speeds in excess of 35mph before you touch down.

And fourthly, there is the FlowHouse ~ where you can flowboard! This combines all the best bits from surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding and skate boarding, wrapping them neatly up into one new and exciting sport. Addictive!

And if all that is just too much, then you can chill out and relax, as there’s the hydrotherapy swimming pool, sauna, steam room and gym. There’s also the Bar & Grill which serves a range of food and drink throughout the day and into the evening.  Great place.

2.  How about walking with Wolves?  The Anglian Wolf Society is situated just a couple of miles away. It’s a sanctuary for wolves and it also supports and raises funds for wolf conservation. The wolves are fully socialised to human beings and enjoy human company.

It’s a non-profit organisation and is run almost entirely by volunteers.  The site is not open to the public, and to visit, you must pre-arrange the date and time.

It’s absolutely amazing just to stand and observe these magnificent creatures, but to walk with them is an experience that won’t be quickly forgotten.

You also have an option to ‘adopt’ a wolf for a year!  What a great birthday present that would make for someone.

3. Along the same lines of conservation of the wild, is the Birds of Prey Centre at Shuttleworth.  It is where the English School of Falconry is based and is a centre for captive breeding programmes with endangered species. You can spend time with those majestic kings of the sky ~ eagles.

Just some of the different species are, American Bald, Blue Chilean, Golden, African Fish and White Tailed Sea Eagles. Imagine what it must be like to hold you arm out and have an eagle land on it; or whichever bird you choose! There are more than 300 birds of prey, including many different species of hawks and owls.

And if you are a ‘night owl’ then that’s perfect as there are ‘Owls by Moonlight’ evenings too!  Again, you can help with the conservation by sponsoring a bird of your choice.

4.  Now back to something for the adrenalin junkies!  I don’t know about you but I just love to drive a car to its full potential ~ the fastest ones I’ve driven are a Lamborghini Miura when I was in Italy and a beautiful 4.2 Jaguar E-type!

So for those of you who feel the need, the need for speed, look no further, here is PalmerSport.

Designed from scratch by former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, Bedford Autodrome has four entirely distinct circuits and over five miles of track laid out across a 384 acre site.

The cars you can drive are amazing ~ BMW M3 GTP, Formula Jaguar, Porsche 911 JP3, Land Rover Defender, Renault Clio Cup and the fabulous Caterhams – the 7 Superlight and the 7 Superlight Duel. (Boy do they go! Test drove one at the HQ in Caterham.) If you have a day there, you get to drive all seven cars! There is also the Palmer Jaguar JP-LM, which is an optional super ride.

PalmerSport celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, long may it race!

5.  How about water sports? Box End Park is quite a new venture and already very successful. The purpose dug northern lake offers slalom boat tows with 1-2-1 training from experienced instructors, should you need them.

You could choose to go on the cable tow to enjoy waterskiing, kneeboarding or wakeboarding ~ that should get the adrenalin pumping round!

In the summer there is open air swimming and facilities for running and cycling. You can even pitch your caravan or camper van there. Enjoy yourself and keep fit at the same time!

The big bonus is the Corner 5 Restaurant & Bar. Corner 5 opens for lunch & dinner from Tuesday to Saturday and lunch on Sundays, and prides itself on a menu of seasonal, traditional English dishes with a modern twist. And the best is, its committed to sourcing and using foods & crafts produced in Bedfordshire http://www.tastesofbedfordshire.co.uk/

This post appeared on www.gotsaga.com and the direct link is http://t.co/fRgBv5i  Have a look at the website when you have time to spare, so much information on travel.

Time and travel

Okay, what happened to the last two months?  I can’t believe it’s March tomorrow!

I just looked up March on Google, and learnt something new (courtesy of Wikipedia)

The name of March comes from ancient Rome, when March was the first month of the year and named Martius after Mars, the Roman god of war. In Rome, where the climate is Mediterranean, March was the first month of spring, a logical point for the beginning of the year as well as the start of the military campaign season. January became the first month of the calendar year either under King Numa Pompilius (c. 713 BC) or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ). The numbered year began on March 1 in Russia until the end of the 15th century. Great Britain and its colonies continued to use March 25 until 1752, which was when they ultimately adopted the Gregorian calendar. Many other cultures and religions still celebrate the beginning of the New Year in March.

I didn’t know 1st March was the beginning of the New Year here until 1752 ~ the internet is truly amazing; all the information you could want to know at your fingertips!  History is like travel, the more you delve into it, the more you want.

All you have to do is log onto one of the social media sites and you can share in the travels of many lovely travel bloggers. What a fantastic way to learn about this wonderful planet of ours. I have friends all over the world – I feel truly privileged about that.

Travel is not a right, it’s a privilege.  I saw a tweet this morning from Jo Galloway, who is trekking across the Himalayas soon for charity, this sums up what travellers should be doing :-)

Must order the eco goodies for my Himalaya trek buddies. We want to leave only footprints.  http://bit.ly/eBtLLl

The travel and tourism industry does pay attention to responsible travel, but how much differs greatly. Yes, there are many great people out there, advocating and acting upon making travel responsible. People who inspire. But, there are also many who just pay lip service to it.

Are you a giver or a taker?  Do you take care to ensure your travels will not have a negative impact where you go, or, do you just book to go somewhere and take advantage of being a traveller in a foreign land?

There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.  Robert Louis Stevenson

And the spotlight is on you!

Last week, I was surprised to see this on my Tweetdeck:

Congratulations for what, I thought? And there it was: Top 25 Online Travel Marketing & PR Influencers. Why was I being congratulated was the first thought, oh my goodness was the second!  There I was at number 4!

One of the reasons I absolutely love what I do, is because you spend your time listening to others, connecting others, helping them stand out, advising when required and, generally, opening doors and making things happen. You are never the ‘I’, you are the one pushing others forwards and revelling in their successes. You’re part of a team of people, in which every single one of you is special and unique and every single one of you has an important role to play. You stand behind, you do not stand out!

Still, sitting there, full of gratitude and wonder, with a huge grin on my face whilst it sank in, was not getting anything done!  I shared the news with my son & daughter and with close friends.

I had started the day with a tweet of : Good morning :-) Definitely a day to believe in the magic of dreams. Mind you, should you adhere to most of the rules and regulations of Twitter, you do not start with a salutation. I have a different opinion here, you would never launch into a conversation without saying good morning/afternoon/evening or hello, so why would you on a social communications site?  If people really don’t like it, they have options!  Twitter is a happy place, a place to meet, greet and grow. A place to build relationships, be they personal or business. So the salutations and ((hugs)) you tweet, take the place of a kiss to the cheeks or a more formal handshake, or, best of all, just a great big hug!

Ha! I digress. I had expected nice e-mails and direct messages back, which I did receive, but they also said, well how are you going to publicise this? What a novel idea, promote myself!  I suppose that is where the British reticence of blowing one’s own trumpet comes to the fore ~ you would never want to be thought of as bragging!

But, I didn’t have to, they did it for me!  That is the power of friendship ~ one of the most beautiful possessions in the world!  Nothing material with the best possessions, people and feelings are what matters. I’m lucky there, I have an enviable group of friends, both old and new, that I love and respect. And that is what twitter is all about, a wonderful community that allows you to make true friends. The lists are produced each week and number one this week is Charles Yap @HotelPRGuy of Intercontinental Hotel Group and I am at number 5, so happy :-)

I have eclectic tastes and sometimes tweet a lot if I get excited and passionate about a subject, but that’s just me and that is what building relationships is all about, being yourself.  Believe in yourself and be yourself, the rest will happen ~ even the spotlight!

These are ten of my favourite things

On Friday I attended an all day conference in London, ‘Tourism – Seizing the Moment in Adversity‘. An interesting day and I’ll write about it next.  This post comes from the conference. One of the speakers, Martin Blackwell, asked the question;  ‘You should be able to name 10 attractions where you live, can you?’

The interpretation of the question was left open ~ did it mean the town or the county?  As Martin Blackwell is from the Association for Town Centre Management, then I guess it means the towns or nearby!

Living in the shire of Bedford, it would be very easy to name 100 attractions county-wide, in fact, the only challenge would be which ones of the many we have in this bountiful shire!  Living in a village, my nearest town is Bedford, so here goes!

These are ten of my favourites things in Bodacious Bedford ~

  • The Embankment: The Embankment of the River Great Ouse is a beautiful,Victorian, tree lined oasis in the middle of town.The river was widened by the Victorians and the ornate Suspension Bridge, spanning the river, was officially opened in 1888 ~ the same year as was Bedford Park. Just wonderful to walk down on a sunny afternoon and every other year, in July, there is the River Festival, celebrating all that is good! The regatta, founded in 1853, takes place in May.
  • John Bunyan: John Bunyan (1628-1688) was born at Elstow, England, about a mile from Bedford, and became one of the most influential authors of the seventeenth century. He preached, was goaled in Bedford and whilst there, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. There is the John Bunyan Museum in Mill Street & a wonderful statue of him in St Peter’s Street. And in Elstow, where he grew up, there is the Moot Hall & the remains of the Abbey.
  • Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum: Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum is currently undergoing a massive refurbishment. It is re-opening late in 2012 or early 2013.  The cultural gap is being filled by Bedford Gallery and from January 15th to April 10th this year, it will be hosting; High Kicks and Low Life: The Prints of Toulouse-Lautrec on tour from the British Museum.
  • Bedford Blues Rugby Club:  Known as The Blues, Bedford RUFC was founded in 1886 after an amalgamation between Bedford Rovers (1876) and Bedford Swifts (1882). Bedford have been playing on virtually the same pitch for over 100 years and 32 players have gained International honours while they were actually playing for the club at the time of being honoured. COYB! Come on you Blues!
  • Cardington Hangers: The hangers were built by the Shorts Brothers Engineering Company. Having won a contract for the construction of an airship in 1916, the original design team moved to Bedford, in the same year. The two hangers were built to be capable of holding two airships per shed.  They are massive, the internal dimensions are length 812 ft, width 180 ft and height 157 ft with a total weight of 4,000 tons of steel each!
  • Thurleigh World War II Airfield & Glenn Miller Museum:  During WWII, Glenn Miller was based at Milton Ernest Hall and turned  the Co-Partners Hall in Bedford into his Radio Station and here the bulk of his recording was done along with many famous stars such as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  He did concerts at Bedford Corn Exchange. It was at the Control Tower that Glenn Miller was last seen alive on a bleak day in December 1944. From here he flew to his death with two others in a Norseman – a small single engine aircraft en route to Paris to lead his orchestra.  Annually now, there is a Glenn Miller event and thousands have been to the event & the museum.
  • Bromham Mill:  For much of its history the mill belonged to the Manor or Bromham and from medieval times would have ground the lord’s grain whilst his tenants would have been obliged to have their grain milled there exclusively for a charge (multure). By 1973 the building was dilapidated and to secure its future it was bought by Beds CC. In 1974 it was further damaged by fire, but subsequent restoration enabled it to be opened to the public in 1983. The present mill is an 18th or early 19th century rebuilding in brick, timber and stone on the site of earlier mills.
  • Stevington Windmill:  Stevington’s windmill is one of the few surviving examples of a post mill. It dates from the late 18th Century and is basically in working order, though no corn has been ground there since 1936. In the early Middle Ages the Lordship of Stevington was held from the time of the Conquest by the Counts of Boulogne, important tenants in chief of the Norman kings. Later, it passed to the aristocratic families of de Quency, Wake, Holland and Stanley and, finally, to the influential local family of the Alstons. The Lordship ceased to have legal effect in 1926.
  • Willington Dovecote & Stables ~ 16th century:  Willington Dovecote & Stables is a National Trust property located in Willington, near Bedford. The property is a 16th-century stable and stone dovecote, which contains nesting boxes for over 1500 pigeons. The dovecote and stables themselves were commissioned by Sir John Gostwick, the Earl of Gostwick. Completed in around 1541, they were made from the remains of a manorial complex, and include stones most likely taken from local priories, in particular, Newnham Priory, after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A signature on the stone above the fireplace in the stables reads “John Bunyan”, but its authenticity has not been proven.
  • Old Warden & The Shuttleworth Collection:  Old Warden Park is owned by the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust. Richard Shuttleworth inherited the Old Warden Estate on his 23rd birthday and took a keen interest in farming and estate management as well as in motor racing and aviation. Richard built up a sizeable collection of old cars, and somewhat later, aeroplanes, restoring them to working order. These now form the nucleus of the Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, which was also constructed by him. He was killed flying in 1940 at the age of 31 and four years later his mother Dorothy Shuttleworth founded the Trust as a permanent memorial to him.  The Shuttleworth Collection is a unique flying collection showcasing the first one hundred years of flight.  Nearby is The Swiss Garden, Old Warden Park. It was created in the 1820s by Lord Ongley, is a late Regency garden and an outstanding example of the Swiss picturesque. The Swiss Cottage provides the main element for this unusual and atmospheric garden.

Sitting and waiting

Today is a waiting game! Waiting for one installation of telephone and broadband from Virgin (between 08.00 to 13.00 hours) and one iPhone to be delivered from Orange (between 09.00 to 18.00 hours).

It’s 11.30 and nothing’s happened so far.  Picture the travel, hospitality and tourism industry : can you imagine what people would say if they were told that the flight they wanted would be sometime between 09.00 – 18.00 or the room service they ordered would be between 08.00 – 13.00!

So how come we accept these very customer unfriendly terms?  Virgin and Orange are both communications companies, you would have thought they would be able to call or text to narrow down the time gap, rather than the customer worrying about going into the back garden for five minutes in case they don’t hear the doorbell or knocker.  To give Orange its due, it did text earlier to confirm, but all it said was that it was going to be today!

So first impressions of the brand are already forming.  It isn’t particularly professional to give a nine hour time span for a delivery or a five hour one for an installation; especially from communication companies.

You begin to wonder, as you sit and look out of the window (yes, I know it doesn’t make them arrive any quicker!), what the actual service you are going to get will be like.  Should you encounter a problem, will the customer care be there for you or will you have to take pot luck that someone will get back to you sometime?  Only time will tell, that’s if anything does happen today!

(Originally posted 17.11.09)