The view from the Shard but alas no sign of Piccotts End!

The view north from The Shard but alas no view of Piccotts End Here we are at the end of Feb and it’s been such a drab month I have little to report. On the few occasions when the weather did relent, we managed a trip up the Shard and a visit to York for the Viking Festival. York is one of my favourite cities with its medieval streets, its magnificent Minster and its Jorvik Viking Centre. The centre’s underground ride through the ‘streets’ of medieval York is one of the most imaginative experiences you will find anywhere. The Shard, Europe’s tallest building, is the high-rise equivalent – a bird’s eye view of 21st century London and 40 miles beyond. Fantastic, but alas you can’t see Piccotts End!

When the weather is so rubbish there is nothing else for it but to read. My book of the month is a Tour of the Whole Island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe. Defoe is an interesting character. He added the De to Daniel Foe to make him sound more important. Defoe reminds me of a prototype Jeffrey Archer, highly successful novelist, not averse to embroidering the truth, and jailbird! Defoe’s ‘crime’ was a common one in that era…not paying his debts. Today it’s perjury. Defoe’s tour is a fascinating glimpse of 18th century Britain, especially when he visits places we are familiar with. There is an amusing passage when he arrives at Yeovil in Somerset and complains that he cannot understand a word the locals are saying. Not much change there then!

Debts also feature in Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel about Thomas Cromwell. It seems that nearly every aristocrat in London was up to his ears in debt, with Cromwell weighing up the rich pickings on their demise.  These were days when there were no banks. The poor had to live on their income but the rich could live ‘on tick’ and hoped they could pay off enough to keep creditors at bay. Today, if the worst comes to the worst, you can just declare yourself bankrupt.

Despite the cold weather the daffodils are on the point of flowering and my rhododendron praecox have pink red tips. Roll on the spring!