Wednesday, July 31, 2013

UK Trip #29: Encounter with the Ghost of George Boyeln Inside Hever Castle

After going through the famous Hever Castle gardens, we finally went inside the castle. Unfortunately, no photos or videos were allowed in the castle, so I don't have any pictures from inside (although the Internet did!). Hever Castle was  filled with a lot of ghostly energy and this blog will take you on a "Ghost Tour in Hever Castle."

SOME CASTLE HISTORY:  It is not known if Anne was born at Hever (the year of her birth is not certain) but she lived there until she was sent to the Netherlands in 1513 to receive an education at the court of the Archduchess Margaret. While Henry VIII was courting Anne, he often used the nearby Bolebroke Castle. Hever became Henry VIII's property after the death of Anne's father, Thomas Boleyn, in 1539. He bestowed it upon Anne of Cleves in 1540 as part of the settlement following the annulment of their marriage. Hever Castle still has one of Henry's private locks, taken with him on his various visits to noblemen's houses and fitted to every door for his security.

GEORGE BOYELN'S GHOST COMMUNICATES - As soon as we walked through the main entrance of the castle I (Rob) instantly developed my ghostly headache that indicated I was in the presence of a ghost, and I heard "I'm George." I didn't know Anne Boleyn's brother's name, so I asked Tom "Who is George?" That's when Tom told me he was Anne's brother that got executed with Anne. George is an intelligent and active haunt in his boyhood home (Hever Castle). I got a number of other messages from him in a short time that proved he was there and talking with me.

WHO WAS GEORGE BOYELN? - George Boleyn, 2nd Viscount Rochford (c.1503 /c. April 1504 to May 17,1536) was an English courtier and nobleman, and the brother of queen consort Anne Boleyn. This made him the brother-in-law of King Henry VIII and the maternal uncle of Queen Elizabeth I of England. A prominent figure in the politics of the early 1530s, he was convicted of incest with Anne during the period of her trial for high treason. They were both executed as a result.

GEORGE'S MESSAGES -  After walking through the entryway and hearing George identify himself by name we walked into the first room, or the Inner Hall. It was there that I got a lot more information. I was standing near the windows of that hallway, and I felt George walk through my left side. I looked down and only my left side had chills. George's ghost told me that he would show us his boyhood home, and then he asked "Can you help me?" He wanted help crossing over so he could find peace. After more messages from George, I told him to go into the light and cross over.


GEORGE'S BIGGEST REGRET George had a clear message to me: "I should never have gone to court." He meant that he should never have gone to Henry VIII's court - because Henry VIII had him beheaded. 
GEORGE'S HAPPIEST MOMENT IN LIFE - It became obvious to me that George loved his sister Anne very much and was very proud of her.  The last thing George said to me was the year "1532" as a time that he was most happy. When I got home and searched the year and association with George, it turns out that on Sept. 1, 1532  his sister Anne became the Marquess of Pembroke!

According to "," This was significant for a number of reasons, the first being that no other woman had ever been bestowed with the title, secondly, the earldom of Pembroke had previously been held by Henry’s great-uncle, Jasper Tudor, and so had strong royal connections (Starkey, p.459) and finally the title made Anne the most prestigious non-royal woman in the realm. With the title came property. Antonia Fraser states that Anne received, ‘five manors in Wales, another in Somerset, two in Essex, and five in Hertfordshire including Hunsdon and Eastwick; these were added to the two manors she already received in 1532 in Middlesex’.

The ceremony itself was a lavish affair and witnessed by many members of the nobility. It seems likely that Henry conferred the title on Anne as a way of increasing her social status so that her upcoming marriage to the king might be better received but it’s also possible that it was a ‘gift’ to Anne for having waited out the king’s long and painstaking divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Anne Boleyn was now ready for the European stage.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

UK Trip #28: Arrival at Hever Castle - The Gardens

Hever Castle's Extensive Garden
Tom and Rob de-stressing in the Hever Garden after a harrowing drive
On Saturday, June 22, we finally arrived at the town the housed Hever Castle. Okay, so I know it's a castle, and I know that I should expect a long driveway, but a mile or two of driveway out of a town?  Really? Yup.

This Blog contains 2 short Video Tours of the Castle's famous gardens (see below)

WHAT IS HEVER CASTLE? Hever Castle is located in the village of Hever, Kent, near Edenbridge. It's 30 miles south-east of London, England (but driving there took 2 hours!)  It began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539 it was the seat of the Boleyn, originally 'Bullen', family. Remember Anne Boleyn and her Tudor period connection? That's why we visited the castle!

  WHO WAS ANNE BOLEYN? Anne Boleyn (c. 1501– May 19, 1536) was the second wife of King Henry VIII, and was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 . She was also the Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation.
     Anne's parents were Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard. Anne was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honor to Claude of France. Anne came back to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond. That wedding never happened, however because Anne secured a post at court as maid of honor to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon. That's how Anne caught Henry VIII's eye,


Tom poses near a dog statue
Rob and Tom at the Italian Garden fountain
WHO LAST OWNED THE CASTLE? - William Waldorf Astor (March 31, 1848 — October 18, 1919) was a wealthy American attorney, and the only son of John Jacob Astor III. In 1903 William purchased the castle and restored it to use as a family residence. Since 1983 the castle has been owned by Broadland Properties Limited. The estate is now run as a conference center, but the castle and grounds are open to the public.

Rob in the garden
HEVER CASTLE'S AMAZING GARDENS - There are a number of different gardens around the castle (and you have to go through several of them to get to the front entrance of the castle. The spectacular gardens at Hever Castle were laid out between 1904 and 1908 by Joseph Cheal & Son. It was a marshland when they purchased the land, and they turned it into amazing and extensive gardens. These were not the gardens that Anne Boleyn saw when she lived here. The gardens didn't exist in her time. 

In the Tudor Garden, Rhododendron Walk we walked along Anne Boleyn’s Walk with its collection of trees planted over 100 years ago!

Tom in front of a garden set up he liked!
According to the Castle's Website:, the Italian Garden was designed to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures. Over 1,000 men worked on the great design with around 800 men digging out the 38 acre lake at the far end of the Italian Garden – taking two years to do so!

Within four years the 30 acres of classical and natural landscapes were constructed and planted.  125 acres of the garden has now reached its full maturity and includes the colorful walled Rose Garden which contains over 4,000 plants.



Monday, July 29, 2013

UK Trip #27: Windsor Arrival / Drive Me Crazy!

Plan your vacation with ATP for the best
Back to our UK Trip today! When we last left you, we had taken the commuter train to Windsor. Windsor is where we stayed for the remainder of our stay in the United Kingdom and used it as a base to travel to other attractions.
   When we got to the Windsor train station, I (Rob) immediately recognized it from the year before and knew the route to walk directly to our bed and breakfast (the same one we stayed at last year!).
        Our friend Anne Marie Clarke at Across the Pond Vacations  ( found Langdon House for us last year and booked us for it this  year. We highly recommend it! 
our room!
    LANGDON HOUSE B&B - We love staying with Paul and Sonja, who manage the bed and breakfast (and whom we befriended after last year's stay). We got to see Paul for a short time because he was going to France to learn how to jump from a plane! Sonja took care of us and was so wonderful and fun! The breakfasts were wonderful, we slept soundly, love the neighborhood. For anyone going to London- Stay in Windsor, just west of London. It's a great transport spot.

   Langton House Bed and Breakfast is in central Windsor, in a quiet leafy street and a short 5 minutes walk from the town center shops & Windsor Castle, the World's largest inhabited castle. (More info: They're just  45 miles from Highclere Castle - the setting for the fabulous Downton Abbey.
Looks like roads the GPS always took us on!
   FISH AND CHIPS - One of my simple pleasures during the trip was ordering Fish and Chips, made with Atlantic Cod, my favorite seafood. In fact, I had it almost every day either for lunch or dinner!
   DRIVE ME CRAZY ! - On Saturday, June 22nd, we took a cab from the B&B to Hertz where we rented a car. We made sure we had purchased a GPS unit. We learned (again this year) that the GPS unit works well in the city, but doesn't work well in the country!
    We headed out of the city of Slough (where we rented the car, got on the highway and were good to go for about an hour. We were trying to find Hever Castle. The signs on the highway said to go one way, but the GPS told us to go another. So, we opted to follow the GPS. BIG MISTAKE.
Love those roundabouts... not!
    We went from the highway to a 4 lane road, to a 2 lane road, and around a lot of roundabouts (they're everywhere!). We saw a sign for Hever Castle and were relieved. That's when the GPS told us to "turn right" but I didn't see a sign for the castle. We followed, trusting the GPS. For an hour the GPS took us on winding, twisting roads, It was mid-morning and the castle opened at 10am. The road became more narrow, and it could only accommodate 1 1/2 cars!  I knew we were in trouble. My hands gripped the wheel so tightly, they ached.  
   WHEN DID I KNOW WE WERE IN TROUBLE? - as we drove through the winding roads with vegetation as high as 6 feet on either side of the road, we came to a sign in the middle of land-locked England that said "Fish Farm."
We finally got on a "real road" and I found a place to ask directions. Yes, we had to turn around. Needless to say we were BOTH Stressed!!!  Fortunately, we both dismissed the stress when we got to our destination. It was like being on the Amazing Race.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

See NASA's Hurricane Google Hangout (Rob hosts!)

I (Rob) am managing the outreach (public information) about NASA's new hurricane mission called "HS3" which stands for the Hurricane Severe Storms Sentinel mission. The HS3 mission is flying unmanned aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean this summer in late August through mid-September to find out answers to why some tropical cyclones strengthen rapidly, and how the dry, dirty Saharan air the blows from northern Africa's desert, affects the storms. The HS3 flew last year, and will fly each year through 2015. For more info, go to:
  On Tuesday, July 23, I helped organize and got to host a "Google Hangout"   that featured from NASA a research meteorologist, pilot, and program manager, and our friend and colleague Brian McNoldy a research meteorologist at the Univ. of Miami (and blogger for Washington Post Capitol Weather Gang).
   It's on YouTube and runs an hour. This was the first time I've done one of these and it took a little getting used to how Google technology worked, but it worked out. If you're interested, here's the entire video.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Signs from Spirits: Coins: My Dad and Sprite

Sprite: 12-23-96 to 7-8-13
  In last week's blog, we shared an amazing sign of a butterfly that came from our late dog Sprite who passed. This week, we got two more signs of reassurance from someone else that let us know Sprite is okay on the other side.

     On July 8, 2013 at 5:50 p.m. we had to say goodbye to our elder dachshund, Sprite. He was 16 1/2 years old and he was in failing health. For the year before I had to carry him up and downstairs, and the last several months I usually had to pick him up and carry him outside to do his business. Late in the mornings he would find the strength in his legs, but they were very weak. He had a bad heart murmur, kidney failure for over a year, suffered from a bad nosebleed the night before and wound up in the emergency room, and he had pretty much stopped eating for the week before. We knew it was time, although it tore at our hearts.

  On the day we brought our dog Sprite to the vet to say our final goodbye, I asked three spirits to come into the room and help Sprite cross over. One of them was my dad who died on August 2, 2008. When I was in the room I did feel my dad and the other two spirits (who I will write about in a long story later). All three took Sprite into the light and crossed him over that evening.
Message from my dad - 2008 Penny

CONFIRMATION FROM MY DAD -   On July 15, one week later, I received a confirmation from my dad that Sprite was happy, healthy and with him and the others. I was getting out of my car at Dunkin' Donuts to get a morning coffee and sitting on the ground right outside of the driver's side door was a shiny penny. I mentioned last week that coins are one sign that spirits use to let you know they're around and with you.

Sprite's butterfly visits Jill
One surefire way to know which spirit it is who sent you the message is to check the year on the penny. If it has a significance with a spirit, that's who it belongs to. The year on this shiny penny was "2008." The year my dad passed away. As soon as I picked up the penny, I heard my dad say "Sprite is here with me, and he's happy. You don't have to worry about him."  

CONFIRMATION FROM OUR FRIEND JILL - On July 22, we received this email from our friend Jill. She also got a visit from Sprite's spirit in the form of the same kind of buttlerfly that Sprite communicated with us. Jill wrote: "Just had to tell you that I was sitting out back on a lounge chair on Saturday. Not 5 minutes after reading your blog on Sprite, a yellow and black butterfly rested on my abdomen. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize what it was at first and I moved, sending it away.  But, I have seen it multiple times between our yard our neighbors yard over the weekend!

Friday, July 26, 2013

U.K. Trip # 26 - Great Book I Read on Vacation: Mr. Monk on Patrol

by Lee Goldberg
(Our trip blog will resume tomorrow)
   While on vacation in the U.K. another book I enjoyed was in the Mr. Monk detective series. This one is called "Mr. Monk on Patrol." Like all of the others in the series, I loved it!
  Mr. Monk on Patrol is the thirteenth novel written by Lee Goldberg to be based on the television series Monk. It was published on January 3, 2012.
   Mr. Monk and Natalie are sent to a small town called Summit, New Jersey where former San Francisco Lieutenant Disher has been made Chief of Police and acting mayor after putting corrupt politicians behind bars. His policeforce is short handed so he brings Monk and Natalie in to clean up and solve crimes. They solve a murder, house breaking ring and solve a mystery around the death of a woman. 
  Monk and Natalie become police officers on a detail for the city. Monk also meets a woman who owns a unique shop that sells things made from animal poo, like statutes, frames, cards, etc. and he has to get past his repulsion. It's funny as always and has twists and turns. You won't be able to put it down!  

  Highly recommended!  (to order on Amazon:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

UK Trip #25: Our Favorite British Sayings, Clifford's Tower, Train Karma

While traveling through Scotland and England we favored certain sayings that we heard. We thought you'd get a kick out of them:
1) "Git" - it means a grumpy old man. 
Of course, during the trip, we sometimes called each other a "git" depending on our behavior. :) 
2) "Punker" - Someone who is acting like a clown, clowning around or joking
3) "Do a bit of flower arranging" - this means to sort something out, or to try and put order to something
4) "You'll crack it" - This means that you'll get the hang of things, or figure it out. 
Clifford's Tower

CLIFFORD'S TOWER - This historic structure was actually right across the street from our hotel. It's located at Tower St  York, North Yorkshire YO1 9SA. 

CLIFFORD'S TOWER HORRIBLE HISTORY - According to Clifford's Tower, the keep of York's medieval castle, was the site of the most horrifying event in the history of English Jewry. On March 16, 1190, the feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol, the small Jewish community of York gathered inside the tower for protection. An angry, violet mob assembled around the structure, and instead of coming out and battling them, many jews inside committed suicide. Others died in the flames they had lit, and those who surrendered were massacred and murdered.  GHOSTLY LEGEND - The ghost story involving the tower says every now and then the tower turns blood red from the blood of all the people who died in the tower.

Tom at the York Train station
***WRAPPING UP YORK - We checked out of the hotel and took a taxi to the train station, We did enjoy some afternoon tea and scones inside the station while waiting.
TRAIN KARMA -  We were really getting into the habit of that! The first train ride from York to London's Kings Crossing took about 2 1/2 hours. We had to find the subway or "Underground" and after getting confused, I asked a customer service rep at a ticket window about getting to Paddington Station to change trains, and they told me the way and explained our railway ticket was good for one ride on the underground. That was great news. The subway at 5:15 p.m. local time, however, was PACKED and we had our luggage. That was a bit of a SQUEEZE.
Rob at the York train station
    The commuter train was also packed. After storing our luggage on elevated racks, Tom motioned for me to sit next to a bald, angry-looking man of Middle-eastern descent. The man heard Tom direct me to the seat and he scowled at me, grabbing his backpack off the empty seat and flinging it against the wall where he sat!  SO, I walked on and sat next to a nicer person. At the first stop, another passenger got on and MADE the nasty guy move his backpack so he could sit down. KARMA IN ACTION! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

UK Trip #24: Tracking the History of Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes
If you don't know who Guy Fawkes is, you should watch the film "V is for Vendetta." The futuristic story based on a graphic novel is about a Brit's stand against a corrupt government, which is similar to Guy Fawkes' infamous stand in history. Guy Fawkes was born in York, England, and we came across several places that were attributed to his life.


Sign at the birthplace
FIRST, WHO IS GUY FAWKES? -  Guy Fawkes (April 13, 1570 – January 31, 1606), was born in York. He was also known as Guido Fawkes (while fighting for the Spanish in the Low Countries), was a member of a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Fawkes  traveled to Spain to seek support for a Catholic rebellion in England but was unsuccessful. He later met Thomas Wintour, with whom he returned to England. Wintour introduced Fawkes to Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. The plotters secured the lease to an undercroft beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the gunpowder they stockpiled there. 
Rob outside of Guy Fawkes' Birthplace
FAWKES' PLOT FOILED - The police received an anonymous letter and searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of November 5, only to find Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and confessed. He was hanged on Jan. 31, 1606.

GUY FAWKES DAY IN ENGLAND - Is celebrated every November 5, when his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, commonly accompanied by a fireworks display.
Guy Fawkes Inn

GUY FAWKES' BIRTHPLACE GETS A NEW NAME -  His birthplace is now actually called the Guy Fawkes Inn.

  It's located at 25 High Petergate, York YO1 7HP, United Kingdom.
 The Inn claims that in addition to four-star guest rooms,  it serves real ales, traditional pub meals, gas-lamps and timber floors all combine with this heritage to create one of the most characterful pubs in Britain.
 - What I find interesting is that the Inn has the same mask for Guy Fawkes that the character "V" in the film "V is for Vendetta" used. V modeled his behavior after Guy Fawkes to bring down a corrupt government.  

GUY FAWKES BAPTISMAL CHURCH - Across the street from the Guy Fawkes Inn is the place where he was baptized: the  St Michael le Belfrey. He was baptized there on April 16, 1570, and the church had flyers and a big sign inside that promoted him. 
  The docent, David, a retired gentleman met us at the door. He told us how the church is a LOT more contemporary that the (stuffy) York Minster church (in other words, they accept everyone)
Inside St Michael le Belfrey Church

BUILT OVER ROMAN FORTRESS - Like the York Minster that we toured earlier (in a previous blog), this church was also built over the remains of a Roman settlement from 71 A.D. In fact, an archaeologist noted that underneath the central aisle floor is apparently an empty or air-filled chamber, that likely contains some ancient artifacts. However, because of a lack of funding, they can't excavate whatever lies hidden below.
Sign about Guy Fawkes history and baptism

BAPTISMAL RECORD FOUND - What's also interesting about this welcoming church is that they found and copied Guy Fawkes' baptismal record and made it into a post card for visitors to take with them. How cool.
VIDEO: We made a short video outside of the church where Guy Fawkes was baptized.

Being a comic book collector and reader, a comic book by the V for Vendetta is a 2005 British action thriller film, based on the 1982 comic book of the same name by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. Set in London in a near-future dystopian society, Hugo Weaving portrays V — a bold, charismatic freedom fighter, attempting to ignite a revolution against the brutal fascist regime led by Adam Sutler that has subjugated his country. Natalie Portman plays Evey, a working class girl caught up in V's mission, and Stephen Rea portrays the detective leading a desperate quest to stop V. The film was originally scheduled for release by Warner Bros. on Friday, 4 November 2005 (a day before the 400th Guy Fawkes Night), but was delayed.
NEXT: Our Favorite British Sayings, Train Karma

Here's the movie trailer for the 2005 film "V is for Vendetta.":

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tyler & Rob Worked a Dog Rescue Event!

Melissa and a new foster dog (7 months old) just turned in today
We work with and support Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue and DC Weimaraner Rescue (and have helped transport for others). I (Rob) participated in a fundraising and adoption event this weekend at the Pet Valu store in Baltimore, near Fort McHenry (on Fort street,... go figure!). Tom stayed at home and painted the shed and worked on the plant beds around the house.
  I brought Tyler with me because it's always a good idea to have a dog present at adoption events, even though we adopted Tyler. People just want to see dogs!

Rob, Tyler and Shelley!

Tyler checking out a cool rug!

Tyler in the truck going home- totally wiped out
Melissa and Shelley let us know that Tyler was in a North Carolina shelter back in December, and our friend who went down there for family matters transported Tyler up to us in Maryland.
  Melissa and Shelley work for the rescue and basically organize everything from taking in new dogs to foster and adopt to adoption, house inspections, medical coverage and transports. It was great to see them and introduce them to Tyler, whom they never met in person until today (8 months after they arranged for him to come to us). They only had contact with the shelter and us on paper and via phone and email,

  Tyler was well-behaved and seemed to enjoy being there. Only 15 people shopped in the store today, but there were donations made, and Melissa brought candles, magnets, tee-shirts, decals, etc. that also help support the rescue and many of those sold. After the event, Tyler got into the truck with me and immediately conked out in the bed in the cab!

PLEASE SUPPORT THE RESCUE!  - There are so many dogs coming in that have been abandoned. A woman brought a Dachshund 7 month old puppy to the store that she saw on Craigslist and she immediately claimed the dog and contacted the rescue. *What the hell is wrong with people who give their dog to just anyone via Craigslist? Contact a rescue!!**  Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue takes in rescues all the time and pays for their medical needs - and it's expensive. SO, please consider giving a donation in someone's memory or for someone's birthday to the rescue:

GOING TO CHECK OUT A SHELTER DOG - Tom and I were asked to go to the county pound and check out  a senior dachshund (10 years old) that someone abandoned with it's housemate, a 10 year old cocker spaniel.   We have to evaluate the dog for adoption or fostering - which is always a hard thing to do.

Monday, July 22, 2013

UK Trip #23: York's Bootham Bar, Shambles and a Ghost

Tom acting "Fabulously British"
Despite being in York, England, only one afternoon, night and morning, we did manage to walk the town and explore a number of things. Today's blog takes you on a tour of some of the things that we found entertaining and interesting.

"FABULOUSLY BRITISH" - Tom saw that saying on one of the windows of a shop in York, and loved it. It's actually a casual clothing line from a UK specialist supplier named Jack Wills.

Bootham Bar
Bootham Bar was next Lion and Lamb. Tom in the doorway
HANGING OUT AT THE BOOTHAM BAR - Nope, it's not a bar-room. It's actually the name of one of the medieval gates that led into the city of York from the wall that surrounded the city.
   The walls  that surround the city of York have 4 main gatehouses, or 'bars.' The 4 "Bars" are: Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar. These restricted traffic in medieval times, and were used to extract tolls, as well as being defensive positions in times of war.
    Although much of Bootham Bar was built in the 14th and 19th centuries, it also has some of the oldest surviving stonework, dating to the 11th century. It stands almost on the site of porta principalis dextra, the north western gate of Eboracum.

DINNER AT THE LAMB AND LION - When we met our friends at night, we all dined at the Lamb and the Lion. It's located in the heart of York, facing the side of Bootham Bar (gate). The Lamb And Lion has award-winning food, real ales,rustic dishes, and great fish and chips (I - Rob, had it!).
  The Lion and the Lamb is more than a restaurant, though. It's also an Inn. The Inn was ravaged by fire in the 17th century then rebuilt. 

GHOST AT THE INN - As soon as we walked through the door of the Lamb and the Lion, I (Rob) got my usual headache in the back left side of my head that indicates a ghost or spirit is present. It was the ghost of a man.
A clothing store
He was a former shopkeeper from centuries past, that was dedicated to his job and never left. 

MISS DIVA- We came across this quirky store and immediately thought our friend Jeff would get a kick out of it. He loves a lot of the musical divas. 

Tom and Rob at the Shambles

WHAT IS "THE SHAMBLES"? - The Shambles is an old street in York with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some that date back as far as the fourteenth century!
It was once known as The Great Flesh Shambles, probably from the Anglo-Saxon Fleshammels (literally 'flesh-shelves'), the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. As recently as 1872, there were twenty-five butchers' shops in the street but now there are none.
 "Shambles" is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market.
  If you're ever in York, you need to walk down this famous street. It was interesting how the buildings are leaning toward each other.
Sign about the history of the Shambles
   We stopped for a picture there, went into one of the art galleries, and also took a picture of the sign about the area.
   The Shambles may not have any more butcher shops, but it has plenty of clothing, jewelry, art and trinkets for sale.

Below - A picture of the crowds that continually flock to the "Shambles."

NEXT: Dog Rescue Event - then...
TRACKING THE HISTORY OF GUY FAWKES (Remember the movie "V is for Vendetta"?)

Crowds enjoy the Shambles' shops

Sunday, July 21, 2013

UK Trip #22: Meeting Old Friends / Barker Tower

Bob,Tom,Kristen,Issy,Campbell, Alec- Barker tower behind
The Ouse River through York
We were only in York, England one night, but after a visit to the famous York Minster Cathedral we had just one other plan - meeting some of Rob's old friends. Bob and Kristen Beck lived in Maryland and moved to the U.K. for work quite a number of years ago. Rob has known Bob since 1990. Bob and Kristen live about 40 minutes from York, so they took the train (everyone commutes by train in England- how wonderful) with their three great kids, Campbell, Alec and young Issy (Isabella). 

MEETING UP WITHOUT A CELL PHONE - Because we couldn't bring cell phones to the U.K. (the roaming charges would be exorbitant) we arranged to meet the Beck family at the hotel. After we toured the Minster, they were waiting for us. They took us on a walking tour of York. We found the Chocolate Factory and wonderful little shops. We talked about kids, marriage, retirement, houses, books, travel, how they liked life in England and more. Both Kristen and I (Rob) saw a book that we both found intriguing called "Hot guys and cute dogs," but we didn't buy it. :)

Since Roman times, York has defended by walls around the city. York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England. They are known variously as York City Walls, the Bar walls and the Roman walls.
A look at the great wall around York

We climbed the wall at one point and took a photo of everyone with the BARKER TOWER behind them.
Alec,Issy,Campbell, Kristen & Bob


WHAT IS THE BARKER TOWER? -  The river-side tower sit on the Ouse River and was built in the 14th century.  According to, it was located at the boundary of the medieval city-center and, in conjunction with Lendal Tower, located on the opposite bank, the tower was used to control river traffic entering the city.  A great iron chain was stretched across the river between the two towers and boatmen had to pay a toll to cross it. The Barker Tower was basically a medieval Toll Booth! 

WHAT WAS IT USED FOR AFTERWARD?  After acting as a toll, it was leased for long periods to various ferrymen (and at least one woman) who took passengers across the Ouse River, until Lendal Bridge was built in 1863. Once the bridge opened, the ferries went out of business. According to History of York, that tower had a number of other uses including being used as a mortuary for a brief time in the 19th century!

WALL WITH A VIEW - There were some great views of the city from the wall. We took this picture of the view of the city looking north-east from the city wall, near the railway station. The brown spire in the middle distance is the Catholic church of St. Wilfrid, and York Minster is visible behind it.

View of the city looking north-east from the city wall, near the railway station. The brown spire in the middle distance is the Catholic church of St. Wilfrid, and York Minster is visible behind it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Sign from Sprite: A Butterfly!

Recently, we watched the TV show "Long Island Medium" and a woman said that 2 butterflies followed her one week. The woman had lost both her husband and her son. Theresa Caputo (the Long Island Medium) said they were using the butterflies to give the woman a message. Many others experienced the same thing. They've seen butterflies after someone passed, or perhaps on the anniversary of their passing, or the late person's birthday.  This month, we experienced it first hand.
        On July 8, 2013 at 5:50 p.m. we had to say goodbye to our elder dachshund, Sprite. He was 16 1/2 years old and he was in failing health. For the year before I had to carry him up and downstairs, and the last several months I usually had to pick him up and carry him outside to do his business. Late in the mornings he would find the strength in his legs, but they were very weak. He had a bad heart murmur, kidney failure for over a year, suffered from a bad nosebleed the night before and wound up in the emergency room, and he had pretty much stopped eating for the week before. We knew it was time, although it tore at our hearts.
Sprite's butterfly
   The day after he passed and the second day after he passed, he came to three mediums we know, who are friends of ours, but they don't know each other. In fact, a couple of them didn't even know Sprite, but they received similar messages that confirmed each other. They also each had special messages that Sprite gave to help prove it was him. I'll share those in a later post.
   This post focuses on the use of butterflies to convey that a spirit is trying to get us a message that they're around and they're fine. 
   When Tom and I were walking our dogs three days after Sprite passed we got a sign from him. Toward the end of the walk (of our other two dachshunds and our weimaraner) a yellow and black butterfly flew right near all three dogs.
Sprite 12-23-96 to 7-8-13

   First, it's unusual for a butterfly to fly near dogs. Secondly, the dogs didn't go after it. They just watched it. It was as if they heard Sprite telling them "I'm here." Our three dogs and we just watched that butterfly and I took several pictures of it. The butterfly just stayed there on the grass. It was a message from Sprite that he is fine and regained 100% health as a spirit. We were all happy to see this wonderful sign from Sprite.
   Because my grief was blocking messages from Sprite he found another way to get through to me. If you recently lost someone or lost them awhile ago and are still grieving, grief will block out their signs. However, some spirits are very strong and persistent, like Sprite, and will give visible signs they're okay. 

   Sometimes spirits will use butterflies, birds, feathers, flowers, pennies or other signs to convey that they're around us and thinking of us.

NEXT BLOG: UK Trip #22: Meeting Old Friends / Barker Tower

Friday, July 19, 2013

Steve Grand's 'All-American Boy' Becomes A Gay-Themed Country Music Hit On YouTube

Steve Grand's 'All-American Boy' Becomes A
Gay-Themed Country Music Hit On YouTube

**I saw this video and heard this song and was captured by it. This situation happens to many gay men and women, and to hear and see it is a comfort. This is the kind of real-life experience that makes a song successful, and I applaud Steve Grand for being brave by writing and performing it. It's heartfelt.  He said in a TV interview that his parents rejected him until his video became viral and hundreds of thousands watched it and supported him. They even subjected him to "anti-gay therapy" -that's a bunch of hooey.  It's a shame that  parents STILL are so unaccepting of their gay children.
  Regardless, I'm very impressed by Steve Grand. - he's on Facebook, and You Tube, so check him out, even if you're straight. :) - Rob 
Interview with Steve Grand:

From the HUFFINGTON POST, JULY 9, 2013
LOS ANGELES — He's a musician without a record label, a card holder without any remaining credit. And the gig that supplies what he calls "food money" may now be in jeopardy.
But after events of the last week, Steve Grand said "I would die a happy man today," and not for the reasons he's suddenly getting attention.
Grand's first music video, for his country-tinged rock ballad "All-American Boy," was posted on YouTube last Tuesday. By last night, it had exploded, attracting more than 400,000 total views — nothing for top-charting videos from big-name recording artists, but an impressive figure for one from a complete unknown whose only promotion has been internet buzz.
The video cost just $7,000, a fraction of the major-names' going rate, but it was a fortune to Grand, who came up with the entire budget himself by maxing out his only plastic to tell the video's story.
"All-American Boy" portrays a young gay man who misreads signals from an apparently straight "all-American" male friend. On a day hanging out with the gang, the two guys and a girl take off in a car. She drives, as the guys sit together in the back, with the straight man, at one point, falling asleep on the gay man's shoulder. Feeling like a third wheel, the girl eventually, angrily drives off, leaving the two men to pal around in the woods, where they end up stripping down and going skinny-dipping -- even sharing a quick kiss. Ultimately for the straight guy, it was just all in good fun. But for the gay man, it was something much more significant, and he is left dazed, confused and longing.
The story was inspired by one of Grand's own.
"I was a 13-year-old boy (at camp)," noted the 23-year-old singer-songwriter, speaking by phone from his hometown Chicago. "One of my counselors was warm and strong and he took an interest in me — not sexually, but as a friend, and it really moved me. I remember leaving with a horrible ache in my heart."
While "All-American Boy" is told from the gay man's perspective, Grand said he knew its tale of unrequited love would resonate across lines of sexuality. He's received hundreds of postings on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook from viewers, both straight and gay, saying they understand such rejection and heartache.
"I'm not a crier," noted Grand. "But since this all began, since people have been reaching out, I've been beyond moved, because so many people have felt what I felt, been through what I've been through."


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tyler Graduated from Puppy School Today!

I'm Tyler and I graduated today! 7-18-13
 Today, July 18, our puppy, Tyler, the mini black and tan dachshund, graduated from Puppy training school. He's even learned how to do some intermediate things. 
 - Tom took him to school for the 8 weeks (so they could bond). 
Tyler and a proud Daddy Tom!
Graduation pose!
  Puppy training was at the local Petsmart, and the trainer was great and fun. Tyler had one other classmate and both got to wear graduation hats. At the end of the class, I (Rob) showed up with Dolly and Franklin, so we could all be there graduation!

Tyler says "Enough pictures, where are the treats?"
The graduate...looks pretty smug, doesn't he?

Gift/Memorial Suggestions

Several of our friends have lost loved ones (human and pets) and we found that one of the best ways to honor their memory is to give to an animal charity.
What better way to recognize a life of love, than by giving another life a chance for love?
We donate to many animal rescues, but because we volunteer with
DC Weimaraner Rescue and Coast-to-Coast Dachshund Rescue, those are our 2 favorites.
Consider giving the chance of life to a dog or cat.

About us

We're two married guys who enjoy the simple things in life, especially our dogs. We volunteer for dog rescues, enjoy splitting dinners, exercising, blogging, helping friends and neighbors, ghost investigations, coffee and tea, Tudor history, weather, superheroes, comic books, mystery novels, traveling, 70s and 80s music, classic country, piano, gardening, writing books on ghosts and spirits, architecture, keeping a clean house, cooking simply, and keeping in shape. You'll find tidbits of all of these things on this blog and more.

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!

Tom and Rob Thinking Hard!
Wondering what home project to do next