mechanical music museum

2017-10-18 NORTHLEACH, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited the Mechanical Music Museum (formerly the Keith Harding's World of Mechanical Music).

A knowledgeable lady who loves music boxes gave us a detailed tour. She has lived in the same house for 54 years, and worked at this store for 19 years.

I was captivated by
Thomas Edison's phonograph (pictured left) because when I was an undergraduate student in the linguistics department at the University of Tokyo there was a similar device that had made recordings of Ainu speech in the 19th century. We were prohibited from playing the device for fear the needles would destroy the precious recordings. Eventually the university contracted a technical firm to read the grooves using lasers and to covert the visual imagery to sound. But I digress. Here is a close-up photo of the needle from Edison's phonograph.

Gramophones were commercially successful because vinyl records could be mass-produced by pressing. Edison's device may have had better
audio fidelity. Edison himself called the phonograph "his baby", and spent 52 years improving it. But his recording cylinders could not be duplicated. Here is a picture of a gramophone needle.

Music boxes, hand-cranked organs, reproducing pianos ... the museum is full of technical wonders. We would have stayed all day, if it were not for a constant stream of visitors who deserved tours and demonstrations.

inn and pub

2017-10-17 BROADWAY, WORCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We had a drink and enjoyed conversation with the local gentlemen at the Crown and Trumpet inn and pub.

The building was built in the 1780s -- fairly new by Cotswold standards. The building behind used to be stables. Today there are 5 bedrooms upstairs, and a pub downstairs. On Thursday nights they have live jazz.

Noriko had a
Stroud, a local brew. Although we are still unsure, so far it seems that English beers have a lighter, thinner flavor than some Belgian trappiste beers. I had a non-alcoholic beer.

st james church

2017-10-17 CHIPPING CAMPDEN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We visited St James church in the village of Chipping Campden.

St James church is a wool church, so called because they were built with money from the wool trade. At one point, wool accounted for half of England's exports. The town of Chipping Campden was known across Europe as a prime source of wool.

The church of St James is built in the perpendicular style.

The church was built and modified over time. The oldest tomb in the church dates from the 13th century. The oldest windows of the church -- dating back to the mid-15th century -- is in the upper part (the part above the transom) of the stained glass on the far wall above the altar. The lower part (below the transom) is modern -- it was made in 1922. In America that would count as old!

Placed in the south chapel close to the altar are effigies of Sir Baptist Hicks, later created the 1st viscount of Campden, and his wife Lady Elizabeth née Mays. Sir Baptist died in 1629 at the age of 78. He donated 10,000 pounds to the church, at a time when 40 pounds may have bought an entire village.

countryside walk

2017-10-16 LOWER SLAUGHTER, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- Noriko and I took a walk from our cottage (a fancy name for a rental townhouse) through farms into Lower and Upper Slaughter continuing to Brouton-on-the-water.

We still struggle with public footpaths. We are uncomfortable walking through other people's property (even with their permission) because it is where they work.

Footpaths are not always obvious. You need to develop an outdoorsy sense, like a hunter or tracker.

Unlike the Lake District or Yorkshire (where we stayed the past 2 weeks), the northern Cotswolds region has much more cows and horses than sheep.

A local lady pointed out a prestigious equestrian school. If it hadn't been for her commentary, we would have completely missed it.

We had tea at a
mill in Lower Slaughter, while we dried our wet clothes.

The weather improved later in the day, while we had a late lunch in

The town has 5 bridges. Cars can ford the river at certain spots -- that is, vehicles can wade across the shallow water.

We admired what must be the last flowers of the season.

Their church has been impressively remodeled inside, while retaining the historical exterior.

We wrapped up the day with a visit to the
Motor Museum. Lots of British cars, many of which I had never heard of.

cotswold stone

2017-10-15 STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, UK -- We arrived in northern Cotswolds, in a village named Stow-in-the-wold or Stow for short.

Unlike the 2 former places we stayed during this trip, this week we are staying in the middle of the village, within easy walking distance to shops.

This area is known for Cotswold stone, also called honey stone for their milk-tea color.

Cotswold stone is beautiful. In this district, most stores and houses -- even primary schools -- are built with Cotswold stone. I suspect that some of the newer construction uses fake stone, because the hue is different -- it has a deeper orange shade.

We took a walk in the neighborhood. Kero was thrilled to have local folk strike up conversations with him.

cream tea

2017-10-13 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Noriko has been comparing clotted cream and lemon curd.

Clotted cream is somewhere between butter, mayonnaise, and cream, but without the salt. Rodda's is the leading manufacturer in the UK. We found a few other brands, which differ markedly in color, gloss, texture, viscosity, and taste.

Lemon curd is a lemon-flavored spread like jam. We tried various brands, and they also vary considerably. We will search for clotted cream and lemon curd when we return home. We think they go nicely with plain scones. Fruity scones are too sweet for us.

sheepish trumpet

2017-10-10 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- Finding places to practice trumpet is easier in England than Belgium because in England we have a rental car. My routine for the last several days has been: park off highway A684 safely alongside a sheep farm, sit in the rear seat, roll up all windows, and practice trumpet.

Rain or shine, the sheep keep on grazing. Once or twice a day (certainly around noontime and sometimes in the late afternoon) they sit down to ruminate. I enjoy gazing at the sheep and landscape while I play scales.

Colored paint shows who owns the sheep. Stone walls keep sheep corralled. The stones are merely piled on top of each other. Sometimes walls crumble, as shown towards to the upper left of this picture. We talked to a farmer who owns 15 miles (24 kilometers) of wall. He said his walls need constant mending.

I brought my Queen Brass (OEM Carol Brass) Zorro student trumpet. When I'm careful, I point the leadpipe straight ahead, so that the valves and bell are offset to the left.

After scales I took a break by playing by ear the theme song for "
Astro Boy". Hmm, listening to my recording, the song sounds pitifully wailful. Where did his 100,000 horsepower go? Am I doomed to play soulful tunes?

wensleydale cheese

2017-10-10 HAWES, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We toured the Wensleydale cheese factory.


They have a comprehensive visitor center, starting with traditional tools for making cheese.

Wensleydale cheese is immortalized -- for me at least -- through
Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" series. I made my pilgrimage!

We got matching T-shirts. We chose a tea-themed design because we've been enjoying tea so much.

mount grace priory

2017-10-09 MOUNT GRACE PRIORY, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- We visited the ruins of a Carthusian priory. A priory is a place where monks or nuns live and work, and is smaller than a monastery or an abbey.

The Mount Grace priory was built in 1398 for Carthusian monks, named after the Latin name of Chartreuse (near Grenoble, France) where the austere order was founded.

Carthusian monks lived in individual houses called cells. Cells sound like jail cells or at best a room within a building, but at Carthusian priories including Mount Grace, each monk had a 2-story house with a substantial garden. The cell in the foreground is what remains of the original. The house behind the wall is a reconstruction that gives an idea of how large it was.

The monks met and prayed together, several times a day. But the monks did not talk, because they were vowed to silence. Other than for religious services, they would spend their days and nights in solitude.

Tiny openings in the walls allowed meals to be passed through while avoiding human contact.

The priory continued to expand, partly because the priory earned considerable income from its vast holdings of land, and partly because people paid to have mass offered for their deceased. The priory was abolished following the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. At that time religious institutions became the property of the king.

wensleydale ice cream

2017-10-01 THORNTON RUST, NORTH YORKSHIRE, UK -- A few houses down the street from our cottage in Thornton Rust is a dairy farm that makes ice cream.

As we walked past on our way back from a hike, we said hello to the owners. They showed us their jersey cows waiting to be milked.

We also saw calves (all girls) at 2, 4, and 6 weeks of age. The 2-week-old calf was calling her mother. The other girls were eager to eat.

We learned that over 30 years ago our rental cottage was a milking barn (a "cow 'us" in local talk) belonging to the dairy farm.

cat bells over derwent water

2017-10-05 KESWICK, CUMBRIA, UK -- We are staying for a week in the Lakes District, recommended by my cute cousin Satoko. Our cabin (a 1-year-old double-wide mobile home with fancy furnishings) is located about 20 kilometers north of Derwent Water, one of the lakes in the area.

Along a narrow twisty lakeside road, we miraculously found a place to park, and climbed a hill overlooking Derwent Water. In this area, lakes are often called water or mere.

When we left the car, we didn't plan to go all the way to the top. The trail began with a wheelchair sign. I thought it led to a viewpoint a hundred meters away.

We didn't know until halfway up the hill that this was none other than
Cat Bells, the most popular of all hills in the area. The name Cat Bells comes from an older word meaning lair or den of cats, presumably wildcats. Folk etymology may have altered the name in the direction of mice putting a bell on a cat.

The weather was gorgeous. Maybe I should say "absolutely smashing" like the local folk.

Derwent Water has 3 islands, formerly inhabited by religious hermits.

Near the summit, we talked with a gentleman enjoying portable operation on 2 meters. "Portable operation" is ham radio talk for bringing your radio on a hike.

The 360-degree panorama from the summit is outstanding. Cat Bells is essentially treeless.

hadrian's wall

2017-10-01 CORBRIDGE, NORTHUMBERLAND, UK -- The history of science and technology fascinates me, particularly feats of civil engineering and functional designs of architecture. We set off for Hardian's Wall (vallum aelium), Britain's equivalent of the Great Wall of China.

We visited the
Corbridge Roman Town, located towards the eastern end of the wall.

Roman forts were built following a standardized design, so knowing one example tells us a lot about the others. We can combine information from many examples of forts to reconstruct what a brand-new fort may have looked like.

Granaries, with ventilation channels beneath the floor to keep the grain dry. Bread was the staple of the Roman soldier. These granaries were built starting around 180 AD.

The fort and town were occupied for almost 500 years until control of the Roman empire ceased in the early 6th century. During that time the ground level rose.

Impressive water system. Here, fresh water is pooled in a tank via a decorative fountain, then distributed throughout the compound.

The buildings were originally flat. These undulations were caused by the settling of the earth beneath.

Roman soldiers came from all over the empire, and brought their religions with them. The Roman pantheon was huge to begin with, so adding a few hundred more was easily accomplished. The semicircular area at the far end of this room was probably an altar.

We visited other archaeological sites pertaining to Hadrian's Wall. At
Chesters Roman Fort, we viewed part of the wall itself.

The wall spanned a river (where it still flows today) as an arched bridge, and continued on the other bank. Part of the foundation of the bridge remains.

We joined
English Heritage so that we can visit as many sites as we like.

from rotterdam to hull

2017-09-29 ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS -- After bidding farewell to our Flanders friends, we boarded an overnight ferry from Rotterdam, Netherlands to Hull, UK.

The sister ships, the Pride of Hull and the Pride of Rotterdam (presumably named after the ferry company P&0 plus their ports of call), have an unusual deck design. Part of the vehicle decks are open. Not for wintry weather, I fear.

With so many people on the decks I was unable to practice my trumpet.


Dinner and breakfast were spectacular. A friendly lady offered to take our picture.

Our cabin 10413 was comfortably equipped with 2 single beds, sink, toilet, and shower. This is the 2nd-from-the-top level of accommodation on this vessel. Deck 10 (the deck we were on) is quiet. The other decks have shops and entertainment facilities.

Floor area and storage space were considerably less than other overnight ferries we have taken. My favorites remain
Taiheiyo Ferry's sister ships, the Ishikari and the Kiso.


2017-09-25 IEPER, BELGIË -- Ieper (Yepres in English) was the battleground for trench warfare during World War I, or (WOI wereld oorlog een) to people in Flanders.

Ieper gave the name to Yperite gas, because this was where
mustard gas was first used.

The battle raged almost exactly 100 years ago. Cavalry still rode horses. Bugles were serious means of communication.

Special trucks transported several dozen carrier pigeons at a time.

The signal corps adopted wired telegraph and, in some cases, wired telephone.

Our friend Mia encouraged us to visit the
Passchendaele Museum. She was right -- Passchendaele is better than the more famous In Flanders Fields Museum. The latter is easily accessible from the Ieper train station, and has a wonderful exhibit that is worth a serious visit. The Passchendaele museum offers more direct and comprehensive appreciation of the trenches, particularly how they evolved over time.

Passchendaele let us tour a real tunnel that was recently discovered beneath a church. This is a temporary exhibit that is open until Armistice Day of this year (2017-11-11). The corridors are filled with water that need to be constantly pumped out. During trench warfare, soldiers manned the pumps. I would not last 5 days in these conditions.

We walked to the
Tyne Cot memorial to pay our respects. Many headstones mark unknown soldiers who are, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, Known Unto God.

We attended
the Last Post ceremony at 20:00 at Menin Gate. Tonight's ceremony was conducted by the Australian military. Our friend Mia is a loyal supporter of the Last Post Association.


2017-09-23 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- Today on the autumnal equinox we had terrific weather. Bright, sunny, wind calm, mild temperature, dry -- could not be more perfect.

We visited
the Water-Rant event. Yesterday we visited Fons and his pals setting up their lighthouse ship for visitors. Today was the 2nd day of the event and the 1st day of receiving real visitors.

We have never seen the dock so packed. Masts and flags filled the sky. MAS (the museum in the background) was almost hidden from view.

Pleasure craft from all over the area, some from France, many from Holland.

Former working vessels lovingly maintained or restored. The ships in this photo are tugboats. The one on the left (moored dockside) is the winner of the tugboat of the year award for 2015. The middle won the same award in 2017.

A seaman's choir belted out nautical tunes in several languages.

Food, food, food. They said they would attempt to create a Guinness world record for the world's largest dining table serving mosselen (mussels).

Of course we visited the West-Hinder 3, the lighthouse ship so dearly loved by our friend Fons and his buddies. For our first time we visited the bridge. The picture is from the port side.

The Westhinder-3's radio callsign was ORBD until she was decommissioned. Ships have 4-letter all-alphabet callsigns. If her role was similar to USA Coast Guard shore stations then the Westhinder must have processed a lot of traffic. In an attempt to honor her radio heritage, I demonstrated my poor fist on a straight key. This is radio talk meaning that I produced low-quality morse code messages using a telegraph key with 1 electrical contact. Some telegraph keys have 2 contacts, 1 for dots (.) and 1 for dashes (_). I received an official key holder for my effort. Glad I learned CW! CW is radio talk for morse code.

We visited a floating museum. Retired barges house exhibits and a café. There is a barge in the lower foreground of this picture. Barges have bridges and rudders but no engines or sails. Barges are towed by tugboats. (Did you know that towboats are boats that push barges from behind? Tugboats pull from ahead.)

The inside is chock full of barge and tugboat photographs, models, memorabilia, and training material. An elderly gentleman (in outstanding physical shape) from southern France explained to me how tugboats have towing cables for each barge behind them so that they can pass bends and curves, and how small boats that were shops on water would come up to tugboats and barges to sell food and drink. Oh I learned so much today! We talked in 3 languages because he preferred French, Dutch, and English in that order, which is the opposite of mine. I had a French language workout.

middelheim park

2017-09-20 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We walked a total of 16 kilometers today to visit and stroll through Middelheim park.

Middelheim park is an open air art museum. Avant garde sculptures are placed throughout the grounds. Entrance is free!

This sailing ship diving into the water may well be the most iconic sculpture in the park. The artist calls it "misconception", I believe. I prefer to call it "let's play".

Beautiful day! Yet the locals are wearing jackets. It's chilly in the shade. 10 C or below.

The trees are a mix of late summer and early autumn.

I never saw so many acorns and chestnuts.

Like good Belgians, we had sandwiches on
the terrace of the Mi-ka café.


2017-09-19 LEUVEN, BELGIË -- We visited KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven).

Leuven is less than an hour away by train, about the same distance as Brussels. There are 2 routes for the trains -- industrial and countryside. We took the latter in the morning. Cattle, sheep, cornfields. See line 16 on
the train network map.

Striving to become Belgians, we had a nice ontbijt (breakfast) at
a bakery celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Plenty of choices! This picture shows about 20 percent.

We had pizza bread (with bolognese sauce) and an apple-filled pastry. In Belgium, drinks come with snacks. Usually cookies, but because this is a bakery we got rolls.

Our cheerful friend and colleague Akiko, who studied at KULeuven, recommended the Begijnhof. In Leuven there are 2 begijnhoven (this is the plural form): groot (large), now student and faculty housing for KULeuven, and klein (small), now private housing. Groot was naturally our first destination.

A begijnhof is an enclosed compound where pious women lived and worked during the middle ages. Begijnhoven were common in the Netherlands and Flanders.

Begijnhoven were not nunneries. The women were not nuns, although depending on the begijnhof they might be called sisters in the sense of devout individuals living in a community, as opposed to clerics led by a mother superior. An example of a begijnhof with sisters is
the begijnhof in Antwerp. Their last member, Sister Virginie, passed away in 1986.

The tiniest spots are adorned with the female figures, such as the Virgin Mary, saints or sisters.

Detail of above photograph.

Many people live here. Hidden from view is an astounding number of bicycles.

Like the good Belgians we want to be, we took a break in the Oude Markt (old market).

Een pintje (a pint) of Stella Artois, the beer of the city.

The Stella Artois factory is relocating from inside of the city to the outside. The immense old factory (it's too large to be called a brewery, I feel) is being demolished and converted into attractive housing for students and the elderly.

I hope the project works. I am concerned that the high rate of turnover among residents might fail to create a sense of neighborhood. That said, I would love to live in any of these fancy new apartments. "Monaco on water" is how 2 local gentlemen described it. "Exclusive, eh?"

The KULeuven library. It was destroyed during World War I, and rebuilt in 1925 with donations from the USA. At least 1 nearby street is named after a notable American.

The square facing the library was hosting a traveling amusement park. Like good Belgians we stopped at a café. Noriko had soup and bread. I had Hasselt coffee for the first time. This warm drink is sweet coffee and
jenever (Dutch gin, originating in the city of Hasselt). It tastes something like Kahlua. I love it!

After a long day (including a visit to the bookstore) we returned to (may I dare say voluptuous) Leuven train station. I estimate that the express traveled some sections at over 160 kilometers per hour.

vlaamse havendag

2017-09-17 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- The port authority of Antwerp held an open house.

This is
the Mexicobrug (Mexico bridge), part of my morning running course.

For the 1st time we visited to
the church ship Sint Jozef, permanently moored next to the Mexicobrug.170917_P1600548

The Sint Jozef has a small chapel, a restaurant, and a large chapel. All rooms are richly decorated with nautical memorabilia, such as name plates or bells from ships. The seats in the restaurant can be arranged to face the altar of the large chapel, so that the altar is sandwiched between 2 seating areas for the congregation. The picture below shows restaurant seating towards the upper left, and large chapel seating towards the lower right. The ceiling is curved because it forms the deck.

We visited
the newly expanded Havenhuis (harbor house). This is also part of my morning run. When we lived in Antwerp in 2009, only the lower old part of the building existed. The top new half is 1 year old today. The new harbor house was designed by Zaha Hadid, who submitted a design for the Tokyo olympic games that was rejected due to high construction cost estimates.

Along with hundreds of other well-wishers, we wrote Happy Birthday on a shipping container.

I have never seen so many people at the Havenhuis. In fact I have never seen more than 2 people outside the building. When I ran by in the past, it was completely deserted. No cars, no bicycles, no ships, no tents, no snack stands, no portable toilets, no bandstand for live rock. Wow! Where did all these people come from?

Passersby love to see how we love Kero.

Siberiabrug (Siberia bridge), located at the north end of the Havenhuis, consists of 2 bridges placed side by side.

The Belgian navy gave tours of their ship. Contestants climbed a wall and dived into the water.

The weather was fantastic for early fall in Flanders. After coming home, I sat on our sunny balcony and practiced trumpet with a mute attached for silencing the dreadful noise. So far no complaints.


2017-09-16 ANTWERPEN, BELGIË -- We watched fireworks from our apartment.

Starting this year, the city of Antwerp is holding a fireworks competition. Each Saturday and Sunday night starting at 22:00, 2 teams shoot up fireworks. The top 3 are invited for a 2nd round of fireworks on 2017-09-15. Tonight, the grand champion showed off their skills.

We had a nice view from our apartment. A high-rise building in 't eilandje blocked part of the fun but not by much. No crowds, no noise, no cigarette smoke. Just us in our cozy living room. What a treat!

train world

2017-09-15 SCHAARBEEK, BELGIË -- We visited the brand new Train World museum, located 1 station north of Brussels-Nord, for a day of nostalgia and awe.

Schaarbeek train station is one of the oldest in the country. Belgian train service began only a few years after Belgium became an independent country in 1830. Rolling stock imported from Britain connected Schaarbeek and Mechelen to the north.

The platforms at the station start at the number 3. Platforms 1 and 2 are located within the museum. Outside the museum, there are tram lines connecting the neighborhood to Brussels.

The museum exhibits the building itself, and the history of Belgian rail service with respect to personnel, rolling stock, track, and technology.

An example of railway history is shown in the photo below. Mechelen station was considered the origin (kilometer post 0) of the Belgian railway system. A monument was erected at the 0 point. Many years later, the post was removed for construction work. They discovered a long-forgotten box buried underneath. The original railway people had placed items supposed to bring good luck.

The museum interior is unusually dark. The dim lights add romantic drama. As an engineer, I am more interested in clearly seeing mechanics.

Kero the train engineer. Try as I might, I could not make heads or tails of the steam locomotive's controls.

Posters and sales brochures from yesteryear.

The dining car of the Orient Express, a brilliant sales idea by the Belgians.

Hergé illustrated brochures for the railways.