The Bristol knittivity

Knitted figures at night by the Clifton Suspension bridge

The Bristol Knittivity

Life size knitted nativity figures ~ Bristol knittivity in Sainsbury's
These life size nativity figures have raised over £150,000 for a local hospice

The Bristol knittivity has become a familiar sight  in shopping centres around Bristol just before Christmas. However I thought you might be interested in the story behind its creation.   A few years ago a group of friends who worked at St. Teresa’s catholic school in Horfield, Bristol started a knitting group called the knutty knitters. When Christine, one of the group became ill with cancer and  sadly died  her friends decided to do something to raise funds for St. Peter’s hospice where she had spent her last weeks. St. Peter’s hospice is the only adult hospice in Bristol and each year they care for about 2,500 patients. Care is provided free of charge but the hospice costs about £20,000 a day to run. About £15,000 of this comes from legacies, donations and shop purchases.

The ladies decided to use their hobby to raise funds and the Bristol knittivity was the result.  Eventually the seven knutty knitters made 13 figures, 3 kings, 2 shepherds, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, a donkey, a sheep, a lamb and a camel. Each figure used up to 7 lbs of wool and took about 9 months to knit. The talented ladies even made their own patterns.

Each year St. Peter’s hospice choose the figures for one of their charity Christmas cards and  photograph them against a famous Bristol landmark  like the Clifton suspension bridge or the Cabot tower.

Knitted figures at night by the Clifton Suspension bridge # Bristol knittivity
The Knittivity by the Clifton Suspension bridge was a best seller for St. Peter’s hospice a couple of years ago.

The future

The knutty knitters have raised over £150,000 from the knitivity but unfortunately this will be the last year it will be on display as it is getting old and worn. In my photo taken in a local supermarket  the poor donkey and camel are showing the effects of too many children trying to ride them. The knutty knitters have knitted a smaller version of the nativity for display at St. Peter’s hospice and I have heard that there may be knitted penguins on tour next year.

Buy this year’s knittivity card

For those people who are old enough to remember the two Ronnies sketch, my favourite card from St. Peter’s hospice this year has to be Four candles

This post is linked to The grand social for blogging grandparents

 

Celebrating new year in Linz, Austria

Pastry hearts with a jam filling

Two years ago we celebrated New Year in Linz, Austria. Our daughter who teaches  English as a foreign language had secured a  three month volunteer placement with the Austrian bilingual classroom project (ABC)  and we offered to help with her luggage.  The bilingual classroom project was set up so that village schools could have visits from native English speaking teachers. It gave my daughter  the opportunity to spend three months travelling to village schools throughout upper Austria and she met a large number of Austrian children. She was also able to obtain a CELTA P qualification to teach English to primary school children.

We celebrated Christmas with the rest of our family including a new grandson  in Bristol.  once we had digested the turkey and Christmas pudding we flew from Bristol airport to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Linz. Linz airport  has the rather romantic name of the Blue Danube airport. We rented a flat for a few days in Linz.  I had previously visited the Tyrol and Vienna  in Austria over fifty years ago as a child but although Linz is the third biggest city in Austria. I knew very little about it.

A map of Austria showing Linz on the Danube
Linz is close to the Czech border

It is located in upper Austria close to the Czech border straddling the Danube. It has a distinctly eastern European feel with a well preserved old town. Public transport is very good. We caught the trams which were clean, reasonable and ran on time despite the weather.

A rainy street with christmas lights
Commuters going home through the rain. Note the tramlines and Christmas decorations.  photo Angela Fraser

I was surprised how cold it was. It was raining when we arrived but this soon turned to snow.  In German New year’s eve is known as Silvester Nacht after Saint Sylvester. In Austria, particularly in Vienna there are lots of Sylvester celebrations with balls and concerts.  We did not make it into the centre but we did hear and see a lot of fireworks. I was  also surprised  how many gardens were decorated with gnomes and other Christmas figures.

Sightseeing

The highlight of our trip was  taking the Postlingberg tram up to the top of a snow covered hill.  The Postlingberg Bahn  leaves from the main square and climbs up the Postlingberg  through woodland to give great views over the city. The return fare is a very reasonable 6 Euros 50 and it is used by locals and tourists. At the top is an interesting church and also more unexpectedly a grotto trail with life size gnomes and dwarves.

We also visited the castle museum and had lunch in the restaurant which overlooks the Danube.  The castle museum had a lot of interesting displays about German history and technology though the information was only in German. When we were there they had a special exhibition of Austrian nativity scenes. These can be enormous and depict an entire village.

Life size wooden nativity figures in the snow
A wooden nativity scene photo Angela Fraser
This shows the Danube in the snow
The grey Danube

In 2009 Linz was the European capital of culture and it has a rooftop sculpture trail, a large modern  art gallery and an electric arts museum.

Food and drink

Austria is famous for its coffee shops which also serve delicious cakes. The people of Linz claim that Linzertorte  is one of the oldest cake recipes in Europe. Normally the top has a pastry lattice but at Christmas special shapes are cut. The food in the restaurants had a very Eastern European feel with a lot of meat, root vegetables and dumplings.  Hearty fare ideal for a cold winter.  You can also eat in a large variety of international restaurants.  Austria and Czechia have the highest beer consumption in Europe.

Pastry hearts with a jam filling
Linz hearts

Going home

It  snowed heavily the night before we were due to leave Linz. Luckily our taxi driver got us to the airport in good time but we had to wait for four snow ploughs to clear the runway before our plane could take off. Lufthansa gave all the passengers a bar of chocolate when we got on the plane to thank them for their patience.

 

 

Why do we need multilingual technical manuals?

A workman consulting a manual
I wish I could understand the manual

My background

I have always loved learning languages and I studied French and German as subsidiary subjects at university.  However  my first real job when I left college was as a technician in a metallurgical laboratory in a large engineering works. The laboratory was headed by a formidable female Russian engineer.  A lot of the equipment we bought came from Germany and we would often struggle to understand the manuals even when they had been translated into English.

The firm was not large enough to have its own translation department so we would also  be asked for help by other departments who had bought equipment from abroad and  were struggling to understand the technical manuals that came with it. Sometimes these manuals would also have very poor and difficult to understand illustrations.  The text in the pictures might be different from the text on the page leaving everyone baffled. The photos might show buttons with the name still in the original language. We found that staff were often reluctant to be the first  to use the new machine in case they damaged it.  If they were unable to understand the manual because it had been badly translated or not translated at all it obviously increased their risk of injury.

Getting the right manual

When you buy a piece of equipment which costs several thousand pounds it is important that it comes with a manual that is accurate and easy to understand. If it has been translated the translator should understand the technical side of what they are translating and know the specialist vocabulary. He or she also  needs to be able to write in a way that sounds natural and is enjoyable to read. If the manual has been translated into English it is important to think that the person using the equipment may not have English as a first language and  even if they do they may not be familiar with obscure technical vocabulary. The quality of  technical documentation can help determine if the equipment will be used properly and looked after correctly. If a product has a good easy to understand and attractively presented manual the buyer is far more likely to consider purchasing further equipment from the same manufacturer. At a trade show abroad a sales representative would find it easier to deal with enquiries if he is able to show a potential customer a clear well laid out manual in his mother tongue,

Manuals in everyday life.

Nowadays  I enjoy travelling and we usually stay in a rented apartment. I have found it can be difficult trying to use a cooker or washing machine if for example  the user manual or other technical documentation  is only in German or Spanish. If user friendly multilingual manuals came as standard with household goods, I am sure that guests would  be less likely to damage themselves or the property. My daughter   who is teaching English in Prague in Czechia has even had to contend with classroom equipment with manuals in Czech. In an ideal world all equipment would come with multilingual manuals

Although English is rapidly becoming the main world language many people who speak English as a second language lack the  vocabulary needed to understand a technical manual and would prefer a manual written in their mother tongue with familiar illustrations. This would give them the confidence to use the piece of equipment properly. I think it also shows that a company is going the extra mile if they provide a well thought out manual in the local language.

Have you had problems understanding a manual when you have tried to use a piece of equipment you have bought?  Did you struggle to use the washing machine when you were renting abroad.?  I would love to hear your stories in the comments below. Perhaps we can help persuade firms to provide instructions that are clear, simple and easy to understand.

(collaborative post)

A day out in Wells

The photo shows a pair of swans with seven small cygnets

Sightseeing in Wells, England’s smallest city

Anyone who is following this blog knows that I earn some pocket money by mystery shopping.  Last week I was asked to go to Wells to buy some chocolate  ice cream. My husband came with me and we had a good lunch at the Quarter Jack and visited the first world war exhibition in the museum.  We both love Wells so I have written a few notes and taken some photos to encourage you to visit.

Wells is England’s smallest city with only 12,000 inhabitants. It is a very easy bus ride from Bristol or Bath across the Mendips hills. You can also combine a visit to Wells with a trip to Glastonbury, home of the music festival, the Clark’s shopping village in Street or Cheddar caves.  The tourist office has a town trail map and this provides  a  short walking tour of the main attractions.  Wells takes its name from a spring in the garden of the bishop’s palace and water from it is still made to flow through the gutters to clean the streets.  The Wells tourist website has more information about the city and its history.

The Cathedral

Wells_Cathedral_2008

Wells is probably best known for its enormous gothic cathedral built between the 12th and the 15th century.  It has one of the oldest clocks in England and a chained library.  (Think Harry Potter).  Admission is by donation and free guided tours are offered every day except Sunday.  The city has a famous choir school and choristers sing at many of the services. Also be sure to look out for the resident cathedral cat.  More information can be found here Wells cathedral website

The Bishop’s Palace

Men playing croquet in front of the bishop's palace Wells
A croquet match in progress on the lawn in front of the bishop’s palace

The bishop’s palace is next to the cathedral and is famous for having its own moat which is home to a family of Swans.  For centuries they have rung a bell when they need feeding.  Once a year the bishop holds a raft race on the moat.  Wells has adopted the swan as its emblem.  The palace has been home to the bishop of Bath and Wells for 800 years.  It also has a beautiful 14 acre garden  and a tea shop I can personally recommend.  You can buy tickets from the gift shop.    Bishop’s palace website

The photo shows a pair of swans with seven small cygnets
This was the Swan family on the moat taken a couple of years ago.

The cathedral close

This is a beautifully preserved street originally used to house officials from the church.  The houses date back to the 14th century and the street is still cobbled.

Terrace houses with high chimneys from the cathedral close in Wells
This shows part of the cathedral close in Wells

The last fighting Tommy

Outside the museum is a memorial to Harry Patch the last surviving soldier from world war 1.  He died in 2009 at the age of 111 and his funeral in Wells cathedral was televised by the BBC.  In later life he became a very fervent pacifist.

The photo shows a soldier sitting in a trench
Wells museum has an exhibition to mark 100 years since the end of the first world war.  I took this photo of a Tommy sitting in a trench.

Eating, drinking and shopping

Wells has a very busy high street with a variety of shops  coffee bars and restaurants to suit all budgets. A farmers market is held twice a week where you can buy a wide variety of West country delicacies including cheddar cheese and Somerset cider. We normally eat in the Quarter Jack (named for the figures who strike the quarter hours on the cathedral clock) which I can recommend for a reasonably priced meal.

If you want to find out more about Wells, Cathedrals or Harry Patch.  Here are three books I recommend.  If you are staying in the area you might want to check out a couple of my other blog posts: Two national trust properties to visit near Bath or Westonbirt Arboretum

 

 

Visiting the Alhambra

An Islamic arch

 

 

Gateway to the Alhambra photograph Richard Fraser

The Alhambra is one of the most visited monuments in Spain.  It is probably the main reason  why most people visit Granada and it has certainly been on my bucket list for quite while. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

So when my son said he would like to visit it I was keen to join him.  We had been advised to book tickets online before we flew to Spain  to save time.   I was surprised how reasonable ticket prices were at between seven and fifteen  Euros each.  We also booked an English tour and we were very pleased we did.  Our guide actually had an M.A. in Islamic studies and was able to translate the classical Arabic inscriptions which decorate the walls. We were given headsets which enabled us to hear her clearly.

Click here to book tickets up to three months in advance

If you are visiting the Alhambra you will need to show your passport or identity card.  We caught the bus from Malaga which took about two hours and then took a taxi to the Alhambra.  I am lucky that my son speaks Spanish and was able to act as our interpreter.

The Alhambra was built between the 11th and 15th century during the Moorish occupation of Spain. The name means the red one and reflects the colour of the local clay. I had not realised quite how big it is.  It is a fortress and palace complex covering  35 acres. It was once home to several thousand people including a sizable Jewish population.  We did a three hour walking tour and my pedometer recorded almost twenty thousand steps.  Yet I still felt I had only seen a small part of it.

This shows the layout of the soldier's quaters
The remains of houses for the soldiers. The modern city of Granada is in the background. photograph Richard Fraser

The complex evolved organically over time but most of the palaces were built in the 14th century by the Nasrid dynasty.  In 1492 the Moslems were defeated by king Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and the Alhambra fell into disrepair. Now Ferdinand and Isabella are probably best known for backing Columbus’s voyage to America and for historians 1492 marks the end of the middle ages.

Looking out through an Islamic window in the Alhambra
A window with Islamic arch and decorated plasterwork

Our ticket did not include the Nazerini palaces but did include the Generalife gardens. The Generalife palace was used as a summer palace and the gardens are planted with fragrant roses, oranges and jasmine. Like most Arabic gardens they are filled with pools and gentle fountains. Water was suppled by a five mile conduit from the local river.

Garden showing a pool and low hedge.
The Gardens of the Generalife palace. photograph Richard Fraser

The Alhambra is on top of a steep hill and we walked through pine woods to reach the top. Although it is in southern Spain it was quite windy and cold at the top and I wished I had worn a coat.

The site has cafes and souvenir shops and for the less adventurous a car and coach park near the entrance.

You can see the White walls and redish brown roofs of Granada
The modern city of Granada seen from the Alhambra

This post follows on from Half term in Malaga