My Sunday Photo – November 4th, 2018.

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We had a rather damp end to October in Norfolk but you know what that means? Lots of lovely rainbows.

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Despite the weather, we decided to head to Overstrand last weekend and were treated to some wonderful sights between showers. I was desperately trying to get a photo of Freya with a full rainbow but just as it appeared about 12 people arrived on the otherwise empty beach. Typical.

She enjoyed herself splashing in the tidal pool instead.

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It was quite windy and we got attacked by sea foam at one point.

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Hope you’ve had a good week and a bright start to November.

To see what other people have shared for My Sunday Photo, please click on the camera below. Darren has announced that the linky will be finishing at the end of 2018 so we better make the most of it while we can. A big thank you to him for hosting for so long, I’ve loved taking part.

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A Visit To The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.

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It is one of those ‘getting to know you’ questions that sometimes gets asked at parties: “If you could go back in time, what period would you most like to visit?”

I always say early 1800s England, purely because I’d like to live in the Big House, wear expensive flouncy dresses and be called Lady Tara. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Knowing my luck, I’d more likely be a servant girl, sent upstairs at 4am every day to clean and set the fires.

Anyway, never did I think I would actually get chance to step back in time but that’s exactly what it felt like visiting the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley.

The first thing I saw was a beautiful old bus trundling its way along the road followed by two ladies in long skirts, hats and knitted shawls walking down a street dotted with old houses to explore.

I was enchanted from the word go (as was my camera).

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I always expected to like it. My lovely mother-in-law works at the museum – although she enjoys it so much I’m not sure it can be classed as work. Whenever she talks about it she always has a big smile on her face. She’s like a walking, talking advert. During our visit west this summer, she offered to show us around and we got to see exactly why she loves it so much.

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How did the Black Country get its name?

It’s not the most romantic tale. It dates back to the 1830s when the region became the “first industrial landscape in the world”.

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While Britain had other industrial centres, none were so extensive as the Black Country, an area rich in coal, ironstone, limestone and fireclay. It “played a vital role in the nation’s industrial history”.

Once upon a time the air would have been black with smoke belching from thousands of forges, furnaces and foundries  – hence the name.

In the mid 19thcentury, 22% of Britain’s total output of iron was produced in the area. As a hint at its importance, according to the museum guidebook (well worth the money), Black Country manufacturers supplied “the cast-iron pillars and glass of the Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, made the anchors of some of Britain’s most famous ships” including the Titantic. “…and in 1829 supplied the United States with its first ever steam locomotive”.

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So, where is the Black Country exactly?

Before I met Mark, I had no idea there was such a thing as the Black Country but one day I described him as ‘Brummie’ and my education began. As I understand it, a Brummie is someone from Birmingham. The Black Country is very different (it even includes its own dialect and vocabulary). What’s slightly confusing is there doesn’t seem to be a definitive boundary. According to the museum guidebook (again) it includes about 20 towns, including West Bromwich, where Mark was born. And they are rightly proud of their heritage.

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And the museum?

In the 1960s manufacturing dwindled, the once bustling canals were deserted and railways closed. A more modern landscape started to take its place with new houses, shopping malls and hotels. During this period of change, the idea for a museum to protect and promote the region’s heritage was mooted.

In the 1970s a site was secured for an open air “living museum preserving skills with the buildings and the artefacts demonstrated by costumed demonstrators”. It opened in 1978 and now comprises 26 acres and features some 80,000 items in the collections including cars, buildings, books and photographs from the 1800s to the 1940s.

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What’s there?

So, SO much. Too much to put into one blog post but here’s a sample.

Together with costumed characters to chat to, there are original shops and houses to explore. If you’re brave enough (and not claustrophobic like me) you can even go underground and visit the drift mine. There’s also a fairground with traditional attractions and St James’s School, where you can ‘enjoy’ an old fashioned lesson.

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I love learning new things and visiting the reconstructed Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute was fascinating.

In the 19th Century, the Black Country, and particularly the Cradley Health area, became well-known for its chain making, with smaller chains made by women and children. They worked extremely long hours, often in horrendous conditions for very little money, meaning they were forced to live in poverty.

The Trade Boards Act of 1909 passed a minimum wage in four low paid trades, including chain making, but employers tried to find ways to avoid paying the money, which for some women was double what they earned.

In response the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW), led by Mary Macarthur, a Scottish suffragist and trades unionist, called for a strike in 1910. The women downed tools to fight for their right to a living wage.

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With the help of mass meetings and the media, the strike became big news. Donations for the cause poured in from all sections of society. Within a month 60% of employers had signed up to the scheme and within 10 weeks they all had. The women fought and won.

As there was a surplus of funds, the excess money was used to build the workers’ institute, which became a centre for educational meetings, social gatherings and trade union activities in Cradley Heath.

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In 2004 the building was threatened with demolition and the museum was approached to save it. It was taken down and reconstructed with its original interior layout, which now contains offices, a news room and a cafe.

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Is that it?

No way. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a pub, cake shop, sweet shop and very popular 1930s fish and chip shop (the chips are normally cooked in beef dripping so make sure you talk to staff if you’re vegetarian to see about alternative options).

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If you get tired of walking you can even catch one of the old buses. Freya liked it so much that we had to go around twice.

What did you like?

Everything. I’m not even kidding (as you can probably tell by the number of photos). There’s so much to see and do. But the museum is much more than a nostalgic look back at the past. While everything is neat and clean now, the life back then isn’t glamorised. Living and working in this period was hard and often dangerous and that aspect is covered.

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How can I find out more?

I’m sharing this post now because I know some schools are on half-term this week. If you’re looking for something to do in the West Midlands, I highly recommend this museum. Please visit their website to find out more.

Top tip: Cut through the tunnel next to Preedy’s and you can visit a late 1930s kitchen plus head upstairs to see more period rooms.

Come on then, if you could go back in time, what period would you like to visit?

CulturedKids
Faraway Files - Untold Morsels

Entertaining Young Children On A long Car Journey – Travel Doodles Review.

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Quite a few of my sentences now seem to start with the words ‘when I was young…’, which prompted Freya to ask what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

It was tempting to make up stories about having a pet tyrannosaurus but I had to admit that while I’m old, I’m not that old.

One of the most recent times I have said it was after Mark suggested getting a few things to entertain Freya on our long car journey west.

“When I was young we played endless games of eye spy or just sat quietly and enjoyed the scenery,” I said, forgetting that I am now the parent and had a three plus hour journey ahead of me sat in the back with her.

I’m pretty sure, as my parents will tell you, that I never actually sat quietly either – and Freya seems to have inherited that…skill. Usually when we go to Ipswich, an hour away, she’s asked ‘are we there yet?’ before we’ve even left Norwich. In the end I figured having something to entertain her with wasn’t a bad idea.

Mark gathered together a few little bits and every hour or so, usually midway between comfort breaks, I got one out of the bag.

The best one (or at least the one she played with the most) was the wipe-clean Travel Doodles pack from Usborne.

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She had lots of fun drawing faces on people, completing puzzles and designing outfits.

There are more than 100 doodles on the double-sided cards and then obviously you can wipe off and start again.

She played with the cards for more than an hour and now, even when we pop to the shops, she likes to get one out and doodle.

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It says not suitable for children under 36 months and some of the doodle suggestions are more difficult than others. Freya (at four/nearly five) could do the majority of them but there is room to grow too.

When I got home I looked them up and apparently they have other sets, including a general holiday one and 50 Things To Do On A Plane. I’d definitely consider them, if we go anywhere else.

We did play a few games of eye spy, which was interesting as she’s just learning to spell, and counted different colour cars and there was also time to just sit and take in the scenery but I think having a few extra things certainly made the journey more pleasant.

What’s your stance on entertaining children on long journeys?

Note: I’m not being paid to write about the Travel Doodles, I just really liked the cards and thought I’d recommend them in case you have a long car journey coming up.