Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Kayaks – Purchase or Rent?

Does the fun and ownership justify the purchase price? We have been kayaking three times now and love the sport but are finding it hard to decide whether to purchase or continue renting? Equipment providers such as Grand Lake Sports (in Grand Lake Village and Mountain Sports Kayak School (in Steamboat Springs on the top floor of the Conoco/Ski Haus building on Hwy 40 and Pine Grove Road) make in painless and simple to rent for about $55 per day. The purchase price depending on type of kayak you choose is somewhere between $350 and $1000 plus say $400 for a roof rack, so you can see you can rent for up to 25 days before the purchase option breaks even.

Another factor to consider is the relatively short window of opportunity for using kayaks in Colorado – just four months from June to September; and of course during these prime months, there are always other activities such as cycling, swimming and tennis to fit into the and around the kayaking plans! I do believe I have just talked myself into renting – at least for another year!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Legend of St. Botolph’s Church, Hadstock

Besides being one of the most beautiful churches in the area, the church of St. Botolph, in Essex, England, has been the focus of a legend for centuries. The legend was that of a Dane who had committed sacrilege was flayed alive and his skin was nailed to the door of the church. Some years ago, when the door was removed for renovations, human skin was found under one of the hinges on the ancient door. The skin was carefully removed, tested and determined to be human, so perhaps there was some truth to the legend! The skin is currently exhibited at the Saffron Walden Museum, Saffron Walden.

Read more starting on page 68 in my book Extraordinary Places...Close to London available from Amazon or contact me directly via email.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ancient Traditions

Inside the pages of Tradition you’ll be delighted to find answers to age old questions regarding customs, traditions, myths and legends. The quarterly magazine is published in England and is devoted entirely to the ancient rituals and crafts of bygone days. The editor presents them to the reader in an interesting and thought provoking manner and states “we are peeling back the layers of modern society to reveal some of the ancient traditions lying just beneath the surface.”

Many of the myths, nursery rhymes and legends were brought to America and some have changed over the years to provide a softer, more politically correct version. For instance, the last line of the nursery rhyme Ring a Ring of Roses has been changed to all fall down instead of the all fall dead that I used to sing as a child.

Tradition magazine offers the reader anything and everything from witches’ customs to folk medicine, crafts and costumes and is well worth investigating.

Visit the Traditions web site here

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Addiction to Wood

“I was angry at the world and if it hadn’t been for my grandfather and his friends…I don’t know what would have happened to me. They showed an interest in me and gave me a copy of Popular Science to read. At the age of 12 years, I bought my first lathe – it was an awaking for me and began my love of carpentry,” said Jim, a native of Greeley, Colorado.

“I love wood and the more exotic the better! Pink Ivory, Macassar Ebony, Purple Heart and Snake Wood can all be found in my workshop” Jim said with a smile. There’s nothing ordinary about Jim’s masterpieces or his passion for wood. “I admit to having an addiction to wood and tools and will purchase a piece of wood without the slightest idea how to use it,” he said.

Jim prefers the exotic and rare woods although they are difficult if not impossible to find at times. According to Jim, several years ago an unusual event took place. A shipment of Pink Ivory and Ebony was sold on the open market. A resourceful game hunter from Colorado visiting Africa heard the plans for a new reservoir. Knowing the value of the trees, and being a keen businessman, he purchased a truckload and shipped it immediately to the United States.

The news of the sale spread quickly to the various societies and clubs causing grown men to race to their trucks in anticipation of the purchase. It hadn’t always been so; pink ivory was such an expensive and negotiable commodity during the 1920s that sections were treated like negotiable bonds. This rare and sacred tree growing in the provinces of Transvaal and Natal in South Africa has been strictly controlled by the Zulu nation for centuries. Traditionally, only the chief can fell a tree; the penalty for unauthorized felling is swift and severe, sometimes death. It is a deciduous tree with a spreading crown and varies in height from under twenty feet to over fifty feet. The boles are usually seven to nine inches in quarter girth. It is hard and heavy; when air-dried the weight is 62lb per cu. ft. The fine, delicate pink hue in the wood is derived from the minerals and deposits in the soil. Controlled by the Zulu nation and usually impossible to acquire the shipment of pink ivory was sold for approximately $2 an ounce. Jim still has some small pieces of pink ivory from this shipment and has been known to collect the sawdust, mix it with a compound and use it on another project.

Over the years, Jim has designed and created many beautiful works of art. As a member of the International Wood Collectors’ Society, he constantly looks for rare or unique wood. He has noticed that women in particular have an affinity with Purple Heart, a vibrant and lively wood from Brazil and Central America and will ask for it to be used in their consignment. Jim frequently favors the almost stark white of the English Holly contrasting it with one of the Ebonies or an African Blackwood. “I rarely use a stain, unless requested by the customer; a beautiful piece of wood finished properly shouldn’t require much else.”