Sojourn in Denmark brings surprises and delights

Andrea denmark gjol house large

Your correspondent and his spouse spent a wonderful two weeks in Denmark in May, most of it on a "workaway" vacation with a lovely family in the countryside near Gjøl, a small town on the northern coast of the Limfjord on the peninsula of northern Jutland. We have had a longstanding interest in visiting Scandinavia but confess that  two years of being hooked on the Danish television political drama "Borgen" piqued our particular interest in Denmark. It was no surprise that your correspondent didn't accidentally run into Sidse Babett Knudsen who played Denmark's first female prime minister Birgitte Nyborg nor Pilou Asbæk  who played Kasper Juul, a spin doctor, in the seriews. After all, your correspondent was  painting a 200 year old stone barn across the water and quite a ways from  Borgen (the Castle) as the Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Government in Copenhagen, Zeeland, is known, not that the actors who likely now have international reach would be hanging out at Borgen anyway! Politics came up  in this interview with a  Vigo  (a play on "we go"?) rideshare driver from Romania who was sympathetic with the truck drivers who were on strike and staging blockades (but not along our route to the airport for our flight back home) in a protest against government policy. But it is culture, history and nature that figure prominently into your correspondent's documentation of this beautiful, dynamic land of 6 million people, three quarters the population of New York City.  We are grateful to all our hosts, everyone who helped us find our way and all the people of Denmark. See some documentation below.

VIDEOS HERE

PHOTOS HERE

 Denmark May 2023

INSTAGRAM REELS HERE


How Bermudians speak English

On a six day visit to Bermuda, your correspondent became intrigued by the variety of accents.

On a ferry ride, a very zippy jet-powered ferry from Hamilton to the Royal Navy Dockyard, an elder ferry worker referred to his proper yet distinctive accent as “British Bermudian.” He distinguished it from the Queen's English and from a West Indian accent. Tongue-in-cheek, he attributed British Bermudian to the temperate sea breezes on the island, warmer than England and cooler than the West Indies.

Jean-Marie runs a “garden inn’ in Southampton and although our timing didn’t work out to stay there, we visited! She has a lilting accent from (warmer) Antigua. She married and settled with a Bermudian and settled here, but goes back to Antigua every year. A garden tour included the greenhouses full of smal,l green poinsettias which she imports as slips , feeds and grows, prunes back in September. In the following months she draws the curtains  to provide just the right amount of night darkness so that they turn brilliant red at Christmas. Unfortunately, two back-to-back hurricanes caused her to twice enlist neighbors and draft her sons to haul the plants into the house and back to the greenhouse; the salt mist blowing in the one semi-open side of the greenhouse could have “burned” the leaves brown and gotten into the potting soil.

At a lovely Airbnb, across the road where we stayed, the innkeeper’s partner, Danny, exhibited a British Bermudian accent, also. His heritage is very varied-including Scottish and Indian from India. Ironically, some of his family were originally settled in a more northern area of the island populated by Native Americans (American Indians) a legacy of the confusion attributed to Christopher Columbus in the 15th century who thought he had reached the east Indies. He recounted that the 300 year-old house was once a horse stable for an inn and brothel that had stood across the street; evidently it was popular with sailors on the then sparsely populated island!

Your correspondent also came upon other English accents- someone who spoke with a rather posh accent and yet another with more working class. Perhaps most surprising was the “Bermudian” accent that was American! Robert’s English family, whose genealogy he has been documenting (3000 individuals so far), has been on the island for a few hundred years. A grandmother may have spoken with an English accent, he recalls, but recent generations like his have been sent to boarding school beginning at age twelve following through with university in the States.


Karl Marx returns from the dead

Robert weick marx in soho

Actor and activist Robert Weick stars in the one man show “Marx in Soho,” based on the fantastical conceit that Karl Marx bargains with the authorities in the afterlife to come back to America to explain his ideas, call for peace and justice and clear his name . Your correspondent had a chance to speak with Weick during a rehearsal of David Auburn’s Proof” in which he portrayed a brilliant but mentally off-balance math professor. The play was written by noted social historian Howard Zinn who, as Weick encapsulates, writes about history through the eyes of ordinary people, slaves, Native Americans and other oppressed peoples who come together, take to the streets and work to effect social change. Weick became friends in 2005 with Zinn, who died in 2010, through collaboration on a national tour of the play and undertook another extensive tour of “Marx” in the U.S. and UK in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth. For more information and booking inquiries visit marxinsoho.org Watch video interview here


1903 Chestnut Hill stone building demolished for townhouse development

30 west highland demolished for CU


Garcia demolitionDamian Garcia , a member of the IUOE (International Union of Operating Engineers) Local 542, has been working in demolition for 20 some years and loves it. He may have single-handedly demolished the 1903 building at 30 West Highland Avenue in Chestnut Hill with a large powerful excavator, sometimes switching to a smaller bobcat bulldozer to move around piles of debris. (Of course he had a support team including laborer Melvin McClure who directed the action) According to an article in the April 28, 2021 Chestnut Hill Local, “The existing building was built in 1903 but does not qualify for historic preservation because of substantial changes made in the late 50s and early 60s. The plan is to tear down the original building and industrial garages, dig up the concrete drive and replace them with eight townhouses, 12 trees, a permeable-surface driveway, a 'pocket' park and a residential walkway with small lawns. The main issue for the neighbors, they said, is density. The proposal, they say, is too tall, too many houses.” The building had housed the EB O’Reilly HVAC business.

Over the course of about a week, Garcia brought down the structure and loaded most of the debris, which he had carefully separated into piles of wood, metal and stone into a dumpster truck. Garcia related that his company, Geppert Bros., Inc.,  had roots in Chestnut going back nearly 100 years when it was founded as Chestnut Hill Extraction. A short history of the related Geppert companies can be found bellow.

Before embarking on demolition Garcia studies the safety plan and determines the placement and orientation of the building’s trusses. Taking down a building is like solving a puzzle, he says and he takes it step by step. He often used an I-beam from the building as a poker securely held in the excavator’s grapple to brush the fragile stone wall, causing the pieces to crash down into dusty piles,“nibbling” away at it. He also used the large grapple to push over other sections of wall. For the second level wood flooring and the roof, he used the grapple’s large powerful jaws to take bites out of the structure. The main controls he uses are to raise and lower the boom, open and close the grapple’s jaws and to swing the boom left or right. After your correspondent complimented him on how delicately and skillfully he operated the excavator he demurred. “It’s not that hard but it is dangerous…the building could fall off on you, fall on somebody, hurt somebody. You just got to know what you’re doing.”

Interview of operating engineer and archival movies of the demolition process can be viewed by clicking here.

Still photos of the demolition can be found here.

Thanks to Alex Bartlett of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy for exploring the archives.

Continue reading "1903 Chestnut Hill stone building demolished for townhouse development" »


Anecdotes brighten tour of Rosebach rare book Museum and Library

Rosenbach floor by floor

Docent Charlie Karl gives a floor-by-floor history tour of the Rosenbach Museum and Library in downtown Philadelphia. Known for its collection of important manuscripts first additions, illustrated copies of literary works and artifacts the Rosenbach houses the personal collection of the rare book dealer Dr. A.S.W, Rosenbach. With his brother, Philip, he had a 50 year run as a dealer in books and manuscripts. "Renowned dealers in books, manuscripts, and fine art, the brothers played a central role in the development of private libraries that later became our nation’s most important public collections of rare books, such as the Folger and Huntington Libraries."  (from the Museum's website). Karl sprinkles narrative with anecdotes. For an exhibition to celebrate Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, first published as “The Whale,” lamps were lit with whale oil. At the very top of the multi-floor staircase, we encounter a miniature model version of the Rosenbach’s New York office. So much attention is paid to detail that six tiny books in the model are actually miniaturized books. Watch video tour here.

MORE PHOTOS HERE

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Kemble for closeup

A portrait of the renowned actress Fanny Kemble painted by James Sully in 1833 is the departure point for docent Charlie Karl’s fact-filled and wry tour of the Rosenbach Museum and Library. Karl relates that Kemble, who came from a renowned British theatrical family traveled to the U.S. with her father in 1832 to do dramatic Shakespeare readings along the East Coast. During a stay in Philadelphia she met Pierce Butler and in 1834 they married. Britain had abolished slavery in 1833. The fact that her husband owned 700 slaves on a Georgia plantation and made trips there without the family was such a source of discomfort to Kemble that she insisted on going with her husband and children to visit. There she journaled and tried to improve the lot of the women slaves. The experience became the basis for her book “Journal of a residence on a Georgia plantation” not published until Kemble had divorced, returned to England and the civil war had ended. In her later years, Kemble, who saw herself more as an artist and writer, resumed dramatic readings, crisscrossing the ocean. Watch video of portrait and short life story of actress writer Fanny Kemble here.

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Rosenbach joyce
In a room of the Rosenbach Museum and Library dedicated to the literature of Scotland, Wales, England, and Ireland the James Joyce manuscript of Ulysses sits in several boxes behind a glass covered bookcase. Guide Charlie Karl recites a ditty Joyce had written exhibiting his distain for Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, as a collector.

“Rosy Brook he bought a book
Though he didn’t know how to spell it
Such is the lure of literature
To the lad who can buy and sell it”
(According to the Rosenbach blog, a telegraph operator had apparently misspelled the title in a message)

Karl relates the backstory: At a manuscript auction, Rosenbach had purchased acclaimed Joseph Conrad manuscripts for a hefty sum but was able to acquire Joyce’s Ulysses manuscript from a collector, to whom Joyce had sold it, at a relative bargain. Subsequently, Joyce wanted the manuscript back but Rosenbach declined. Karl posits that Joyce didn’t really sufficiently appreciate Rosenbach as a bibliophile, who held literary works in such esteem that he mentored a generation of private collectors and enthusiasts dedicated to the preservation of these works. Watch video here.


🐝 Beekeeper captures honeybee swarm

Observing honeybee swarm

Jeff Eckel, a beekeeper, was called to the Wyck Historic House and Garden because one the hives he maintains there had swarmed. The queen, likely after having laid eggs that could be nursed to raise a new queen, had emerged from a hive and flown to a low-hanging limb of a nearby apple tree, attracting what Eckel believes, based on its size, upwards of 12,000 worker bees. There they clung together in a large, bulgy triangular shaped clump. A halo of bees circled round.

Eckel placed an empty brood box directly below the hive, donned a beekeeper mask, then, almost nonchalantly, gently scraped the bees at the bottom of the triangle off with a large plant pot. Many toppled below onto the box but many were collected in the pot and Eckel dumped them with one deft shake onto the box. He repeated this a few times and afterwards put a cover with a hole on the top; bees could also continue to enter through a side entrance. The way the bees clung to the box and the way a mass of them on the ground began to start “marching”toward the box led him to believe that the queen was among them. There were still quite a number of bees on the limb and it could be the queen was still there or that the strong pheromone scent she had left on the limb kept many bees attracted to it. Eckel shook the limb vigorously several times causing more to drop down, pausing in between shakes and reassessing. He explained that he didn’t need to use smoke because the bees by nature are calm when they swarm. But after a couple surprise stings and a fair number still on the branch, he brought out a bee smoker and, still without a beekeeping suit, alternated misting and shaking most of the remaining ones down onto the box.

Eckel, who also works as a Pennsylvania beehive inspector describes honeybees as “agricultural livestock.” He was planning to take the new hive to another of the locations he maintains in the area. Left unattended, he said, the swarm might have conveniently but undesirably relocated itself to someone’s house.

As it was a farm club afternoon at Wyck, several volunteers, your correspondent among them, observed Eckel’s bee removal operation and Eckel cordially shared his knowledge about honeybee behavior, problems such as mites and colony collapse disorder, and the economics of beekeeping

This was the second time this season Eckel had been called to remove a swarm and, as it turned out, after this latest visit he would be called another two times to capture swarms.

To see Eckel collect the honeybee swarm, click here.

To see all the photos in the album, click here.

Scraping honeybees

Observing honeybee swarm
Observing honeybee swarm

 


Playing online game, she attacks Russian web servers

Play for ukraine attack russian army
A woman waiting in line at the bake sale at St. Martin the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jenkintown, PA on Saturday March 19, 2022 was intently swiping away at a “2048”type of online game called “Play for Ukraine” on her smart phone. The event, attended by several hundred, if not more than a thousand, people waiting in a long line to purchase pierogis, borscht, sausage, roasted potatoes, sauerkraut, cakes and pastries was raising money for medical supplies and also for equipment for the Ukrainian military. Five stations inside the social building accommodated the patient crowd. Outside, re-enactors dressed in 17th century costumes had a tent display and talked about the close historical and geo-political ties Ukraine has had with neighbors such as Poland. More photos of the event are here.

“It’s a serious game” the woman said and pointed out how many attacks the game notified her she had made on the Russian military. She had accessed the game through the official Ukrainian Facebook site. According to several news reports, the game is part of Ukraine’s effort to recruit the vibrant Ukrainian crypto community into a volunteer IT army. Reports say nearly 300,000 volunteers have been organized through the Telegram messaging app and, using VPN,and are tasked with different missions.

“It doesn’t matter whether I win or no,” the woman said as she busily doubled 2s to 4s, 4s to 8s, etc. According to media source Fast Company, each move a player makes effects a DDOS (Dedicated Denial of Services) attacks on a targeted Russian website.

Watch the video interview of the woman playing online game to defeat Russian Army here.


New construction will shadow historic Chestnut Hill Baptist Church cemetery


Neighbor of chestnut hill baptist church cemetery

Chestnut hill baptist church and graveyardA man who lives in the house alongside the historic cemetery behind the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church regularly clears the flat and worn gravestones of leaves and other debris.

He gave your correspondent and buddy an impromptu tour. Pointing out different graves, “He was at Gettysburg. The fella over here was at the battle of Little Round Top. You can see it by the 20th Volunteers Main. The 20th Main was the line Chamberlain and his men did that right handed [ ] like a swinging door move to stop the Confederates from getting the hill; it won the day....This gentleman here is a veteran of the War of 1812.” He pointed out headstones for the Sands family which he believes was prominent in the early days of the church.

Some of the graves are partially grown over with grass and there may be others that are totally covered over. See photo album here.

The man says the cemetery is a kind of common ground for the neighborhood. People come through, some walk their dogs, children play. Referring to imminent construction of an apartment complex on the former Sunoco site, adjacent, “They’re going to block it out when they put this building up… I think it’s five stories. It’s a pity, huh? " See article about the new construction here.

More information about the history of the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church can be found on the church’s website here The Chestnut Hill Conservancy’s archives are rich with historical information. According to notes attached to a 1945 photo of J.S Jenks school students, children attending Christian Youth Brigade meetings at the church would play in the graveyard. The Conservancy also houses an 86-page, 1898 book by Robert Milville Hunsicker, “Chestnut Hill Baptist Church 1834-1897 Glimpses of Sixty-three Years” and a 2001 publication “ Tombstone inscriptions at two Chestnut Hill church cemeteries: Chestnut Hill Baptist and Chestnut Hill Methodist” by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania listing the churches gravestone inscriptions.  Watch video interview about historic Chestnut Hill Baptist Church cemetery here. A list of those interred follows

Continue reading "New construction will shadow historic Chestnut Hill Baptist Church cemetery" »


Finds from a collapsed dairy barn

Dairy barn farmstand


Chey bouson dairy barnChey Bouson is helping her friends Lexi and Roger rehabilitate a property that was once home to a large dairy farm in Quakertown, PA. In recent years, major storms have badly damaged the barn and the roof has now collapsed so it may have to be taken down. Meanwhile, they are carefully taking out of the barn anything they can find that is unbroken. They have retrieved doors, cabinets and a wagon they’ve since refurbished. These finds populate the eclectic farm stand they’ve set up along the roadside. In addition to the salvage operation, they now have seventy chickens on the property and are considering adding pigs.Her friends explore abandoned places all the time, Bouson says and she’s an explorer, too. Originally from New York, she would regularly travel down to Virginia to scavenge around abandoned asylums and prisons.

Your correspondent came away with a cactus plant and a very long glass milk tube he hadn’t yet figured out what he would do with. Watch video interview here with abandoned place explorer

 

Chey inside barn


SEPTA bus and aerial bucket lift collide; "no major injuries"

Septa bus  aerial lift collision

On October 7, 2021, a SEPTA bus traveling south on Germantown Avenue came into contact with the elbow joint of an aerial lift holding painters doing work on the “One West”midrise complex just above Hartwell Lane. The roof of the SEPTA bus appeared to be badly mangled and a SEPTA employee at the scene said that a “crane” had “fallen on the bus.” Matt Spector, VP of Operations for Bowman Properties, owner of the property, in a statement released later on social media, said that Bowman has owned and operated the lift to do maintenance on its properties for years without incident and that the lift was parked, in contact with the curb, surrounded by safety cones and stationary at the time of impact. “The lift didn’t fall. The bus ran into the elbow joint that was sticking out over the street. I happened upon the scene not long after it occurred, when the lift was still there,” posted a Mount Airy neighbor on social media. “Fortunately there were no major injuries,” added David Hoylman, Director of Leasing for Bowman. Spector declined to share security camera footage of the incident or elaborate about the injuries to Bowman personnel, passengers or driver or about precautions being taken to prevent future, potentially serious injurious, collisions of this kind. A right-to-know request has been filed with SEPTA. See more photos here.

Watch a video of the accident scene shortly after the accident.