There is no ‘bucket list’ - Lynne and I are both well, thank you – but we have arrived at a point in our lives where we have the time, the money and the good health to indulge in a passion for travel. We know how lucky and privileged we are to be able to do this, and we know it won’t last for ever, but while it does…..

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Chocolate Teapots

A teapot is a useful, arguably essential, article. You can pay what you like for a teapot; Wedgwood currently offer a Jasper Conran designed china Pinstripe Teapot for a little over £100 and this is a bargain compared with the prices of some antique teapots. I am, though, perfectly happy with this every-day, utilitarian and inexpensive teapot. It does the job perfectly.
A useful, though unremarkable teapot

Some people go into raptures about chocolate. I am not like that, but I do like a bit of choccy (who doesn’t?) whether milk or dark.

Should a top Belgian chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini or Laurent Gerbaud maybe, construct a Jasper Conran designed teapot using 80% cocoa solids chocolate from, say Ecuador or Madagascar, then he would have produced something rare, expensive - and supremely useless.

But of course, nobody would make a chocolate teapot, would they? On the other hand they might make a ……

Marble Boat 
Summer Palace, Beijing. August 2007

The Chinese Emperors sited their Summer Palace outside Beijing in the 12th century, though the towers, temples and pavilions seen today date mainly from the early 20th century - the Anglo-French invasion of 1860 and the Boxer Rebellion (1897-1901) destroyed many of the older buildings. The 3 square kilometre site, now between Beijing’s 4th and 5th ring roads, attracts several thousand tourists a day, mainly local but with a good sprinkling of foreigners.

We spent a whole day there. I loved the names of the buildings. Some have a ‘does what it says on the tin’ quality…..
The Glazed Tile Pagoda of Many Treasures
Summer Palace, Beijing
…… while others seem aspirational.
The Hall of Benevolence and Longevity
Summer Palace, Beijing
The site surrounds an artificial lake and the Clear and Peaceful Boat sounds appropriately aspirational. The more usual name The Marble Boat describes it precisely.
The Clear and Peaceful Boat
Summer Palace, Beijing
Obviously a marble boat will never sail anywhere, it was largely used for picnics. There is a story (told even by the usually reliable Rough Guide) that the Dowager Empress Cixi, who ruled China from 1861 to 1908, spent money earmarked for the Imperial Navy on building the marble boat thus contributing to heavy naval defeats during the Sino-Japanese war. In fact, The Marble Boat was built in 1755, but she did spend 30 million taels of the navy’s silver (a lot of money, apparently) on refurbishing and extending the palace and they did lose the war.

The Stone Chariot
Vijayanagara, Karnatika, India, February 2010

The village of Hampi in northern Karnatika sits inside the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of an empire of the same name. The empire and city were destroyed by the Deccan Muslim Confederacy in 1565.

Many of the city’s building still survive including the Lotus Mahal in the queen’s quarters…..
Lotus Mahal, Vijayanagara

 ….and the elephant stables.

Elephant Stables, Vijayanagara

Several temples also survive, including Vittala Temple.
The Vittala Temple, Vijanagara

Most Hindu temples have chariots, in which the deity is carried through the streets during festivals. When not in use they can be parked in specially constructed garages as here at the  Chennakeshava temple in Belur in central Karnatika….
Chariot in a garage, Chennakeshava Temple, Belur

….and they can then be taken out and decorated for a festival, like this one in Udipi on the Malabar coast.

Chariot ready to roll, Udipi

Not so the chariot at Vittala temple, it is made of stone and will stand immobile in the courtyard until hell freezes over.
Stone Chariot, Vijayanagara

 Mow Cop Castle
 Staffordshire January 2009 & November2005

 The village of Mow Cop (Mow is pronounced like the Chinese Chairman, not like cutting grass) sits on a low hill 6 miles north of Stoke-on-Trent. Open air prayer meetings held here by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes developed into the Primitive Methodist Movement which split from the Wesleyans in 1810. They reunited in 1932.

Mow Cop

Mow Cop Castle is not a classic chocolate teapot, but it is as much use of one. It was built in 1754 by Randle Wilbraham and designed to look like the ruin of a medieval fortress with a round tower. He used it as a summerhouse. More money than sense?
Mow Cop Castle in November sunshine 


  1. Fascinating blog! Mow Cop, as I'm sure you don't need reminding, is the start of the Staffordshire Way which we have completed on foot twice. I've walked away from much worse places than that!

  2. And I spent many childhood/teenage hours up there (at Mow Cop castle - not at the other amazing places contained in this blog) - for birthday parties etc, and once I was old enough, having cycled up to it from Alsager. Happy memories!

  3. Sorry about previous comment's profile name. Don't know where that came from. MT