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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Anyone can do it......"

I had occasion to give the attic a clearout the other day and came across a battered, hard briefcase used before my retirement. As I picked it up it rattled. Inside were these:

They stirred memories of about 25 years ago. We were caravanning in one of my favourite areas - Wiltshire, the "cradle of the British race". One day my wife dropped me and the dog (the glorious Sabre) off so that I could walk the ancient track over the Pewsey Downs and across the fields down to Silbury Hill and the 5,000 year old cult centre of Avebury. As we walked we passed through the ancient hill-fort of Rybury Hill 

and I reflected that the track we were on must have been used by those original occupants to go down to  festivals at Avebury, just as we were that sunny day.

Eventually, as we approached Silbury we came to the prehistoric long barrow of West Kennet

 a burial chamber which, when excavated was found to be packed with dis-articulated skeletons of the ancient race which occupied the Avebury area. It is able to be accessed so dog and I went in to look around. I have a deep "sense of place" (the genius loci) and found the atmosphere affecting. But Sabre was absolutely fascinated and I could not get him away. Of course there may have been some dead animal tucked away in there but I like to think that dogs can feel things we don't.


This is all by way of introduction to the event which then took place. A small old lady was standing outside by the massive entrance stones and doing something with two metal rods that she held in her hands. I watched her whilst waiting for Sabre, then politely asked what she was doing. When she could see I was a genuine enquirer she explained that she was dowsing with rods and that when they encountered an "energy field" they would cross in her hands. "Try it", she said, "anyone can do it".

I did and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when the rods crossed as I went between those entrance stones. She said that people spent a lot on dowsing rods but that she made hers from old metal coathangers. "It is the dowser, not the equipment that matters", she said

Well, I was sufficiently interested to make my own and had some success with them finding the courses of lost Roman roads and prospecting archeological sites. These were what I found it that old brief case the other day.

Why it works I don't know. How it works I have no idea. But work it does. I am not, nor ever have been, some "New Age" hippy, but will accept that there may be "more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosopy"

Dowsing seems to be in the news at present with Russell Crowe's new film, "The Water Diviner" so I thought this warranted a post.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


A fellow blogger of many years is Kay (older bloggers may remember her as "Chief Biscuit"), a published poet who lives on the South Island of New Zealand.

She has just posted a marvellous letter which seems to sum up the current state of blogging. Trouble is (Catch 22) it will only be read by active bloggers! See it here under her post "Keeping Track".

Thursday, November 12, 2015

CARS. Or transport through the ages

Now that I am probably on the last car I shall ever own  I got around to thinking of the cars I have had in my life. Overall I suppose I have owned about 25 cars. I won't bore you with a complete list, but some are worth a mention for specific reasons.

Like first love a first car is always remembered. I was in the army, age 18, and needed transport to get home on weekend leave. My parents were against motorcycles and suggested an old car. This was the time of the Suez Canal crisis (1957) when petrol was scarce and learner drivers had special dispensation to drive unaccompanied. I found a 1934 Ford 8 Model "Y" for about £80. I applied for a driving test which was a disaster. The nearside passenger door had a faulty catch and was prone to fly open on corners. I wired it up and asked the examiner to enter from my side and swing himself over into the passenger seat (it would not be allowed these days). He looked a bit doubtful but did so. Of course the door misbehaved on the third right hand corner and flew open. The examiner stopped the test. I offered to take him back to the test centre, but he said he would prefer to walk!

It was an awful car, very hard to start. A case of pulling out the choke button, weighting the accelerator pedal with a brick (kept in it as essential kit), going around to the front, inserting and churning the starting handle and praying....
After a couple of months I was so fed up with it that I sold it at a loss (story of my subsequent car life) to a sergeant at my camp. I well remember seeing him being push-started by a bevy of squaddies and me hiding behind a building whilst he passed!

I then bought my first motorcycle and a life's passion was formed. But that's a different story.

Some years later, married with children, my first decent car was a Morris Minor Traveller (the famous "woodie")

Then came the first car of which I was proud (and have mentioned in an earlier post). A 1952 Austin A70 "Hereford"

I sold this and for some reason, which must have seemed good at the time, I bought a Morris Minor open tourer

actually this was probably the most fun I have ever had with a car. I fitted a klaxon horn (think the diving alarm on a submarine) and it was used as a family car, hood usually retracted, for about 3 years. Three children, a wife and a dog (under wife's legs in front seat) would cram in and off we would go to Cornwall. This was about 350 miles before motorways and involved a start at about 5.00 am with arrival at 5.00pm

The first car in which I managed 100 mph, overdrive engaged, on the Hog's Back dual carriageway, kids shouting "go for it dad", was a Rover 80 (the view down its long bonnet was magnificent)

My love affair with SAABs started soon after, initially with a "99" model of which I had three consecutively

Then came employer's lease cars, which were available to "essential users" at a reduced rental in return for taking a smaller mileage allowance  and I chose to lease a succession of Vauxhall Carlton estates with their comfort, vast capacity and ability to tow caravans well ( rear wheel drive) for about 20 years

Came retirement and still caravanning, we decided to try our first four-wheeled drive car a Nissan X Trail

for some reason I and every driver who tried it found it was most uncomfortable for our backs. So it was a return to the only car I have ever felt really comfortable in, the SAAB. To settle in and relax in one was wonderful and drives of over 600 miles in a day were possible and enjoyable. I had 3 SAAB "9-5" estates in succession.

Oh... and the worst car I ever owned? A very expensive Mercedes E200 Estate in which I needed 3 motorway stops between Kent and Gloucester to alleviate back ache. Sold at great financial loss after about 6 months

Monday, October 26, 2015

TOYOTA YARIS VERSO ("Does what it says on the tin")

If you look at a previous post you will see that it has become necessary for me to leave my beloved SAABs for something a tad different and to car aficionados, less.

Not so in my book. If one can anthropomorphize a car it seems to me like a small mongrel terrier, always ready and eager to please (if it had a tail it would wag it). It is not particularly economical on petrol, its small 1300 cc engine (auto gearbox) giving me about 37 miles to the gallon for the short runs I use it for (long gone are the days of runs like Germany and back in a day for which the SAAB was so eminently suited) and its high seating position is extremely comfortable with easy entrance and exit .

Riding large, heavy motorcycles (my life's love) is also currently no longer possible, but I find great relaxation and solace in my electric bike. One of the reasons for this car is the ease with which a cycle can be simply slotted down between the back seats with its low, easy-loading platform. The pedals need removing first but I have ordered some folding ones of the type fitted to folding bikes, which should obviate this need.

Sunday morning saw me load the ebike and drive about 5 miles down a boring, heavily trafficked road (potentially dangerous for cyclists too) to lovely autumn woods.

Once there it was a simple matter of unloading the bike to set off for a glorious morning's run through woodlands

 and down to the little village of Appledore and Miss Mollet's tea shop for toasted tea cakes with black currant jam and a cafetiere of excellent coffee.

Only about 15 miles cycling but a delightful way to spend an autumn morning.

Monday, September 28, 2015


When over in Australia visiting my daughter I was completely smitten with the blossoming Jacaranda trees (they also come in white). Not indigenous to Oz, they originally came from South Africa but enjoy the similar climate in Australia and have flourished.

Although they will not tolerate an English winter I was determined to try to grow one here. I picked up a seed pod underneath one near Perth, W.A.

Later on my daughter sent me a small wooden box with some of the seeds in it. Shades of The Lord of the Rings when Galadriel gives Sam a similar box:
"For you little gardener and lover of trees," she said to Sam, "I have only a small gift." She put into his hand a little box of plain grey wood, unadorned save for a single silver rune upon the lid."Here is set G for Galadriel, but also it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard.......there will be few gardens...that will bloom like your garden if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Gladriel and catch a glimpse of far off Lorien that you have only seen in our winter...."

Over the years I have planted seeds and nurtured a tree. It has to be "portable" since it must live indoors when the first frosts come. I have pruned it and steadily reduced the root size in the hope that it may "bonsai". The sorrow is that it will never blossom at such a small size, but it is a memory of Oz and my daughter.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


For most of my working life I was a  Road Safety Officer. My work was mainly training and publicity, but some accident investigation was involved and I thought I would post the following report to show the types of thing we got up to:

The Highways Agency found over 200 dead crows on the M4 motorway near Bridgend and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu.

A Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was NOT Avian Flu.

The cause of death appeared to be from vehicular impacts. However, during analysis it was noted that varying colours of paints appeared on the ...bird's beaks and claws. By analysing these paint residues it was found that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with lorrys, while only 2% were killed by cars.
 The Agency then hired an Ornithological Behaviourist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills. The Ornithological Behaviourist quickly concluded that when crows eat road kill, they always have a look­out crow to warn of danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout "Cah", not a single one could shout "Lorry"


Wednesday, September 09, 2015


A morning spent cleaning out the garage (it needed it). A pleasant afternoon meant I could take the e-bike out for some relaxation.

(Click on images to enlarge for more detail)

St. Rumswold Churchyard, Bonnington was a good destination for a short ride (about 12 miles) and a stop for coffee. It is a favourite spot, where one day (not too soon, I hope!) my ashes will be scattered. My seat there is courtesy of Steven Cross, in whose memory it was erected. The Robert Louis Stevenson quotation carved on the back is most apt, for an avid yachtsman. (Home is the sailor/Home from the sea)

Close by is his grave with an unusual "stone" made of good English oak. His wife Cynthia, a "passionate horsewoman", who died a bit later, is buried beside him in her own grave - not side by side, but with their memorials facing each other. Poignant. Both had short lives, I see.

The church stands on the boundary of Romney Marsh. It is the oldest in the area being first constructed in 796. It would once have been on the banks of the ancient river Limen which wound its way over the Marsh from its Channel estuary near Hythe and was probably a point for unshipping  goods for the old road northwards.

But the local topography is steeped it history. When Napoleon Bonaparte threatened invasion it was decided to construct a defensive Canal across the Marsh, feeding it from the local rivers which were diverted into it. The photograph below shows the old river Limen bed to the right at the field's edge with the later Military Canal running behind it through the trees.

Interestingly there is a relic of a later war, a machine gun observation post, when, in 1940 Hitler's armies again threatened this frontier of Kent.

A little afternoon meditation encapsulating history -  796, 1806, 1940 all from a country churchyard