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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


As Chaucer has it:
"Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote....
...Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages"
(now, persevere, this is all relevant!)

In the early '60s I worked in my father-in-law's blacksmith/engineering business which specialised in wrought iron ornamental work. I did the estimates.
One day we received a request for a quote to make  7 vast ornamental gates to fit the archways of the being restored Aylesford Priory. These were to be backed with plate glass.

Such was the effort and complication involved we decided we did not really need the work and, having worked out a quote, doubled it to lose the business! Much to our amazement our quote was accepted. The plate glass sheets were a nightmare to cut and fit (we broke two) and we did point out that, as the gates were outdoors, metal expansion/contraction could well shatter the glass over time - this the architect ignored.
But fitting the gates was a wonderful experience, taking one back to the times when mediaeval craftsmen were constructing the cathedrals.

Work was going on all around us with the construction of the shrine

and at mid day all the workmen would gather for a meal in the monks' refectory, prepared in the monastery kitchens, while we were lucky (?) enough to have a monk at the lectern reading from the scriptures whilst we ate. (The food was excellent). An experience that has stayed with me all my life. When I first saw the television Cadfael series it was like déja vu!

However, the reason for Chaucer's opening lines here is that it is some years since I last visited the Priory and, although wanting a few days until April, with showers far from "soote" (sweet) at present, I decided "goon on pilgrimages" and see how all our work (which developed into more than just gates as time went by) was faring.

All gates are still OK after nearly 50 years in place, although all but one of the plate glass backings have been replaced with perspex after they broke (told you so!)

And both the great coats of arms (see first panorama shot of site, above) all fashioned in wrought iron (the lettering was crafted by "old Mac" our oldest employee with a lifetime doing such special work) still look good, although one is missing an "M" I notice.

As with our ancient cathedrals, this work should still be there in 500 years hence - a lasting testimony to the firm of  "J. Emery & Son (Maidstone) Ltd." which existed only until my father-in-law's death some 20 years ago.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This photograph of a garden rake being put to good use is especially for Barret Bonden who will understand why I have included it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


In the early '60s a car rammed the back of my bicycle at some 40 miles an hour, leading me to perform a parabolic curve towards the sky, leaving my shoes still captured by the pedal toeclips. I remember nothing of the accident, except coming to with an excruciating back pain whilst being strapped to a spinal board.

Apparently I came down on my head (a pretty solid part of the Avus anatomy), concertina-ing my spine and fracturing 3 vertabrae (nearly 50 years later, wet weather always reminds me of this).

However, every cloud has a silver lining (although not immediately apparent at the time). The subsequent compensation enabled me to buy a second hand motorcycle combination with a huge family sidecar. Here a somewhat larger munchkin takes her brother for a ride in Ashdown Forest.

Hopefully, in May, there will be a finale for this sequence when HHnB rides pillion on the BMW.