I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS PRESENT

I am not hoping for a similar Christmas present to the one I received last year (a stroke), but did treat myself to a little something:


Roxy is a medium size little bitch, cross breed, about 6 years old, in residence at the local  RSPCA kennels. She had been taken into care because her female owner had to seek sanctuary in a refuge centre where pets are not allowed. My wife and I spent some time with her and became good friends. The inspector came to look at her new home yesterday, pronounced it "ideal" and we pick her up on the 28th December. (It did not seem fair to take in a new dog until after Christmas day when we shall have about 8 people in the house).

She is a bit different from my previous, large/male GSDs, but I no longer have the physical/mental strength to control such dogs, who need strong owners otherwise they can "take over" and become pack leader.

I have had dogs in my life for over 50 years, but did wonder, when my last one was put down, whether I should get another, particularly after the stroke. But the wound of loss never quite heals over. Even after 18 months I still expect a dog to welcome me home as I open the front door.

 I was looking at dogs at rescue centres on the internet. Many appealed but  Roxy had something that said "take me please" so take her I shall. It may have had something to do with her colouring, reminding me of my last black and tan GSDs. It may have been the expression on her face. But my dog-friendly daughter (HHnB) has always maintained that " when the right dog needs you, it will find you".

May I wish you all  a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and healthy 2016.


Monday, December 07, 2015

HHnB or Daughter-in-Oz

Since a number of you seem to remember with affection "HHnB", sadly no longer blogging,
and RR comments about the second "H" (i.e. "Him" of Her, Him and Bryn) I shall risk her approbation and show the latest image I have of them. It was taken at his company's annual dinner, a light hearted event as the photo implies, and typical of relaxed Australia.




Saturday, December 05, 2015

WINTER

I tend to change my blog-head image in line with the seasons. I like to reflect aspects of this "Little Corner of the Earth". Hence you will now find a snowy landscape looking towards the scarp which defines the limit of Romney Marsh.

I know, I know….the weather is at present pretty clement for December but in my book the winter months are December, January & February and that means snow. I quite enjoy snow, more so now I am retired and can choose when to enjoy it and when to leave it alone.

 I am 76 (very nearly 77) and I can only remember two white Christmases; that clich├ęd description of an event often described but seldom happening.

To be out in the snow by purpose is to become an adventurer, a lone individual. Motorcycling can be difficult in snow although I can remember, when young, some joyous occasions when it was done by choice. 


and others, when commuting to army camp, when my frozen, set knees would not let me get off the bike and sheets of ice fell from me!

But cycling, provided the roads are not iced can be most pleasant. Floating through an unpeopled, silent landscape. It’s good when you leave off, too. To sit somewhere, unhitch the flask of brandy-slugged coffee and perhaps the odd mince pie or two, gradually feeling warmth returning to frozen extremities as the liquid does its job.


My daughter, of old blog signature HHnB (now sadly no “B” as Bryn the Australian Blue Heeler succumbed to old age last year) and her husband are returning to the UK from Australia to spend a month with us over Christmas. She is so hoping for some snow. An English girl, she remembers snow with affection – even rain and mud will be a pleasure!
  

She copes (just about, with air con) in the Perth W.A. climate but always longs for British weather and this will be the first time in some 15 years that they have returned in winter. So we hope for a little of the white stuff to “please a lady”
When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.


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

BLOGGERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

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

JACARANDAS


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

WHAT ROAD SAFETY OFFICERS GET UP TO

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"

Interesting.....................



Wednesday, September 09, 2015

ELEGY (?) IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD

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

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SLIGHT ADJUSTMENTS TO MOTORING LIFESTYLE

I continue to make good progress after my stroke some 8 months ago, but have needed to make a few changes to my vehicles. A shame, but necessary.

Before the stroke I ran a rather nice SAAB 9-5 estate car 


however it had a manual gearbox and was a large and heavy beast (as well as fairly expensive to run).Also  I was not using it much since my second retirement, relying on my wife's small Kia Picanto, with her reluctant forbearance.

As my left leg is still weak as a result of the stroke I decided to look for a smaller automatic with a high driver's seat for ease of access. I wanted something where the back was adaptable into a "van" so that I could carry my e-bike to ride at places more distant from home. The result is as ugly as sin but meets all my parameters, the back seats collapse right into the floor with the advantage that, even with the seats up, with their centre part removed, you can just slot a bike down the middle between them (after removing the bike's pedals) and it simply stands there with no securing needed.

(for illustration only - mine's green!)

 A low mileage automatic Toyota Yaris Verso - not made since 2005 but sadly mourned by the cognoscenti ( and cheap too - a mere £2000):


It is an old man's car in my book, - my wife calls it the "Popemobile"!



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

EXPLANATIONS

Roderick Robinson recently queried if the verse on my blog head accurately reflected my philosophy for life.
When I started the blog back in 2006 I cast around for what to call it. I reside in Kent, the right bottom corner of the UK which juts closest to Europe. Indeed the word "Kent" descends from ancient Celtic meaning "corner" or "angle". I live in Ashford, very close to my happy hunting ground of Romney Marsh - itself a jutting corner of the larger corner. Hence "Little Corner of the Earth".


That title rang a bell which reminded me of a verse from Richard le Gallienne's rendering of the Rubaiyat of  Omar Khayyam (less well known than the Fitzgerald version, but I prefer it). What more natural than to use that verse in the blog head.

So the last two lines of the verse had immediate appeal and meaning for my philosophy. Then, a few years later, I eventually stopped even part-time work and the first two lines became even more meaningful as I left the hurly burly and rush of the big world and had time for more reflection.

The verse was originally intended as a link to the blog title but, yes, it now does equate to my philosophy for life .
Lost to a world in which I crave no part
I sit alone and listen to my heart,
Pleased with my little corner of the earth,
Glad that I came - not sorry to depart





Friday, July 10, 2015

Old Austins (Or Transport Through the Ages III)


Roderick Robinson has recently commented on my previous post that I am "nostalgic about Austin Cambridges". I don't remember ever  having admitted to that particular nostalgia, but he brought back the memory that, in 1967, I was extremely proud to own a rather magnificent  16 year old Austin A70 Hereford. (Built before the British Motor Corporation absorbed Austin  into their deathly company)

It was a lovely, well preserved car with only one vice. At anything over 60 the front wheels would wobble so violently that steering was very much compromised. (I learnt to anticipate it's commencement and back off the speed). With later acquired mechanical "nous" I would have realized that those huge and heavy front wheels simply needed balancing.

This picture was taken during a holiday in Cornwall (Bodmin Moor, Roughtor) with my young family of 3 children - eldest would have been 8. The capacious bench seats front and rear (no seatbelts then) with the steering column gear change ensured ample room for all (wife and dog included).

I would say "happy days", but I also remember during that holiday that it experienced a tyre blowout. A new tyre was needed and these were the days before credit cards. It took a great deal of my carefully saved holiday cash - so much so that we were on short commons for the remainder of the week.

Still the kids still enjoyed the free sand and sea - which was the purpose of the holiday. Tintagel, Cornwall was always a favourite for many years with it's cliff walks and superb scenery.

Thanks for the memories, R.R.!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

BACK ON THE (electric) BIKE ONCE MORE


Nice to be back on the bicycle once more after my "Christmas present" stroke. Albeit, the electric pedal assistance is coming in very handy at present. I bought it to use for head winds and hills but must admit to keeping it on all the time at present, even so I could toddle along at about 12 mph for roughly 70 miles (if my bottom and wrists could take it). As my muscles get stronger, so I hope to use the motor less.

It was a pleasant, sunny afternoon so I took a flask of coffee, with a soupcon of whiskey and trundled out for about 15 miles. This was taken from Bilsington churchyard, overlooking Romney Marsh

It's good for the blood pressure!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

T.E. Lawrence Anniversary of Death


It is now the 80th anniversary of the death of T.E.Lawrence (he hated the "of Arabia" suffix) and it caused me to dig into my old notes about my pilgrimage to respect the 50th anniversary in 1985. The 400 mile round trip to Dorset, in the pouring rain, on my motorcycle is not something I could manage (even by car) these days. I thought those notes, which would have been the subject of a blog had such things then existed, might be of interest. So.........

On 13th May 1935 he rode his Brough Superior motorcycle from his cottage, Clouds Hill, to Bovington post office, some 3 miles distant, to send a telegram to Henry Williamson - an invitation to lunch. The telegram was timed at 11.25am. Riding back to his cottage he breasted a rise and was confronted by two boys on bicycles. He swerved, but clipped the back of one bike and came off  receiving eventually fatal head injuries (no crash helmets in those days). He died the following Sunday, 19th May.

There was to be a 50th memorial service at the nearby Moreton Church on the date of his actual death, but he abhored crowds and was an agnostic. So I eschewed attendance at the service and instead rode down to lay a wreath at the actual crash site on the day/time of the accident, 50 years on. (11.30am 13th May 1985).
I recreated his last ride exactly, leaving Bovington old post office at 11.25 am to ride to Clouds Hill and lay the wreath on the dot. Uncanny!A shivering goose flesh came over me as I started away. As the time approached a small bird flew down on front of me. I took no more notice, but after laying the wreath I found it dead, wedged under the engine of my bike. It died, by motorcycle, to the minute. Did not Pythagoras say that the souls of the dead inhabit birds?



Upon the laurel wreath I left a dedication - some lines of Rupert Brooke's seemed very appropriate:





Friday, March 27, 2015

RICHARD III INTERMENT

Well, as a follow-up to my rather bitter last posting I would like to share something from his interment service - which was, I thought, well done (but should have been in York Minster).

Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor, who is distantly related to Richard read a specially composed poem by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38nodTfpro4

and the words:
RICHARD
My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
an incense, votive, vanishing, your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end if time - an unknown, unfelt loss - 
unless the Resurrection of the Dead..........

or once I dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

Profoundly well done, I thought.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

RICHARD III


Although (or because) I have a deep interest in Richard III the latest shindigs in Leicester were not at all to my liking. This circus makes me almost wish we had never found his body.

The obvious place for his final resting place would have been York Minster and the internment should have been a dignified and quiet one. Having been paraded around the streets of Leicester his coffin is now to be interred in Leicester "Cathedral" - once a parish church smaller than many town churches I know.

However, no doubt the town (hardly a city) worthies are already counting the income generated  (they are hoping for £150 million a year) 

An article in the "Telegraph" just about sums it up:

"To judge by the brouhaha, the reinterment of Richard III is the most exciting thing to have happened in Leicester since the king’s death at the nearby Battle of Bosworth over 500 years ago.

The Plantagenet monarch, whose remains were discovered under a Leicester city car park in 2013, will be reburied in Leicester cathedral on Thursday.

The reinterment is a big deal for Leicester, which – to put it politely – has never been much of a honeypot for tourists. Tickets for the service have sold out, but it will be shown live on Channel 4 and on two large screens in the city centre. Visitors can also get a glimpse of Richard’s coffin in the cathedral from Monday to Wednesday.

As if to shore itself up for the next 500 years, Leicester and its surrounding villages have gone all out to make the most of Richard’s last hurrah, with a week-long programme of city, castle and battlefield tours, talks, church services and an art show. A local escort agency, Midland Belles, has even cashed in by offering people the chance to visit the reinterment with one of its “educated and beautiful” team.

All of which has caused howls of disapproval from those who feel that the royal remains deserve more respect and should have been left in peace under the car park. Not to mention the Yorkists who want Richard to be buried in their city, or the lobby calling for a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey.
Despite this, there will be no halting the pomp and circumstance in Leicester next week.

Monday, March 02, 2015

PIPES


My Australian son-in-law recently emailed me on the subject of pipe smoking. He is not a frequent smoker, liking a good cigar about once a month for relaxation. Perhaps he relates to Kipling's view of the subject, "A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke". He thought he would try a pipe and knowing that I once smoked them he asked advice about keeping the things alight. (The difference between a cold filling and a furnace which burnt the tongue).

I never smoked them to excess (and never smoked cigarettes), but enjoyed the relaxation and meditation of an occasional smoke. Gold Block tobacco was my preferred filling and the smoke's fragrance still brings back memories. (not often smelt these days though). About 35 years ago, one Christmas, I found I had run out of tobacco and never bought any more. Thus I gave up with no withdrawal symptoms, but preserved my pipes and paraphernalia as a memory (see image above - my favourite pipe being the one at the "south west" position). It was one reason for using the "Gandalf" self - image at my blog head.


I have no regrets. An old work colleague of mine smoked a pipe incessantly, it was seldom out of his mouth. He used to say that it was a marvellous ploy, when confronted with a difficult question, to gain thinking time by filling/ lighting/smoking the pipe, looking ruminative and sagacious. He died at 70, painfully, with cancer of the tongue after suffering operations to cut away most of his cancerous stomach - all caused by the lethal "dottle" which he imbibed over a lifetime.


Churchill smoked 8-10 large Cuban cigars a day throughout his life, but seldom smoked them more than half way (a good habit since the stubs through which the smoke has filtered contained concentrated carcinogens), giving the stubs to his gardener.  He lived to over 90 - his gardener died of lung cancer, but Churchill's constitution was not as other men's.


My advice is "never take it up".






Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WINSTON CHURCHILL. 50th Anniversary of his death.


I was born in 1938, my father went off to war in 1939. For the first two years of that war England stood alone against the Nazi hordes which had swept through, conquering all Europe. The one reason we stood? Churchill. Without his bulldog spirit, standing up against many of our lesser politicians who wanted an accommodation with Hitler, we might well have become like the Channel Islands, a Nazi province, shipping unwanted minorities off to Germany, the concentration camps  and the gas chambers. (whose liberation, we are also remembering at this time)

So he is a man I deeply respect. He had his foibles and made mistakes, but he was the man for the hour. He remarked at the time, “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial...”.

 When he died he lay in state for 3 days at Westminster Hall, London. Thousands queued to pay their respects and thanks, my wife and I included. It was a unique moment of history which we shall always remember for our participation. I borrowed a car from a work friend (a mini - quite new at the time), we drove some 30 miles up to London, parked on the outskirts and got the underground into the centre. The queue wound back from Westminster Hall, where he lay in state, over the bridge for about 3 miles. The weather was bitter. But there was almost a "blitz spirit" amongst everyone. All wanted to be there, all venerated the greatest English prime minister. As we entered the Hall where his coffin stood it became deathly quiet, men took off their hats (a lot more wore them in those days) and many people were crying as they walked by.

It was as if the nation had lost a dearly beloved and respected grandfather.


A profound memory.

I owe this Youtube clip to my daughter in Australia. The commentary is by his former bodyguard H.Thompson. Who knows, my wife and I might be in that view of people filing past his coffin.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A MEMORY BANK

My personal circumstances (and the weather) do no permit me to roam abroad at present and I have been mulling over some memories.

On the windowsill lives a plate containing a collection of pottery, stones and bits of road surface – all collected from  places and times – all open up a memory for me.

I won’t bore you with a full inventory but the following will give you some idea. Anyone who has ever read my full profile will know of my interest in archaeology and Roman Britain. This first is the rim of a Roman mortaria, like the complete one at the rear of the picture which follows it.

 Walking in Roman Caerleon one day I looked in a trench where they were renewing gas mains. Underground in such places is always a mass of history. This fragment I plucked from the trench. You can see where the potter’s finger fashioned the rim, ending with the “pinch” which was the spout. My own finger fits this exactly, connecting me to someone who lived nearly 2000 years ago.
Next is a fragment of Roman masonry, covered in melted green glass. I picked this from the ruins of Regulbium, a Roman fort of the “Saxon Shore” on the north Kent coast. It completely symbolises the end of Rome in Britain. Ruin, burning and destruction when the fort was finally sacked.
Roman roads, both extant and lost are a particular fascination for me. In the 1950’s the course of the Roman road through Ashdown Forest was discovered and excavated, wheel ruts still observable.
Being the area of Roman ironworks it was surfaced with the iron slag from the local furnaces - this is a fragment of that road.

Lastly we move forward to the “recent” past. I joined the army in 1956 (since I was not 18 for a further 3 months for a short period I had the “distinction” of being the youngest solder in the British Army). Our days were spent continuously drilling on the parade ground. Pictured here is my platoon marching off from that ground after our passing out parade.
40 years to the day I returned on my motorcycle to the derelict camp – now being built over by an industrial estate.
The parade ground once extended away to the left of the picture and my platoon’s barracks would have been to the right of the motorcycle. I picked up a fragment of the old parade ground. Here it is. With light in the correct direction the indentations of hobnailed boots can still be picked out.



Memories……….