Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Giant woman seen in Beaconsfield.

Well... not exactly. As we were in Beaconsfield I could not resist a visit to Bekonscot which claims to be the world's first model village.

Started in the 1920s in the back garden of a residential house, it has survived through the years by charging an entrance fee and using the money for charitable purposes.

I first visited when I was about five years old and it has undergone several changes since then. I am pleased that the policy now seems to be to return to its original time era of the 1920s/30s.

To the right: the village crossroads. The road is being repaired by a steam roller which runs up and down the street.

The canal basin with a pair of coal barges locking down. The edge of the working fairground can be seen.

The nursing home with a resident at the front door walking to the car and in the background, two men discussing the sports car at the old stables.

The detail is engaging. It is very rewarding to look carefully at the models.  If you peer through the church window not only do you hear the choir singing but you can see them all in their stalls.

The Oxford Blue coach on the left contains passengers and each one is a character.

The airfield, having spent a period as a more modern establishment, has now returned to its original 1930s era.

Throughout the village pervades a lovely sense of fun and mischief. It was never meant to be taken seriously; a claim which belies the effort applied for its realisation.

Here we have the race course with the punters and the bookies watching as the horses reach the post.

But in the foreground we can see a policeman in hot pursuit of a bag snatching thief.

Wordplay is never far away.

And in this village green scene the painter's mate standing at the bottom of the ladder from time to time leans forward to kiss the woman in blue whilst his hapless mate at the top hangs on for dear life.

Bekonscot. If you are near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire you must visit.

Not only is Beaconsfield famous for this model village but also for a long time resident: Enid Blyton and thus the birthplace of Noddy (1949) closely followed by the birth of another famous author, Martin Lloyd.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Painting pylons on a Sunday.

Well I suppose somebody has to do it. 

Why did they start at the bottom?

I hope the yellow is only an undercoat. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Hollyhocks, Sandwich report 2017

For the history of these blooms, click here

My hollyhocks sown wild by the river Stour at Sandwich.
This is the state of the blooms in 2017 – several successes on the road side and the river side of the wall. Unfortunately the seeds which I sowed last autumn in the regular gaps which had been left in the hedge growing in front of the wall have all been sprayed with weedkiller by the Highways Authority. It seems that they wish to retain these short views of brick wall so that the graffiti vandals have something to deface. After all, graffiti is much prettier, isn't it?

Friday, 18 August 2017

Broadstairs on a sunny day.

The beach at Broadstairs.
One day when you have the time to spare, take the no. 11 double deck bus from Canterbury to Broadstairs. It is the indirect route through the villages, skimming beside the roofs of thatched cottages and obliging oncoming cars to reverse to allow it to pass.

As you are driven through the cultivated tracts of this corner of Thanet you realise why it is referred to as 'Cabbage Corner.'

Sunday, 13 August 2017

On Romney Marsh with a bicycle.

Church of St. Augustine, Brooklands.
I am not really into churches, despite what appears on this blog, it's just that apart from churches, Romney Marsh only has sheep and they all look the same to me.
This is the church at Brooklands. Because of the soft nature of the marshy soil, it was thought, probably correctly, that the foundations would not support the weight of a bell tower, so the tower was constructed alongside in the churchyard. 
The nave with leaning arches.

It is clad with cedar shingles.
Difficult to depict with a camera which will always distort perspective is the alignment of the nave arches. They do, in real life, splay outwards, possibly due to the soft foundations. Perhaps the weight of a bell tower above them might have held them vertical....?

Eleventh century leaden fount.
The eleventh century fount is made of lead and depicts at the top, signs of the zodiac and below, agricultural workers with their various tools.

Derek Jarman's grave, Old Romney.

Just along the road in the churchyard of St.Clement's Church, Old Romney is the grave of the film director, Derek Jarman. It bears simply his signature chiselled into the headstone and some pebbles, (possibly from his garden at Dungeness?) aligned along the top edge.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 28

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Joseph Beaurepaire, a French engineer working for the Société Hydro Electrique de l'Eau d'Olle in 1918 was living at 9, rue Paul Bert in Grenoble at the time.

This is his photograph on his sauf-conduit issued to him by the Prefecture of the Isère which permitted him to use a motor car, registration number: 753 H2, for his business in and around Grenoble. It could only be used in conjunction with his petrol ration book and was valid for two weeks.

The use of the vehicle was reserved strictly for his business and he was entitled to this allowance because he was employed by a company which was, 'working for the national defence'.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Church of St. James, (he of Compostella) Staple, Kent.

The Pilgrimage Window, St James' Church, Staple.
The Church of Saint James in Staple is dedicated to the patron saint of pilgrims. It is rather unusual in that it is one long building, rather like a shed. The 15th century stone fount is decorated with figures of pilgrims. In 2007 the pilgrimage window was installed, being a gift from the widow of Roger Burges, a pharmaceutical scientist who was instrumental in the discovery and manufacture of a drug to treat angina. He also played the church organ.
A strikingly modern window and the first time that I have seen a representation of pubic hair depicted in stained glass. In the bottom right hand corner of the window, a close inspection reveals the chemical formula for the drug that he invented – too small to be seen on this illustration.

I rather liked the decorated hassocks. They looked to me like mediaeval laptop cosies.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

London Military Band in Folkestone

The London Military Band playing in the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe. Folkestone
We have just returned from a superb and intimate concert at Folkestone. The London Military Band who are composed of serving but off duty military musicians and others who have studied at the Military School of Music played a selection of favourites with style, panache and skill – the Light Cavalry Overture, the Radetsky March and even selections from the Sound of Music.

If you get a chance to hear them, take it.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Church of St. Nicholas, Ash, Kent.

Alabaster carving in Ash Church, 1612.

The Church of St. Nicholas in the village of Ash is said by knowledgable authorities to possess the finest collection of mediaeval monumental effigies of any parish church in Kent, possibly surpassed only by those of Canterbury Cathedral. 
The above carving in alabaster represents Sir Thomas and Lady Septvans, both in a position of praying. Below them, the line of seven figures represent their daughters, five of whom are carrying a skull to signify that they died as children. (see enlarged inset) The sons' effigies which originally appeared on the left of the predella have been lost at some time during the last four hundred years.
Christopher Toldervey and wife, Jane.

Interestingly, Jane, one of the two daughters who survived, figures with her husband, Christopher Toldervey on a carving nearby.

When King Henry VIII appointed himself head of the new Church of England one of the first things that he did was to have any of the Pope's insignia removed from 'his' churches and replaced with his coat of arms.
Arms of King Charles II, dated 1660, painted on wood.

Recently discovered in the church is this royal arms of King Charles II dating from his accession to the throne in 1660 with the restoration of the monarchy. Note that the shield is quartered with the Bourbon family arms, the fleur de lys, because the kings of England still claimed sovereignty over France.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Low tide at Folkestone.

I had to go to Folkestone today.

It was low tide and through one of the arches of the railway viaduct I could see a bait digger at work.

Ecologically powered street lamp in Folkestone.
Up in the town I came across the bizarre construction below. It appeared to be an enormous boulder moulded in glass fibre or some such material. I have it on unreliable authority that it is an artistic installation in which the lichen growing in the container will produce flammable gas which will be led off via the pipe to fuel the adjacent street lamp. 

Most illuminating. 

I wonder if it will work.

My 'unreliable authority' now informs me that the lichen is somehow producing electricity, not gas and it is this which is being used to light the lamp.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Hollyhocks at Stelling Minnis – Gone!

See my post of 2 July. Click here

Obviously the Highways Agency considers that hollyhocks constitute a danger at the side of the highway and need to be removed. Which is what they have done. So those flowers will never seed and never brighten the lives of those using Stone Street.

We must infer from this action that chopping down flowers is a more effective safety manoeuvre than filling in the awful potholes in the actual road surface.

And it is probably cheaper.

And so satisfying.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The US Navy comes to Sandwich.

Well, not quite.

We sat eating our fish and chips on the quayside in Sandwich and ogling this very military looking launch as it rocked on its moorings on the rapidly rising tide.

Not a vessel to argue with on the River Stour. I think I would give it right of way.

It was built in Germany in 1952 and as P22, patrolled the River Rhine for the US Navy.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A much better use for a cycle lane.

What would the concert goers do without a cycle lane in which to put their notices?

At least it is not cluttered up with bicycles.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Cycling at sunset

I spent too long indoors today, writing on computers and sorting out my tax return. 

I just had time for a ride before bedtime.

You can just distinguish my bicycle resting in the gateway. I was watching an owl which was trying to maintain its balance on a telephone line. I deduced that its talons were too large to grip the cable firmly because it kept teetering back and forth as if drunk.

And then the sun really set.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Hollyhocks at Stelling Minnis

Occasionally, in order to enjoy some exercise I decide to cycle to work. As I work at home this means that I cycle from my front door to my back door via the village of Stelling Minnis which is about eight miles away. Today the sun was shining in a blue sky and the wind was north westerly which guaranteed that it would assist me up the hill so off I went. 

I was astonished by the smells: clingy hot tarmac in Canterbury, a waft of stale beer from the open door of The Granville pub, the light odour of freshly mown grass on the verges, perfume of roses in a front garden. At Bossingham I smelled roasted Sunday lunch at one end of the street and barbecue at the other. Coming down from the Minnis somebody nearby had been burning plastic – a harsh, nostril hostile tang. Further down it was the overpowering, heavy, sweet smell of roly-poly bales of silage stacked alongside the road; then warm, cosy, farm animal smell and then a hot, oily stink from a broken-down BMW at the side of the lane.

When in Stelling Minnis I cycled out to the Stone Street junction and to my great pleasure I discovered that my efforts over the last three years had at last come to fruition. 

The hundreds of hollyhock seeds from my garden which I had scattered in a roadside concrete trough had finally germinated. I am hoping that they will continue to flourish and with the wind from the passing vehicles, start to march down the road as they self seed.

This autumn I shall repeat the process with some additional colours and we will see what happens.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Passport or identity card?

That old chestnut of the identity card was raised again recently by journalist Philip Collins in The Times of 30 June. In it he identifies three concerns which, in his view, could be alleviated by the provision of an identity card: illegal immigration, terrorism and use of public services by the unentitled. He mentions that identity cards are compulsory in over one hundred countries, citing Belgium, Germany and Israel among his examples. I am ambivalent about identity cards. His suggestion that it would be simple to make it illegal to employ a person who did not possess a valid id card sounds sensible; that NHS benefits should be unavailable to non-holders, likewise. I am not certain that his suggestion that requiring anybody hiring a white van to show an id card would assist counter-terrorist officers is grounded on rational thinking.

UK wartime identity card 1943

The tenor of his article possibly betrays the technique which will eventually be used to reintroduce the id card in Britain: that of 'parasitic vitality'. It was used to enforce the National Registration Card under the 1939 National Registration Act. It quite simply means that you make the card desirable to the public by denying them access to goods or services without it. In 1943 the cards were re-issued and tied to the ration card. You want to eat? – You need an id card. After the war they were linked to the holder's NHS number.

UK 'Identification Card' purchased on e-bay for £9.

In trying to look at the arguments for and against the introduction of an id card in a dispassionate manner I cannot but help the reflection that, for example, for the three countries mentioned above, Belgium, Germany and Israel, have they solved their illegal immigration and terrorists problems by the use of an identity card? 

Whenever a card is used it will have to be checked. Who will do the checking?
How will they be trained? Would you accept the card above?

Do we need yet another document? The journalist, Philip Collins, in assessing the system for checking the movement of people into and out of the UK observes that, 'An identity card that, where relevant, contained a holder's visa status would make this process a lot easier,'

We already have such a document. 

It is called a passport.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no. 27

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Marjorie Crocker Fairbanks, a US citizen, at the age of 22 in 1916 took a ship to Europe. She stayed for a while at Cheyne Walk in London and then sailed for France where she worked as a volunteer ambulance driver. Her letters home she published, along with those of her friend, Esther Sayles Root, in a book entitled Over Periscope Pond.
Read it here
In 1925, now married with a son, she left her family and departed on a tour of France with a woman friend and two men. On her return to the USA she was divorced.
This is the photograph on her passport issued in Washington in 1948. In New York she obtains  multiple business visits visas for France and Belgium and arrives in Rotterdam on 30 August 1948. She is now 53 years old and her occupation is stated as 'writer'. Over the first five months of 1949 she is issued with ration coupons for a total of 2,000 litres of petrol. She visits Belgium and Germany and changes money in Paris, Montauban and Perpignan. She flies home to the USA for Christmas 1950 but is soon back, presumably on business. This passport finally expired in August 1952 at which time she was still in Paris. What an intriguing person.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Warwick Museum

Whilst in Warwick we visited the town museum. 

Most disappointing  

I understand that exhibits sometimes need to be kept in low light to preserve them, but do the commentaries have to be written in a small white typeface on a pink card pinned to the back of the cabinet? You need opera glasses to read them. 

One of the most interesting displays was the floor, about which nothing was said.

Bubbles in Canterbury

Well why not?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Broad Gauge Premier Inn in Wolverhampton

We recently stayed overnight at the Premier Inn in Wolverhampton and discovered that it was built on the site of the railway platforms of the original Great Western Wolverhampton Low Level station. The High Level station is still in use and overshadows the hotel from an imposing viaduct built of Staffordshire blue bricks. 

The Low Level station building is now grade II listed and serves as a function venue. 

The Premier Inn hotel incorporates part of the arcading of the original station.

To learn the fascinating story of this station, click here.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Shakespeare – the businessman.

I have spent the last two days in Stratford upon Avon which everybody knows is famous for its Shakespeare links. I had only known Shakespeare as a poet and playwright. It seems that he played a more complex role in Elizabethan England. Apart from seeing both his birthplaces I have also remarked that he either managed or owned the Shakespeare Cinema, the Shakespeare Fish & Chip Shop, the Shakespeare Tea Rooms, the Shakespeare Newsagents, the Shakespeare Service Station, the Shakespeare Bookshop, the Shakespeare Hospice Furniture shop, the Shakespeare Car Sales Centre and the Shakespeare Gift Shop.

So here is a picture of some exquisite brickwork above a doorway, and an interesting jumble of roof angles.

I have found no evidence that William Shakespeare ever built houses or constructed roofs.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Let's build on the orchards.

Enjoy the blossom whilst 
you can – 
this is destined for 3,000 houses and a new road junction on the A2.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Passport Portraits of Yesteryear no.26

Continuing the series of passport portraits from my collection.
Peruse and wonder.
Alfred Maximilian Perray, a 58 year old organist from France. It is 26 October 1918 and the end of the Great War is expected any day now. M. Perray is particularly impatient. Because of the war he has been unable to visit his son who is in prison in Kandersteg, Switzerland.

This is M. Perray's photograph on the French passport which has just been issued to him, 'valid for fifteen days to count from crossing the Swiss frontier, once it has been re-opened.'

He is waiting in his garden. Waiting to 'see' the son he has not seen for more than the four years of the conflict, for Monsieur Perray is blind.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Update on old fashioned arithmetic for Southern Railways

See my post of 14 April.
Just for a laugh I decided to claim compensation as recommended to us passengers by the driver of the train who announced, just before dumping us all at Croydon East, short of our destination, that, 'this service is now running more than forty minutes late'.

To remind you of the incident: the train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria was ten minutes late arriving at Gatwick, 30 minutes late departing and stopped short of the destination. I missed my connection at St. Pancras and had to wait for the next train, one hour later.

Southern Railways use a different arithmetical model. Their response:

Having checked our records for the details of the delay you provided to us, our systems show that delay was 1 minute, which is below the minimum threshold for which you are entitled to Delay Repay compensation.

So that is all right then, isn't it? I know I cannot argue because I never managed to pass my 'O' level maths exam in 1965.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Martin in the Derby Bar, Sauze d'Oulx has read one of my books.

Sitting quietly in the Derby Bar in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy, on Saturday night awaiting the arrival of the rush, I fell into conversation with Martin who lived across the square. When appraised of my occupation he declared that he had read one of my books and it had surprised him and amused him. 
Oh what it is like to be famous!

The Derby Bar in Sauze d'Oulx on Saturday night.

The calm before the storm.

You should have seen it thirty minutes later.

It was heaving.

Old fashioned arithmetic problems by Southern Railway

Q: If a train is due to leave Gatwick Airport at 19.41 on a Sunday night to arrive at London Victoria 25 minutes later, how fast must it travel?

A: It will arrive late at Gatwick Airport, stand at the platform for twenty minutes and then crawl at 20 mph as far as Croydon East where the service will terminate because it has lost its timetable slot at Victoria Station.

Q: If a train composed of ten coaches, each coach containing 100 passengers sitting and standing nose to nose crammed up to the doors and all with suitcases, is emptied onto platform 4 at Croydon East to await another train which will already have its own passengers on board, to carry everybody to Victoria, what proportion of the passengers of the first train will be able to board the second train?

A: see below:

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Triumph of design over function - Hotel Assietta

This is the headboard of my bed in the Hotel Assietta in Sauze d'Oulx, Italy.

Can you imagine gently resting your weary head against that construction? Or stirring suddenly in the night and knocking yourself unconscious on one of those timber medallions? It could serve duty as an indoor climbing wall.

But the hotel is well situated and serves a brilliant breakfast.