Outer London Geese

April 25, 2015

I’m not a great lover of big cities and their suburbs. I much prefer open spaces and hilltops. But my daughter lives in Bexleyheath in south east London so of course we visit to see her and the grandchildren.

There’s a large area of parkland nearby. It’s called Danson Park. I wouldn’t rate it as one of the great beauty spots of England but it does offer open space and a chance to see some wild or semi-wild life. It almost goes without saying that one of the commonest birds is the green parakeet. For people in the UK unaware of it, escapee birds have made the parks of London and surrounding areas their homes. Although they are antipodean in origin, they seem to thrive in the extra couple of degrees of warmth the city provides. Their parrot like squawks are loud enough to be heard over the ever present rumble of road traffic.

Parakeets are not the only immigrant birds we find in Danson Park. In a walk around the lake I saw three species of goose and two of them originate from elsewhere.

But let’s start with a goose that is native to Britain and Europe – the greylag goose, ancestor of most of the domesticated geese we might see in this country. This one, on the large, multi-function lake at Danson Park was perched on the structure of a water basketball net.

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Now I call that a gloriously handsome bird and I must disagree with a statement on the RSPB website which reads:

 In many parts of the UK it has been re-established by releasing birds in suitable areas, but the resulting flocks (often mixed with Canada geese) found around gravel pits, lakes and reservoirs all year round in southern Britain tend to be semi-tame and uninspiring.

Is that bird uninspiring? I think not. I was inspired to get a photo of it. OK, the surroundings might not inspire like areas of Scotland where truly wild greylags are found, but the bird itself is still gorgeous.

I like Canada geese too. It is very much an incomer from North America and was probably introduced deliberately. It spread its wings to thrive in all parts ofthe UK except the north of Scotland. Some regard it as a nuisance. But I see them as delightful.

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For most people, they must be the most commonly seen goose.

My third goose is another incomer which, I gather, breeds in Bexleyheath. It’s an Egyptian goose.

It wasn’t that close to me, being on the island in the lake. The lovely sunshine made it seem a bit of a silhouette, but I was certain I didn’t recognise it. So I set the camera to maximum zoom, pointed and pressed the shutter in the hope I could use a photo to identify the bird. It’s funny how the camera can sometimes see better than the naked eye.

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That’s the photo as taken but I can digitally zoom in for a blog post which only uses about 1800 pixels for the main picture.

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Those pale pink legs, pinkish back and large dark eye patch were the giveaways for identification. Mind you, I cheated when trying to identify it. I used google images and typed goose Danson Park. The first image was of a bird of this type – and it was far sharper and clearer than mine.

Other birds on the lake included mallards, coots, moorhens, mute swans, black headed gulls and larger gulls not seen clearly enough to be certain about. It all made for a good learning experience for grandson.

Lost siblings

April 24, 2015

There aren’t many days go past when you don’t think of family members who have died. Recently I got in touch with a new family member – quite a distant half third cousin – and I so wanted to tell my sister about this contact and show photos she sent. But of course, my sister died last year so it can’t be done. Oddly, I don’t feel the same need to share this with my brother. It is 35 years since he died and genealogy wasn’t on the agenda back then. But things happen most days and the thought comes that I might tell one of them about it. So let’s honour those departed siblings today with a picture of them from before my own birth. This photo was taken in 1947. It was taken, of course, by my Dad. image002 The Lloyd loom settee had clearly been moved into the garden at the family home in Wadhurst, Sussex, which was where I was born. Paula, my sister, looks happy to have a brother. He had been born in what is recalled as an awful winter with all sorts of problems, but he looks to have thrived on it and is clearly showing an interest in the world. I remember that settee with affection, too. My dad didn’t quite approve of settees. He claimed that people didn’t use them by choice and that if offered a chance to sit anywhere, they always took a single seater chair. It got replaced by two arm chairs. But of course nothing can replace the brother and sister. Please don’t get any idea that I live a life of sadness though. I don’t. My memory is good and I have lots of good memories. I’ve known my wife for the vast bulk of my life so I have someone I can share most things with. I have no thoughts of having been dealt a lousy hand in life. I think I’ve had a great one.

Welcome to your new home

April 23, 2015

We moved to our current home in 1976 – 39 years ago. I think some people thought we were mad to take on a very run down, albeit post World War 2 house and about 4 acres of land with a neighbour who had recently been involved in blocking access. But we had by-passed him and had no worries on that score, the house was basically sound and we approached the acres with enthusiasm.

Friends Brian and Sheila were certainly supportive and they baked and decorated a cake for us.

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We planned to live the god life of self-sufficiency and some of our plans featured on the cake. We certainly planned to keep poultry, and very soon we had our first little flock. Whether we had reckoned on keeping sheep, I can’t remember, but we certainly did keep them and there are still sheep on our field, but these days they belong to a friend. We also planned to grow Christmas trees as a cash crop and that never did work out well for the livestock had too much of a taste for the succulent, tender, new shoots of the conifer trees. Having said that, we have the one that got away and now stands thirty or more feet tall and we haven’t given up on the idea of doing Christmas trees again.

The good life had been in operation before we moved and continued. There was a time when we made all our own bread and certainly the loaves by the cake are homemade ones.

The make do life continues. I note the table cloth which, if memory serves me right was sold as a bed spread. Thirty nine years on we still have and use it. There’s a teapot stand in the frame as well. Yes, we still have that although it isn’t much used. Teapot makers seem to have lost the art of making non-drip spouts so we tend to use a tray which catches the drips these days.

The table, under the cloth is definitely the one we still use. We have only had the one table throughout our 44 years of married life. The chairs, though, have changed. The originals we had, basic 1970 style seats, did not survive the rough and tumble of normal life. We replaced them with much sturdier examples.

Fashions may come and go, but we’ll continue to use what we have and like.

Oh yes. We still have the friends to but it gets harder to see them for we are all involved with children and grandchildren these days.

A Hole Punch

April 22, 2015

I do like older mechanical items and today I’m looking at a hole punch I have. I know almost nothing about its origins or age. Maybe somebody can tell me more.

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The punch is made of pressed steel mounted on a wooden base. The maker’s mark appears to be a transfer on the base.

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It is well worn, but clearly says East-Light in front of a rising sun emblem.

My best bet is that this dates from the 1940s or early 1950s so I estimate it at 60 plus years old. It still works and to prove it here’s a page it just punched.

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Now where do those little discs of cut out paper go? There must be storage space in the wood base and at the back of the hole punch there’s an openable trap door.

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This can be rotated around the screw that holds it in place.

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And there we see the little spout for tipping out the waste.

In terms of use, it doesn’t compare well against modern ones. It has no arm which can be set to ensure your holes are in the right place and it has no pointer to mark the centre between the two punches. I reckon these disadvantages make it very much a museum piece rather than a strictly useful item.

Gascony Cattle

April 21, 2015

Time for a train

No, I’m not talking about a train time nor even a timetable although I could recall table 28 in the Southern Region timetable of the early 1960s which covered services between London and the Sussex coast. For me that timetable was a totally straight forward affair but looking back with the benefit of a bit of age and (I hope) just a tad of wisdom, I can imagine it was an utter nightmare for most people.

But no, I just feel it is quite some time since I saw any kind of train on my blog and I decided it was time for one and here it is.

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People vaguely in the know will recognise that this is no English train. This is in France and behind the train we see snow capped Pyrenees mountains so we are not that far from Spain. I have this photo captioned simply as ‘near Momtgaillard’.

Noe I know absolutely nothing about French trains but I will point out that this train is what gets called articulated. The three carriages have just four sets of wheels. And with that I’ll let the train pass and return to what I was doing at the time in April 2008. That was photographing cows.

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These handsome beasts are Gascony cattle. They looked at me, looking at them.

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They didn’t think much of me. They were off.

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The real reason for departrure followed behind them. They clearly didn’t fancy the bull.

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The Spinney

April 20, 2015

A few days ago my very much younger than me sister sent me some photos of the Spinney with her children playing there. Sister still lives in the village in which I grew up and I rather thought her children might like to see their uncle in the same area more than 60 years ago. These are photos by my dad and perhaps not his best.

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The spinney is a long thin wood between streams. Look carefully and you can just make out three children perched on the bank on the right.

They are my sister, me and my brother. They were both older than me so not the same sister with young children now,

Here’s a general view of the spinney back in 1952.

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It still looks just the same today! This is one of young sister’s photos.

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Floral delights at Sand Point

April 19, 2015

Not so long ago we visited Sand Point in Somerset. Indeed, I did a post about seeing distant Cardiff from there. Let’s move in close this time and look at some of the flowers that grow on this lovely headland. It was March when we went so don’t expect a flurry of summer blooms, but rather some hardy species which just poke a head up above the ground and produce a little gem of a flower.

And I include the dandelion in that. Just because they are common and a bit of a pest in gardens, doesn’t mean they aren’t lovely.

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This one had found a sheltered spot, facing south and had risked an early bloom. Bright blobs of sunshine yellow bring a smile to my face. Celandines do it as well.

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Next come violets – of a kind.

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Well not very violet in colour. It’s a white violet but others, in the more normal colour could be found sheltered by rocks.

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Some plants made use of the rocks and took root in them, producing lovely little natural rock gardens.

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Ah yes. There was wonderful lichen as well!

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Hop Picking

April 18, 2015

By tradition, perhaps mostly of twentieth century origin, hop picking is associated with Kent. But it was once more widespread and certainly in the Worcester area a phrase lingered on. My wife lived in Worcester as a child in the 1950s and recalls that good autumnal weather was described as ‘proper ‘op picking’.

My own relatives in Sussex were certainly involved in the hop business around Uckfield into the twentieth century and a family postcard shows hop pickers at that small Sussex town.

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I can bet there are family members amongst the folk in that card, but sadly, I have no names and can’t identify any.The photo dates from the nineteenth century. I know my great grandfather was deemed to be an expert hop dryer so he probably wouldn’t have picked. But surely others, in the labouring classes, would have done. And my ancestors and relatives were virtually all agricultural labourers.

But this is a family card – sent to one of my relatives.

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The card has had the stamp removed – which often happened, but we can surmise it was sent from Uckfield in 1904. By the way, there is a Bleak House in Uckfield.

The recipient was a Miss Frost at 8 Marlborough Place, Brighton. It was the lot of a good many of my female relatives to spend time in service in Brighton and area.

From the message Miss Frost appears to have the initial M. The message seems to come from ‘your sis SF’.

And this all presents a mystery. I cannot trace M Frost and certainly not an M Frost with a sister initialled S.

However, my feel is that they may have been daughters of my great great uncle Frederick. He lived and worked at Hempstead Mill which is on the edge of Uckfield, albeit in the neighbouring parish of Buxted. I note the sender of the card couldn’t get one of H Mill.

An alternative theory is that the sender is EF with a rather curled capital E and that could fit with this family for there was a Mary, born in 1884 and she had a sister Emma born in 1886.

Whoever writer and recipient were, I am sure they are family members. Why else would the card have survived in the family with a message clearly meaningful to my forebears?

 

A tractor parade at Whitchurch

April 17, 2015

There are plenty of places called Whitchurch. At a guess it means the church was made of a stone which looked white. The one I refer to is in Hampshire between Basingstoke and Andover. The date was March 27th 2011. We had a family get together there.

As usual, we were early arrivals and enjoyed seeing tractors on their way to or from a rally.

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I think the front one dates from the 1960s and is clearly a Massey Ferguson.

The one following it was an earlier Massey Ferguson but may well have been of 1960s origin too.

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By modern standards tractors were tiny back then and offered no protection for a driver, either from the weather or in the event of a roll over.

This one, another M-F tractor, has a roll bar fitted.

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And here we have a tractor with some weather protection.

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This is a David Brown tractor and it was registered in 1969. The cab looks very basic but no doubt a roll bar is incorporated.

Here’s a much newer M-F tractor with a Ford in the background. It was tractors of this shape that my son collected on his toy farm in the 1980s.

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That’s three Massey Fergusons of different eras.

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This one was bringing up the rear as far as we were concerned for we had family to meet.

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I don’t suppose motorists were too happy getting behind that lot but it provided a delightful interlude for me.

Performing in the Albert Hall

April 16, 2015

Yes, I have been part of a performance in the Albert Hall. It must have been about 1959 and my junior school were invited to have a dance troupe to perform in the interval of an English Folk Dance and Song Society concert.  I was involved in a sword dance which, from our school was an all-male affair. The local press photographer came to the school to take a photo of us.

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Maybe maypole dancing was part of the Albert Hall event as well, but I don’t remember that.

I’m the chap holding the star of swords (OK they were thin laths of wood in our case. I recall that the high spot of the dance was when we grouped in a circle and interlocked them and then danced around in a circle with me holding the assembled swords above my head.

Two of my best friends from junior school days are amongst we bobble hatted swordsmen. Second from left is John Duggan and second from right is Allan Barren.

The amazing thing here is that I may well have been appearing on the floor of the Albert Hall along with my future and then unknown wife. For her school, too, did a sword dance at an English Folk Dance and Song Society event in the Albert Hall. At her school, they had a mixed gender group and she was in it. In fact loads of schools were doing this sword dance, all at the same time.

My wife recalls that one of the eight in her troupe got lost and ended up with another school. That meant they couldn’t interlock swords successfully until the missing member was shunted back into place by what must have been a Morris dancing ‘fool’.

Happy days!


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