A rather silly ‘invention’

February 7, 2016

Time was when we used to write letters to one another. The postperson (sorry if that sounds like an attempt to be PC, but my post is usually delivered by a postlady) was someone to be welcomed, bringing news from family and friends along with the occasional less welcome missive.

Some people had a sort of blunt knife which was called a letter opener. It could slot into the envelope and slice it open at the top. I don’t think such devices would ever have been regarded as essential but they were quite handy, particularly for folks with a lot of letters to open.

During the second half of the 1990s emails were definitely taking over. Somebody decided that what we needed was an email letter opener.


I have one of these devices and it, of course, was no more than a paper envelope opener. Its shape had an email link.

image004It is, as can be seen, an ‘@’ sign and the end of it is designed to open an envelope.

Can I make it clear that I did not buy such a thing. They were given away at a computer show I attended 20 or so years ago. It amuses me that anybody should have ever made such a thing – a bit of snail mail technology shaped for the IT age.

They can, of course, still be bought!

The beauty of a chilly morning

February 6, 2016

I’m looking back to January and we did have some chilly mornings. For one of them, my weather station recorded minus 7.8 degrees Celsius which is really quite cold for this part of the world.

However, the morning shown here was less cold, but still a lovely crisp and chilly start to the day.

One of the things I always enjoy seeing is the mist rolling over the hills. There may not be much colour but I still see this as a really beautiful scene.


Yes, it really is a monochrome world but the trees display their grace and those in the know can make out features on the scarp slope of Salisbury Plain beyond.

Nearer at hand, and actually on my own field, there are sheep.

image004At the moment there is a flock of 25 sheep on my land. Once upon a time the sheep would have been mine, but I gave them up some 15 years ago. Now they belong to a friend. He does the hard work and I get the pleasure of seeing them and here’s a small group, finding something in the frost covered grass.

All those little humps? They are ant hills. Our soil is a bit acidic and is suited to these little hard working insects. They in their turn bring in bird life, happy to feed on them.

I do feel very lucky to have all this immediately outside my house.

Both pictures were taken from the bathroom window.

The Pentland Road

February 5, 2016

The Pentland Road crosses the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. It’s a bit of a hidden route and isn’t much used. But when we were there, back in 2010, we made use of it – largely because we are willing to take the odd risk with tracks. In fact it is a perfectly presentable road. But it is a road that was supposed to have been a railway.

This quote is from the BBC’s Island Blogging site.

The Pentland Road is not very well known to non-islanders, and takes a bit of finding. Residents of Carloway and Breascleit use it as a shortcut into town; it’s only 16 miles to Carloway along the Pentland Road, but as much as 26 along the main road through Leurbost and Callanish. Its origins go back to Lord Leverhulme’s years of ownership of Lewis. As I mentioned in a previous article, he had contrived plans to industrialise the island, and one of the projects was to establish a fishery station at Carlabhagh / Carloway. Fishermen from the West Side would land their catches at the pier there, which would save them the trip round the Butt of Lewis to Stornoway. They would refuel at Carloway and set out again. Their catches would be transferred to Stornoway by railway.

The Carloway Railway never came into existence. New information suggests that Lord Leverhulme abandoned his industrial revolution for Lewis, because the Stornoway merchants were opposed to them. They saw those industries as competition and a threat to their businesses and interests. So, they agitated amongst the crofters with whom they traded, telling them that Leverhulme was out to get them off their land. With the Crofting Act barely 35 years in existence, and the memories of the land struggle of the 1880s still within living memory, they did rise up.
The Pentland Road was left as a dug out trackbed, barely passable in a motor vehicle. A branch was created to Breascleit Pier, where until very recently a small pharmaceutical plant operated. It was used for extracting a compound which was used in the treatment of cancer. Its uptake was limited, for the simple reason that its efficacy was not adequately proven. Nonetheless, the loss of 11 jobs is a blow for a small community like Breascleit. I am not aware that anyone has taken over the enterprise. 

The terrain the Pentland Road crosses looks a pretty unlikely place for a railway for it is barren and bleak in the extreme, albeit flat enough and level enough. To add to the sense of desolation, we had some dreadful weather so here is a view of the terrain this road traverses probably looking as bleak as it could in summer.


There certainly wouldn’t have been many passengers wishing to use this, had it been a railway. This really is wilderness.


The Tuba

February 4, 2016

Families can be a bit complex. The slight complication in mine came from my mum dying when I was an upper teenager and my dad then marrying a much younger woman who bore him my half brother and sister – younger than some of their half nephews and much the same kind of age as others who, in theory, are a generation younger.

Stepmother was keen that her offspring should learn musical instruments and so it was that in their teenage years half-brother played a trombone and half-sister a trumpet. My dad decided he would take up the tuba to be able to play with them.

I now have this rather odd sized tuba.


I’m not sure of the purpose of the blue fabric bag over it. It is only a slip on item so removes easily.


I know nothing about this tuba as far as age is concerned. I have hunted round all that pipe work and have failed to come up with any maker’s name.

It plays OK and I can get quite a range of notes out of it. But I am no musician and will spare the world the torment of hearing me in action playing it.

Although this was my dad’s instrument, I hardly regard it as a family piece for he never owned it when I lived at home. To me this is a recent purchase – probably about thirty five years ago.

Sarah Clarke

February 3, 2016

Back in 2014 I wrote a blog about the Independent Chapel at Heathfield and included this picture.


I commented on the fact that I had visited this chapel with my father who was convinced ancestors were buried there. We searched but found no family graves we could identify. I have visited in more recent times and with more family history knowledge, but again found only distant relatives.

But in fact my Great Great Great grandmother is buried there as shown in my selection of burial records. These were the records that contained the name Clark or Clarke.

CLARK – The Independent Chapel, Heathfield – BURIALS

Sally CLARK         Heathfield – Aged 4 Months. Died: ????? Buried: Apr. 23rd, 1857.
Walter CLARK    Heathfield – Aged 2 Years. Died: ????? Buried: Oct. 4th, 1858.
Vehement? CLARK Heathfield – Aged 16 Months. Died: ????? Buried: Mar. 26th, 1859.
Emma CLARK     Heathfield – Aged 57 Years. Died: ????? Buried: Apr. 22nd, 1859.
William CLARK   Heathfield – Aged 14 Years. Died: ????? Buried: Apr. 8th, 1865.
Sarah CLARKE    Heathfield – Aged 83 Years. Died: ????? Buried: Feb. 5th, 1870.
Harriett CLARK  Heathfield – Aged 13 Years. Died: ????? Buried: Aug. 5th, 1873.
Martha CLARK   Heathfield – Aged 17 Years. Died: Aug. 27th, 1880 Buried: Aug. 31st, 1880.
Eliza CLARK         Maynards Green – Aged 60 Years. Died: Apr. 9th, 1882 Buried: Apr. 13th, 1882.
Eliza CLARKE       Heathfield – Aged 62 Years. Died: Aug. 27th, 1884 Buried: Sep. 2nd, 1884.
Selina CLARKE    Heathfield – Aged 31 Years. Died: Oct. 17th, 1887. Buried: Oct. 22nd, 1887.
Albert Frost CLARKE Heathfield – Aged 5 Months. Died: ????? Buried: Mar. 19th, 1888.
Tamar Ann Robins (Nee CLARKE) Warbleton – Aged 40 Yrs. Died: ????? Buried: Mar. 26th, 1888.

I have highlighted my direct ancestor in red but most probably I am related to others there as well – definitely to Tamar Ann Robins.

But let’s just concentrate on the actual ancestor.

Sarah was born Sarah Palmer in 1887 in the parish of Wadhurst – about 160 years before I was born in the same parish. She married James Clarke at Wadhurst in 1807. I know of seven children born between then and 1831.

James died before the 1841 census but Sarah could be found living in a remote part of the parish of Burwash. In 1851 and 61 Sarah lived with a son at Neville’s Farm in Heathfield.

So Dad was right and there is an ancestor buried in the little graveyard around this lovely little chapel.



Farewell to the old home.

February 2, 2016

It is 1976. We had lived in our first home since we married in 1971. Now we were saying farewell, ready to move into our present home.

There’s my wife sitting on the floor.


Knock down furniture had been taken apart for removal. Pictures were off the wall. There was a clutter of cardboard boxes.

But now for something to amuse.

We still have the same L S Lowry print hanging on the wall.

image004It has faded quite a bit in the last 40 years.

We still have much of the same furniture.

image006Stool, chairs and coffee table all exist still. We had that rug then too. The chairs and the sofa have been reupholstered twice.

The knock down furniture is still up and in the orange colour we had chosen then to match the furniture. They have been relegated to a spare room, along with the same curtains.

image008Actually, the carpet in that room is also still the same as the one my wife sat on in 1976.

There’s a blue suitcase in the 1976 picture. That is in use as a container in our loft. I can recognise that in front of it is the gramophone I still use – a battery electric one rather than a wind up.

And of course, I still have my wife or should I say we still have each other.

The French phrase is plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose which means the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps in my house we’d better say the times change but the things stay the same.


Ariel Music

February 1, 2016

Ariel Grand records were produced for a mail order company based in Yorkshire. The label appeared between 1910 and 1938. Here we have ‘Painting the Clouds with Sunshine’. It’s a well-known tune, but the band playing it here are rather anonymous. They are called The Ariel Dance Orchestra. There was no such actual orchestra for Ariel made use of other recordings and renamed the band. I’m afraid I can’t even guess the band here although I’m prepared to suggest it may have been recorded in about 1929.


There we have the label, complete with tax stamp. As ever the sleeve it happens to be in adds extra interest.


This sleeve was from a company in Dover, Kent with premises not so far away at Canterbury as well.

With the almost complete demise of High Street recorded music shops, youngsters might be surprised to realise that they used to exist in every town. Some of us recall, in the early 1960s going into town and into the listening booths in the record shop, requesting to hear the latest hits with little or no intention (or cash) to buy them.

These kentish shops were operating about 30 or more years before. I’d guess they had no booths and headphones.

We can hear this record by clicking this link – https://youtu.be/fWvmqYm_v74 . It’s being played on my little Peter Pan portable from much the same era as the recording. The record isn’t in tip top condition but I can still enjoy it.

The main road through my village

January 31, 2016

I live in a village which was once a market town. It is still a larger than normal village and with better shops and facilities than might be expected, but markets ceased 150 or so years ago.

The main reason for the decline in status (although not in beauty and interest) was transport links.

By the time the market ceased, my village had missed out on both the canal age and the railway age. Transport was on the unsatisfactory roads of the era going no faster than the speed of a horse.

This is the main north south road through the village.


The old road to Salisbury continued over the crossroads and up and across Salisbury Plain. We can see part of that in the background. The road was always too narrow for a main route and even back in the early 19th century ways had been found to make things one way, at any rate on market days.

But then, in the early years of the 20th century the military took over Salisbury Plain as a live firing range. The road was closed and having missed out on canal and rail, the village then lost its main road.

It is hard, now, to imagine past life, but in times past there were at least six pubs, a department store, several grocers, a gas works – in fact shops of all descriptions. And of course there were also tradespeople of all kinds. Imagine, if you can, an agricultural engineer who manufactured portable steam engines for use in farming and exported them world-wide whilst inventing new types of farm machinery at the same time. Yes, that went on here.

We still have several shops and, on a day to day basis you can get your needs here.

It’s a great place to live with a lovely community spirit.

Oh! We did get a railway at the start of the 20th century. The station was closed in the 1960s but trains between London and Exeter still rush through.

Croughton Dovecote

January 30, 2016

Croughton is a village, just in Northamptonshire, close to the border with Oxfordshire and not far from Buckinghamshire.

We were there, the other day, visiting friends and we took a stroll on a wonderfully bright but chilly January day.

As we approached Manor Farm I was taken by a building which caught my eye. Our friends, Croughton residents, were able to confirm my guess that it was a dovecote.


This appears to be completely unsung. The web references I can find to it concern use of an image of the building on special edition wine bottles. I find one picture on the lovely Geograph web site which only labels it Manor Farm in Croughton.

However, A E Cooke in his on line book on British Dovecotes has a section at another Northamptonshire location known as Newton in the Willows. The designs of this one and the one at Croughton are certainly similar, albeit the Newton one is twice the size.

image003This is the Newton dovecote as seen at http://www.pigeoncote.com/dovecote/cooke07.html .

The Croughton one is on private land so we couldn’t see if the interior was lined with pigeon nesting boxes.

But I took a straight into the sun picture to see the other side of it.


As ever, I’d like to know more like when it was built. Also, where was Croughton Manor?

But even without information and even with that spoiling addition on the back, I reckon it is a lovely little building.



Faroese Sheep

January 29, 2016

Father in Law spent time in the Faroe Islands towards the end of World War 2. He was a radio operator in the RAF and was able to help have knowledge of what was going on in the North Atlantic – a vital zone for preventing supplies reaching Germany.

He took quite a lot of photos – a sort of snapshot of Faroese life just over 70 years ago.

It is now more than ten years since we were there at times tracing his footsteps.

Doug (Father in Law) took a photo of Faroese sheep.


He captioned his photos and here we have two captions for this one.



We were not there in spring so I can’t match his cute lamb. But sheep still scratch a living on the hillsides of the islands and here’s my photo.

image008What a gorgeous beast. The owner has had to trim the horns. Sometimes a curly horn can point straight into the face of the animal and keep growing. Trimming the horn is not a problem. These sheep aren’t particularly tame. Getting close can be a problem.

Our visit to the Faroe Islands was interesting. Much had changed since Doug’s time, but much still remained the same.


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