Archive for June, 2014

Eric Ravilious – June

June 30, 2014

Seventh Heaven

Yes, I’m in seventh heaven with the June image on my Ravilious calendar. The picture is called ‘Tea at Furlongs’. It was painted in 1939 – the summer before the war and 15 years before I came to know Furlongs, Here’s the calendar picture.


In 1939 and in the 50s and 60s when I knew Furlongs it was a lady called Mrs Richards who rented the bulk of the Shepherd’s cottage. The Shepherd, Dick Freeman, retained one room for his own use and, in truth, that was the only part of the cottage I went in with any regularity. I saw and talked to Mrs Richards, who like Eric Ravilious was an artist, quite often. As an artist she was known as Peggy Angus. Eric was a friend of Peggy’s and often stayed at the cottage.

This picture just makes the memories flood back. It’s a wonderful image that seems to sum up the peace and tranquillity of life in that era. The truth was, perhaps that the Furlongs artistic community were a somewhat Bohemian bunch of people but Mrs Richards and others I met all seemed honest and decent enough.

Sadly, I never had a chance to meet Eric Ravilious for the great man was killed whilst working as a war artist. But what a legacy he left behind.

The Metal Detector Finds

June 29, 2014

I am friendly with local metal detectorists. In fields close to my house one chap has made some fantastic finds. Having chatted with him, I invited him to do my field. Yes, I am lucky enough to have about three acres – bought with that pig in a poke wreck of a house I once described on this blog.

Here are some – the best – of his finds.

Let’s start with a key.


This is small but quite chunky. Perhaps it’s a desk drawer key. It’s no use to me, of course.

A teaspoon was found.


On the reverse it has those well-known letters EPNS. That stands for electro plated nickel silver – or as a rough translation – cheap and nasty!

Some money was found.


This is a good old UK threepenny bit from 1963. They were always favourite coins when I was a child!


Here we have the remains of what looks to be a highly un-valuable Christmas cracker quality brooch.

But the best (or worst) piece was the toy gun.


It seems as though I won’t be making a fortune from the items found!



Cave dwellers

June 28, 2014


Well of course, strictly these people weren’t cave dwellers. They were mere visitors and explorers. Being young, they probably weren’t aware of the dangers of rock falls as they discovered natural sea made caverns like this one.

The people are, from left to right, my brother, my sister and me. The year was 1954 and the location was what we loosely called West Beach at Newhaven in Sussex.

We’d have been at ‘camp’ based in the location shown yesterday. We’d have ridden bikes almost 8 miles from camp down to Newhaven and then taken a half mile stroll along the beach to find the rock pools and caves. There’d have been a picnic brought with us – simple sandwiches and maybe a slab of compressed dates to share amongst us. And at the end of a day of exploration we’d have the reverse journey – back to where we’d left the bikes and then that cycle ride back to camp.

Happy days! Happy memories of a way of life that vanished when the car arrived!

Classic Camp

June 27, 2014

Classic Camp

It is 1958. We are camping at the spot we always camped at. It is not a camp site. It is merely a ledge on the South Downs, not far from a water supply and with a friendly farmer. For the first time my dad is trying out colour photography. He has borrowed a suitable 35 mm camera. The scene, as you can see, was beautiful and we have our classic camp set up.


Let’s start with the tents. The pyramid at the left hand end was our toilet tent. I suspect that by this time we had a chemical loo which, when full, was emptied down a rabbit hole! The tent had been a polar tent and originally it would have been held in place by snow piled on large horizontal flaps on the outside. Dad had equipped it with guy ropes and peg downs.

The little brown tent was used as a store. That had been a US Army bivouac tent.

The square tent coloured green was a hefty wooden frame tent. It served as living room and parents’ bedroom. By this time it sported a lean-to extension for further storage space. The square bell tent in brown, with a fetching green top was home for us children.

And of course, we had no car. We had been driven there in a lorry and there was a return date fixed, some three weeks ahead.


The backdrop of our view was the wonderful Mount Caburn – the highpoint on a little break-away section of South Downs. Being children, we saw shapes in things, so that chalk pit had green areas which were a galloping horse and a duck. Further round and on the extreme left of this photo there’s an area of woodland which appeared to be a letter P to us. These features all still exist but shapes change and the horse and duck probably aren’t recognisable as such any more.

At the left end of the photo and below Mount Caburn there’s a line of seven elm trees and these have gone. Actually, they weren’t a line for five of them were on the nearside of the A27 road and two were on the far side. Being of simple pleasures, we liked watching the Eastbourne bus threading its way between those trees.

Also between us and Caburn there was the railway line and it happened that every hour the up and down London to Eastbourne trains passed each other in that view. That was always a sight to enjoy.

Of course, this was a part of the Southern Electric railway system so even back in the late 1950s most trains were electric. But there were still steam hauled goods trains and also some cross country trains which were steam hauled. There was a daily train we called the Birkenhead Express for it was heading for that Merseyside town. Bits from various Sussex and Kent towns were joined up at Redhill and made their way up to the Wirral in Cheshire. This train caused me to think Birkenhead must be a wonderful place.

Ah! Happy memories!

Click mills at Huxter

June 26, 2014

It was back in 2005 that we were on the Shetland Islands. The previous year we had found a click mill at Dounby on the Orkney Islands. We knew what to expect when we found the Huxter mill.


Now how glorious is that – a lovely little building made of what could be found locally. The grass roof is in need of repair but that seems to help make this building an integral part of its landscape.

Huxter is out at the extreme west of Mainland Shetland. It’s a remote spot washed by the North Atlantic Ocean.

The horizontal wheel which could directly drive a mill stone is visible under the mill.


Let’s see what the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland says about Huxter.

The Norse, or horizontal, mills at Huxter are typical examples of a once-common type of water mill found in Shetland, Orkney and Lewis. The mill used one wheel (tirl) with blades mounted on a horizontal plane, driving a single pair of grindstones. This simple design meant that multiple mills could be built on a length of stream, with a family or small partnership each owning their own mill.


Yes, there is more than one mill at Huxter.


The little stream which fed the mills comes from a small lake on the hill above the mills.


And to set the scene, the view from Huxter includes the far-away island of Foula.


What a glorious place!


The Sky Road

June 25, 2014

This name is given to a road which loops around a headland to the west of Clifden in Connemara. It’s a magnificent stretch of road which affords magnificent views. We first visited in 1971. We stopped at a designated car park from which this view over the plethora of off-shore small islands could be seen.


Forty years later, in 2011, we were in the same place and I seem to have captured the almost identical view.


Not all that much has changed in forty years, most notably a little settlement seems to have appeared on the mainland.

The nearest island, possibly connected by a low tide causeway is called Ardmore. Beyond it and with buildings visible is Turbot Island. The island on the right is Inishturk.

It is a lovely place – quiet and beautiful.

Caruso and Farrar

June 24, 2014

If the two names in the title mean anything to you then you are probably an opera buff. I’m not, but back in those days in the 1960s when I collected old 78 rpm records, I knew the names and particularly that of Enrico Caruso. I guess I decided an old single sided record which featured him was something I should have. Actually, if I am strictly honest now, I shouldn’t have it, for I don’t personally care for the music and I don’t listen to it. That, at least, means I am doing the record no harm.


There’s the record – a 12 incher – protected in an album sold by Attwells of St. Leonards –on-Sea in Sussex.


Here’s the label. We can see it’s an ‘HMV’ and the dog, Nipper’ is peering into the horn from which he can hear his master’s voice. Our two singers are performing a piece from the Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly. They sing in Italian.

Enrico Caruso was Italian and was a mega star of his era – roughly 1902 to 1920. He made 290 recordings and one of them was the first to achieve one million sales. He was a great friend of American Geraldine Farrah (some say it was more than friendship). She, too, was a star of her time. Her following of fans were known as ‘Gerry-flappers’. Her active singing era roughly coincided with Caruso’s, but whilst he died young she lived to a ripe old age.

This recording dates from 1908.

Devizes Market

June 23, 2014


There is still something a bit traditional about a market with traders shouting their wares and doing their work with a bit of showman panache. And they still draw the crowds.

If I go to France, I quite often photograph stalls. One day, a few years ago, I really thought I’d do the same in England with my local market at Devizes.

image002 Traditional fruit, albeit not of local origin.


A stall dedicated to the olive.


Curtain material.


Flowers alongside plants from a local nursery.


Spares for your vacuum cleaner.


A packaged cake stall.


Stones – some claimed to have mystical properties.




A local vegetable supplier.


Cheese and bacon.


The fish man.

Just a small fraction of the market stalls are shown here. There is much, much more.

There’s a chance to buy much of what you might need as well as things you might want. It’s social too. You meet friends – both present ones and others from long ago. It is always good fun to linger in the market.


June 22, 2014

Back in 1962 a bit of financial security had arrived for my family – a family in which I was the youngest of three teenaged children. This was the year we went abroad. My dad, with a job that needed him to have a reliable vehicle had bought something brand new. It was a Bedford Dormobile. Because this was classed as living accommodation and therefore exempt from purchase tax, it was actually quite cheap. With that vehicle, and a tent, we set off to explore some of Western Europe. A place we all fell in love with was Bacharach in the Rhine Gorge.

This little town was steeped in history and had fantastic buildings in a fantastic setting. But I was a nerd! Bacharach also had a railway station.

My dad captured an image of a train passing through.


Looking at this photo now, 50 years plus on, I can but marvel at the things I didn’t notice then. Never mind the train, hauled by a German electric loco. What about those trolleys? Aren’t they fantastic?


Now they look like something from a past age and also not so very different from what you might have seen at a UK station. Mind you, I don’t remember a porter’s barrow looking like a sun bed in the UK.

The line was also busy with freight and my dad got a snap of a freight train, this time in colour.


And that photo gives some idea of the splendour of the Bacharach scenery.

I must return to this holiday some time.

Cacti at Kew

June 21, 2014

We had a recent family get together at Kew Gardens. Luck was with us and we had good weather with no need to go in the glass houses to escape the rain. But of course we did visit these interior spots and the Princess of Wales Conservatory remains a favourite, perhaps because of its cactus collection.

Back in the late 1980s and into the 90s our son had been an avid cactus collector. We took him to Kew to see them back then and when it came to his GCSE technology project he designed and built a watering system with trays to hold water and a reversible pump to put water in and take it out again. He attended meetings of the local cactus society so for a while our life seemed to revolve around these prickly plants.

Remnants of his once extensive collection still linger on – inevitably in our house and not his. And look, this one even has flowers about to open.


But we can’t rival Kew, of course and here’s a collection at that west London botanic garden.


Looking around again, after more than twenty years, certainly brought old memories back for us three – self, wife and son.