Archive for August, 2014

Eric Ravilious – August

August 31, 2014

For the past month I have been looking at what I see as a slightly odd Ravilious picture. Odd – but I have enjoyed it. This was one of Eric’s designs for Wedgwood and it has a more limited palette than his water colours.


This is called Tent and Parasols and comes from a series called ‘Garden’. I have to say that I see it more as a beech scene, possibly on some Caribbean island.

But how would I know this? My travels have never taken me out of Western Europe. Those sun-drenched beaches with a bit of shade from palm trees lie outside my experience. Well they do if you forget St Ives.


That has the beach and the palms. But at that time it was hardly sun drenched.

But the sun did arrive later.


I wonder what September will bring on my Ravilious calendar.

Flower and Produce Show

August 30, 2014

Today is flower show day in our village. Both my wife and I are heavily involved, one way and another. My wife is mostly a contestant. She is our gardener and main cook.

There is no class for spreadsheet design, but I devised the score sheets which keep a record of everything and do all the adding up. And as a result, I’m scorer and enterer of information.

I am helped, enormously by daughter in law – but this year 11 month old granddaughter may prove a distraction.

Son and daughter in law will also enter items. Last year son won the photography cup. Maybe I can win it back this year.

I also enter some items in cooking and fruit and maybe some other odds and ends.

I have cheese scones and here they are straight from the oven.


I need five for the show and I can find a well matched five here. They look good to me – but the decision is in the hands, eyes and taste buds of the judge.

My peanut butter fudge has proved a winner (literally – first prize) for the last two years so I shall enter it again.


Now I reckon that looks better than it did last year. I just won’t tell you the amount of butter and sugar that goes into this. They must be incredibly unhealthy. But they are yummy!

But do they stand any chance against my wife’s truffles? I sneaked a photo. Clearly, they are not displayed.


Amongst the garden produce – my wife knows her onions!


And the bramley apples look passable on what has been a poor year for them.


There will be a lot of entries from our family but what we crave most is competition. We are at our happiest if we do well AND other people do well.

It would be grand if we had a lot of new exhibitors at the show this year.

La dame de fromage

August 29, 2014

I was never a great learner when it came to French although I did eventually scrape through ‘O’ level. My wife, on the other hand, is a language graduate and (she’ll argue about this) speaks French pretty well. We have spent a lot of holidays in France, particularly from the time both our children were at university in Canterbury – so close to Dover and so easy just to nip across the channel. It would be all too easy for me to be a bit like the Duke of Edinburgh – walking along a few paces behind my wife and letting her do all the talking.

But I am determined to communicate and equally determined to try to use my French – which did improve enormously as a result. So from time we go our separate ways and I have to talk. And I’ll do things that would embarrass my wife were she with me. I blag freebies. And that’s how we came to have the cheese woman.


This little lady stood atop a cheese on a deli counter in a French hypermarket. I happened to watch the last of the cheese being sold and wondered what might happen to the little figure. In my best French I managed to convey the idea that I rather liked the little model and wondered what might happen to it.

Soon, it was mine – my trophy to prove I had been talking French

André Collet is a cheese brand in France. I know nothing more about them but I think there are a range of these figures and maybe people collect them.

They are of course totally modern and just as they might be in the UK, they are made in Asia. The base has a paper label.


So there we are ‘not suitable for children under three and made in China.

I still think she’s rather sweet.



When a child is born

August 28, 2014

The birth of a grandchild gives an excuse for looking back as well as forward so today I’ll be unashamedly nostalgic and comment on changes.

We’ll start with the youngest photo we have of me.


I’m already over four months old and was clearly practising my royal wave. New granddaughter is now just over a fortnight old and more photos of her have been taken than were probably taken of me throughout my childhood. This isn’t to be wondered at for changes in technology have meant it costs just about nil to take dozens of photos so you may as well take 100 in the hope of a good one.

But of course, as compared with the late 1940s when I first saw the light of day, people (most of them) now have much more disposable income and there is much more to dispose of it on.

New granddaughter has a self-rocking swing, a Moses basket on rockers, a pram/pushchair etc. etc. – and that’s the norm. My bed in that photo appears to be an old washing basket although this might have been a temporary affair for a photo session.

New granddaughter is lucky enough to have a big brother. I had a big brother and sister and here we are on the same day.


Garden furniture? No, of course not! That wonderful Lloyd Loom chair was one of our house chairs, carried out for the occasion. These days people have lavish garden furniture, purpose made.

But despite a paucity of equipment and all things for babies, I had the most wonderful childhood. I had a dad who loved me.


And a mum who doted on me.


That remains the most important thing and I’m pleased to say new granddaughter certainly has doting and loving parents.

A pig in a park

August 27, 2014

No, I don’t mean a poke this time. I have done a blog called a pig in a poke and that was about the house we bought getting on for forty years ago and which we still live in.

Actually, that house came equipped with pig sties and I have been a pig keeper. I know enough to be wary, for pigs have sharp teeth but I also know enough to be friendly with pigs and to expect friendship in return.

We had a day visiting friends who took us for a walk in Stowe Park, near Buckingham. They had been before and warned us we might meet ‘the mad pig of Stowe’ as they dubbed it.

We certainly didn’t meet a mad pig for what we met was a sleeping pig. In fact it’s hard to say you really met a sleeping pig for it barely batted an eyelid for us.

The pig may be the only representative of its species in the field, but it has plenty of sheep for company.


And being on a tourist attraction pig probably can enjoy the company of humans – when not overcome by sleep.

The pig, large in size and black in colour, so possibly of the large black breed, had a pig sized hollow in which it had settled down so that the wind could whistle above it.  It was so asleep that some of our party thought it was dead – but I could see the chest going up and down.


What a beauty – but beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. I suspect most would say this beast had an ugly face.


The poor thing was troubled by flies, but it didn’t seem too bothered.

What a lovely animal, although I’d definitely be very wary of those teeth!


August 26, 2014

I like geese and used to keep them in the days when foxes followed the rules and only came out hunting at night.

I have featured some of my own geese on this blog before. Click here to see/read that post.

Today we are looking at geese on the Faroe Islands – those magnificent dots of land in the North Atlantic between the Shetland Islands and Iceland.

Father in Law was based on these islands towards the end of World War Two. He took this picture of geese.


There’s not much livestock that can cope with the pretty harsh environment up here. But geese can and (apologies to vegetarians) they’ll make a decent meal. Actually, on the topic of vegetarianism – I dare say such folks can survive on the Faroe Islands, but traditionally food has been scarce and islanders ate what they could. It wouldn’t be an ideal place to have too many food restrictions.

Of interest in that picture from about 1945 is the peat stack. The Faroes have got energy sorted. Electricity is all generated from renewable sources on the islands and as a result the peat stack is no longer much in evidence.

But geese are. This is a photo I took in 2005.


There are these handsome beasts enjoying a bit of sunshine as they convert indigestible (for humans) grass into poultry meat which we can eat.

And after all that a confession. I have tried eating goose – one of my own – and I thought it had quite an unpleasant flavour. These are very much birds I’m happy to look at and chat with (They don’t understand, of course, but it can feel like they do). I’d rather not eat them.

And with that I’ll remind anyone who feels they look cute, beautiful or anything like that, that these birds would not be there if people didn’t eat them.

And don’t be put off visiting these islands. You can get imported food perfectly easily in supermarkets and the islands and people are just fantastic.

On being a grandparent

August 25, 2014

Now this is a tricky question. Would I rather be me now or me as a much younger person? Of course there are many disadvantages to age. I was never the most agile person, but I am less so these days and, of course, I’m realistic enough to know that life doesn’t last for ever and, in terms of three score years and ten, I don’t have that many years left.

But against that you have to set the advantages. Now for me, being retired is the best job in the world. I’m just about as busy as I was when working but I am doing the things I want to do and not things I’m told to do or am supposed to do. Now that’s just wonderful. It’s simply fantastic that in the world of the volunteer, people say ‘thank you’ for the things you do. I’m afraid my experience of the world of work, and I hear it from many others too, is that being thanked rarely happens.

Part of the wonderful job is being a grandparent – and I recently gained a third one of these wonderful little children. But I’ll start by looking back 34 years to the birth of my daughter who has produced the new grandchild.

My daughter was born 5 weeks premature and was quite a tiny scrap and needed an incubator for a while. The joy of the occasion was mixed with worry and of course, back then there was no such thing as paternity leave. Somehow I had to manage work, getting 3 year old son cared for and hospital visits to see wife and babe – 20 miles from home. It was all a tad stressful.


There’s daughter in her incubator and its obvious all turned out well or daughter wouldn’t have just produced her second child.

But birth of grandchildren is such a wonderful experience. For mum and dad I’m sure it’s stressful, as it was for us back in 1980. But for grandparents it is just an occasion to enjoy.

So her we welcome little Evie to the world. Did I say little? She’s nearly twice the weight her mum was.


Now aint she gorgeous.

I get to thinking about the changes in 34 years. I took black and white photos then because I could get home and process them myself. This enabled me to distribute images quite quickly by what we now often call snail mail. I had colour photos of Evie within 10 minutes of her birth despite being 100 miles away. My daughter has already taken some ‘arty’ black and white shots. Interesting how the young find them arty and those of us who grew up with nothing better see nearly all of them as ‘a pity’.

Of course, back in 1980 I took colour photos of our baby girl, but they had to be sent off to the processors and then sent back – a substantial wait.

Back then the relatives abroad had to wait for photos to be sent overseas on the slow, lumbering planes of the day. That took ages. Gosh, communication is so easy these days.

But I still have no answer to that original question of would I prefer to be younger. I reckon I enjoy life much more now – but long may it continue.

A Gronk

August 24, 2014

Youngsters will have no idea how much shunting used to go on all over the railway network in Britain. It really did happen almost everywhere and huge numbers of locos were built to do the work.

This extended into the diesel era. Over 1000 of the 350 Horse Power diesel electric shunters were built from 1953 onwards. The last entered service in 1962.

What did they all do? Well freight trains (or goods trains as we called them) were quite different then and a train of wagons, at say Brighton, might need putting together to go to Norwood. At Norwood trains might be formed to go off to various destinations and shunters would spend their days moving trucks from one train to another.

Every loco depot (or shed as we called them) needed a shunter to move steam locos around. An out of use steam engine can’t just be started to move itself. It takes hours to get them ready. Shunters were needed for that. And carriages for passenger trains needed moving from one place to another. Step forward, again, the shunter.

When a train – say The Atlantic Coast Express was being prepared and the carriages needed to get from the depot to Waterloo they were hauled in by a shunter. When journeys were completed, carriages were hauled away again, by a shunter. Shunters were ubiquitous and there commonness made them somewhat despised by spotters.

But things change and as the numbers diminished the good old English Electric shunter (by now officially a class 08) got a nickname. They became gronks. Somehow it seems a fitting name for these box like diesels.

There are still some front line gronks and also many are kept and used by heritage railways. I noted this one, recently, at Swanage.


These days, with that outside con rod – much like steam locos had, they seem quite characterful.

A Dinky Bus

August 23, 2014

Now here’s a dangerous blog for me to do. There are people out there who know much more about buses than I do and people who know much more about Dinky toys than I do. So, we combine the two and I know almost nothing!

But I have a battered old Dinky bus.


There she is in her attractive red and cream livery but with no markings to identify her.

I have to say my carpet looks like a rough ploughed field to the bus!

Here’s more of a front view.


And of course, the underneath.


This sheds no light on the bus this was modelled on.

I have no memory of where this bus came from. My brother or I probably acquired it at a jumble sale. I think (somebody might confirm please) that it is a model 29c made between 1938 and 54.

It’s a nice little reminder of childhood!

Gawsworth Post Office

August 22, 2014

Gawsworth is a pretty village in Cheshire, quite close to Macclesfield. It has BIG family history connections for my wife. And that includes the old village Post office.


This photo dates from around 1912 and shows the Post Office.  At this time Cyrus Fytton lived at the Post Office.

But soon, Cyrus passed house and job onto his son (also Cyrus) and wife.  His wife was Lois Annie Fisher and she was sister of my wife’s great grandfather.

We have a lovely wedding photo from 1903.


The man in the back row on the left is Cyrus Fytton senior – the postmaster at the time. The man on the right in that row is James Fisher who was my wife’s G G Grandfather

The middle row has Polly Fisher (Bride’s sister), Bridegroom Cyrus and bride always known as Annie and then the bride’s mother, Maria Fisher (née Mottershead). The final man is the groom’s brother.

The two children in the front row are another James Fisher (my wife’s grandfather) and his sister also Annie.

Fantastic photo indeed!

I’ve often commented that we are lucky to come from families of hoarders. When my parents in Law married in 1945, Annie and Cyrus sent them a wedding gift and the letter that came with it has been kept.


We can see that father in law noted the size of the cash gift and replied a few days later.

In the fullness of time, Cyrus and Annie ended their lives and joined the Fytton grave in Gawsworth church yard.


AGED 1 year 5 month

But the Post Office was still in family hands for daughter Lois Audrey carried on the work until she died in 2000.


So sadly, when we visited in 2002 the old Post Office was a rather dejected looking building – unoccupied and unused.



We could peer in through a window. It looks like a carpenter was working – perhaps doing some renovations.

Gawsworth still has a Post Office elsewhere in the village.