Archive for October, 2014

Eric Ravilious – October

October 31, 2014

In October I have been looking at a part of Eric’s life that I know least about. I have some familiarity with Ravilious of Sussex, the lover of chalk horses and old machinery.  I know about his work as a war artist which led to his early death when the plane he was in was lost. I know about his design work for crockery.

But his time in Essex is not really known about by me and so this October I have had a chance to discover more.

Here is the picture I have seen for the past month.


This picture is simply called ‘Village Street’ and was painted in 1936.

Eric had married his wife, Tirzah, in 1930 and for a while they lived with Edward Bawden and his wife at Great Barfield in Essex. The more permanent Ravilious home was in the village of Castle Hedingham and that is where this scene was painted. It is clearly ‘after a rain shower’. The road is wet and reflective, but the cyclists and the walker are without raincoats. The whole scene, as you might expect, is incredibly free from motor transport.

The scene is still recognisably the same today, nearly 80 years on, but these days, as is often the case, cars dominate the roadways.


I have discovered lots of really lovely Ravilious water colours painted in Essex. It isn’t a part of Essex I know. Maybe a visit is called for sometime.

Arran – 2001

October 30, 2014

We spent one day on the Isle of Arran back in 2001. We had camped on the Mull of Kintyre and the short journey back was via Arran and a couple of ferries.

And guess what? Our one visit was a day when our old friend, the paddle steamer Waverley called in at Broddick, on the island.


There she is at Broddick Pier and soon she was off on her way.


Waverley turned


and headed off with Goat Fell, Arran’s highest peak, in the background.


Now how lucky was that?


A message from Grandpa

October 29, 2014

Back in my childhood days it seemed to be a girlie thing to have an autograph book and collect autographs. I know my sister did and so, too, did my wife. And here’s a message from her Grandpa from 1957, as recorded in her book.


We can see he wrote this on 26th September 1957 and the message reads.

Build yourself a strong box
Fashion each part with care
And when you have made it as strong as your hand can make it
Put all your troubles there.
Hide there each thought of your failure and each bitter cup that you quaff
Lock all your heartaches within it
Then sit on the box and laugh.

Grandpa Paul.

I never knew Grandpa Paul. He died before I started going out with my wife. But we can see we are dealing with an older generation – men involved in World War One who had such awful memories that putting them in the box and hiding them was all they thought they could or should do.

The poem, I believe, was written by Bertha Adams Backus in 1931. The bit that doesn’t scan well is a mistake by Grandpa. There is a verse two to go with it.

“Tell no one else of its contents,
Never its secrets share;
When you’ve dropped in your care and worry
Keep them forever there;
Hide them from sight so completely
That the world will never dream half;
Fasten the strong box securely
Then sit on the lid and laugh.”

How lovely to have this example of the way Grandpa thought; the advice he handed down to his young granddaughter.


Priddy Fair

October 28, 2014

Priddy is a little village in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. For most of the year it is, no doubt, a sleepy little place. There’s a green and a pleasant pub to keep folks happy. But for a short while each year it turns into a thronging rural centre. That’s when Priddy Fair takes place. That’s usually in August and the fair is held most years. It wasn’t held in 2014 and there are fears for its future.

However, I’m going back to the early 1980s and a family trip which passed through Priddy whilst the fair was on.

The road we drove in on had wide verges and all along these were traders with agricultural and other products to sell. It was fascinating stuff.


The green in the heart of the village was also the heart of the fair. The sheep hurdles, which spend most of the year piled up in a little shelter on the green were out and filled with sheep for sale. I was keen to get photos and it seemed to me that the best way was to take to the skies. This actually meant going to the funfair, on one edge of the green and taking a ride on the big wheel.

So up I went.


This is looking down almost vertically, where wife, in the maroon red clothing was watching. But it wasn’t really the fun fair which interested me – let’s get up a bit higher.

Here we look down on the sheep fair.


It’s clearly heaving with sheep.


Priddy was altogether a busy place.


Let’s get down amongst the punters.


Great atmosphere. Let’s hope it survives.



Under the path

October 27, 2014

We recently had our front garden path re-laid. It was quite a massive job.


Our lovely old path is made of massively heavy stones. They were removed and then about 4 tons of soil was extracted.


One item came to light down in that soil. It is a desert spoon.


We can see from this angle that it has seen better days. Now I have levelled the path in the past so it is possible that somehow I lost this spoon, but I suspect it has been there since around 1952 when the path was first laid.


Our workers were obviously keen to see if this was precious metal, although the rust could tell them it wasn’t. They’ve worked hard at making the ‘hallmark’ visible.


Let’s take a guess that the EP stands for electro-plated.

A check on the web tells us this was a silver plated spoon of the third quality made by Joseph Rodgers in Sheffield. I’d love to date it, but the firm’s name has been in use from the 1720s (maybe earlier) and still is used.

But who knows, one of my lovely readers might come up with a date.

The VC10

October 26, 2014

Jet airliners are of my age or a bit younger. I remember the early Comets and the disasters they had due to sudden decompression when window frames fractured.  The Comet went on to be quite successful but it was American companies which came to dominate the jet airliner market for many a year.

Then the British fought back with planes with rear mounted jet engines and in terms of size the daddy of them all was the Vickers VC10. Perhaps we could say the VC10 was typically British – essentially high class engineering but something of a flop commercially. The first one flew in 1962 and in the end many had long lives, but mostly as refuelling planes in the RAF.

From my time living in Ifield, little more than a mile from the country end of the runway at Gatwick, I knew them well and always thought they were handsome aircraft. In about 1969 I visited the British United Airways hangar at the airport and was able to get close up to a VC10.


The public actually liked these planes, perhaps spurred on by the adverts we used to see on huge posters. One had the slogan, ‘slip across the Atlantic on the quiet’. For those of us on the ground that seemed like a total untruth. The VC10 was not quiet but apparently those rear mounted engines made it quieter in the cabin. The other ad simply said ‘try a little VC Tenderness’.  It seems the ads gave the planes appeal.


A view along the fuselage.

And the warning to one and all is to get your old slides copied. These have mould growth on them and so may have been saved just in time.

Peggy Angus

October 25, 2014

Designer, Teacher, Painter

My Life in Tickets

Our September holiday in Sussex, which included my sister’s funeral was certainly a roller coaster ride as far as emotions were concerned. Visiting an art exhibition in Eastbourne combined all the highs and lows. For me, this exhibition which was about an artist called Peggy Angus was a fantastic, enjoyable and informative occasion. But one thing was wrong. I had planned to go with my sister who would also have found it a fantastic occasion.

You see, we knew Peggy Angus from childhood days.

So let’s begin with the ticket, which, of course has been saved and added to the collection.


The exhibition was at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery and it took us through Peggy’s rather Bohemian life which actually began in a prosperous family based in South America and involved with railway construction – or at least, the funding of it. Peggy had the sort of struggle that many women had to be truly recognised although her design work could be seen in many public buildings. She became recognised as a tile designer and, as an example, Peggy Angus tiles were used in the new Gatwick Airport when it opened back in the 1950s.

But to support herself Peggy needed a steady income and so had a job as a teacher where, by all accounts she was truly inspirational.

Her get away from the hurly burly life in North London was a remote cottage nestled in the South Downs. It was devoid of much in the way of modern conveniences like water, electricity and flush toilets, but Peggy first rented it in the 1930s and it stayed as one of the places where she lived into the 1980s. The cottage was at Furlongs Farm and regular readers may realise that this was where I spent childhood holidays. So Peggy Angus and her friends were our neighbours each summer. That’s how we got to know her.

Now as a child I had no idea that she was a highly regarded artist. We called her by her married name of Mrs Richards (Mr Richards was never in evidence – not surprising as I now know for the marriage had ended long before). She was a kindly, motherly figure as far as I was concerned – cheerful and contented with what seemed to me like a primitive life style – not so different from ours whilst we camped nearby. I had no idea how she made a living. I was a kid and like youngster do, I just accepted her as I saw her and didn’t have any concept of her wider world.

Photos weren’t allowed at the art gallery, except of their wall writing explanations so here’s the one about Peggy and Furlongs.


I bought James Russell’s lovely book about her at the Towner.


In many ways it paints a very different Peggy from the one I knew. I knew nothing of her friendship with North London gypsies when she was a child. I knew nothing of world travels. I knew nothing of great works.  Perhaps I should just say,’ I knew nothing!’

This was the happy, friendly lady I knew.

image006 She’s sitting alongside Dick Freeman the farmer and they seem to be enjoying a good joke.

Bad Memory

October 24, 2014

Readers may be aware that since my sister died I have been looking through old photos – and finding many happy and well-remembered occasions. How about a game of croquet back in 2003?


Here we have a mix of my family and my wife’s. With his back to us on the left it’s Uncle Gordon – brother of my mother in law. In the turquoise trousers we have my wife. Aunty Jean is next to her – the sister of my father in law and then we have my sister, Paula and brother in law, Bill.

Before going any further I’d like to scotch any idea that croquet is posh in my household. We are lucky enough to have a big lawn but it is rough and uneven – not at all what you might expect of a posh croquet lawn. At that stage we were using a small kit which I had picked up very cheaply in a bashed box. We’ve moved downwards now for we now use a larger kit bought at a second hand sale. I say ‘we’ play but only one of those in that photo plays (my wife). Of the others two are deceased and two are in care homes.

But the background is interesting – the sheep in the field. There appear to be some pale brown sheep there and I don’t remember them. I found some other, better photos of them.


These sheep are of the breed Manx Loaghtan. They are really quite a hardy mountain breed from the Isle of Man. Some have two horns and some have four but I should say these are all ewes. Some people tend to think that a sheep with horns is a ram.


They have clearly just arrived at this time and these arrivals are grouping together and keeping apart from other sheep in the background. I had been a sheep keeper back in the twentieth century but gave my small flock to a friend as that century ended. However, I think I recognise some of those in the background as having once been mine. My little flock included one Manx loaghtan so I know the breed but I have no memory of this lot at all.

They are lovely creatures, though and I daresay they were passing through the hands of my pal who I gave my sheep to.

Waverley at Yarmouth

October 23, 2014

We have had luck seeing the paddle steamer Waverley in various places. Back in September 2003 it was on a day trip to the Isle of Wight. We weren’t of bus-pass age then, but we still used the buses – a cheaper option to taking the car on the ferry. This was what I wrote at the time.


Some of us have luck. We had travelled on Southern Vectis from Ventnor to Yarmouth, stopping and shopping in Newport. We decided to get a cup of tea at the pier café in Yarmouth, and let a ferry go. It was then that the paddle steamer Waverley hove into view


and tied up on the pier we were on. The cuppa was consumed very fast so that we could get out to really see the boat. A magic moment on 13th September 2003.



We caught the next ferry to Lymington, sailing up alongside the pier which still had Waverley at the end.




As we passed the stern of the boat, she was just leaving – a bit of reverse first to get a better angle.



Then off went Waverley, leaving us with a view of her, in the Solent, and the heights of Brook Down behind, on the island.


Ah yes, back in 2003 I used to always put blue borders around photos within a document. I still think it looks quite good.

Having a joke!

October 22, 2014

That’s not me having a joke. Actually, it isn’t anybody in human form. It’s that scavenger par excellence, the herring gull. His location, though, is a joke – Porth Joke or Polly Joke, near Newquay in Cornwall.

A group of humans had left their possessions on the beach and wandered off. We all do these things, particularly at places like Porth Joke which is a bit off the main tourist trail because it doesn’t have a car park, a café, an ice cream van, a shop selling buckets and spades or (perhaps more seriously) a loo.

In those circumstances we tend to feel we can trust our fellow men and women to leave our stuff alone. But when this group, who had left their goods unattended, came back, they’d have found they had been rifled by the opportunist thief.


Aha – a crisp packet.


It might contain food!

Toss it in the air and see if it bursts!


That’s not much good. Better try elsewhere.


I do hope that when the owners returned they realised it was not humans who had been through their luggage.

That was back in July, but more recently (September) we found another herring gull trying his (or her) luck at Rye Harbour.


This one is only a youngster. It needs to learn that a brochure isn’t much good as a source of food. But these birds certainly aren’t bird brained. It’ll learn.