Archive for September, 2015

Another bird

September 30, 2015

I had just finished writing yesterday’s piece about the robin when one of those birds I find harder to identify turned up.

What took my eye was actually a flock of mixed tits. There were certainly four species of tit in it, the blue, the great, the coal and the long tailed varieties.

But then another bird was spotted which was not a tit. It was quite early morning and the light wasn’t brilliant. The photo I managed to take certainly isn’t perfect.


But even a poor photo is an aid to identification. I believe this is a chiffchaff.

The only other p[ossibility is a willow warbler. The two look very similar but I think the willow warbler is a brighter yellow than this.

These images come from the RSPB site.

However, as I am a tad uncertain I’d appreciate it if anyone could either tell me I’m right or put me straight.



September 29, 2015

In a recent vote the robin was named as Britain’s national bird – effectively it was deemed the most popular bird in the country.

They have, of course, been Christmas card favourites for years and this little, and seemingly cheerful fellow, must be the most well-known member of the avian species. Not that that says a lot for TV quiz shows often seem to discover just how little the great British public actually know about birds.

As a country dweller I almost consider it my bounden duty to have a knowledge of the feathered friends and if I do see a bird I don’t recognise you can be sure I’ll do my utmost to identify it.

Robins have always been a favourite of mine (albeit I always put starlings at the top of my list) because Robin was also the given name of my late brother. So I see a robin and oft times think of Robin – my brother.

This particular robin seems to have taken a territory very close to a window in our house. The other day I noted it ‘sitting on twig oblique’ and was able to get a camera and snap photos of it. Here’s one of them.


What a cute and gorgeous fellow he is. Or should that be she. The two sexes are just about identical in appearance.

As a species, robins seem to have learnt that they are liked by us humans. They are far less wary of us than similar sized small birds.

I do hope this one sticks around for a while. He (or she) brings a smile to my face.

Francoise Hardy

September 28, 2015

As I write this I am listening to Francoise Hardy singing her wonderful songs from the 1960s and reliving those angst ridden young teenage years when I (like loads of others) was madly in love with Francoise – an unattainable dream.

You really wondered why all the boys and girls were together in pairs, except her. Were the boys of France mad? Surely, given a chance they’d be out with Mme. Hardy.

Buying new records was not my thing back in those days. My family were still escaping from very low level finances and we were well inculcated with not wasting money on fripperies. But inevitable over the years Francoise records came my way. Or should I say we, for when we married and my wife endowed all her worldly goods on me, it included a Francoise Hardy EP.

And at this stage I remember I’m talking a foreign language to today’s generation of angst ridden young teenagers. So let’s explain Francoise Hardy first, starting with the image on a record sleeve.


Francoise epitomised 1960s beauty with her long flowing hair and simple looks – not over made up. Her songs were simple and easy to hum along to. One might not understand the words for she was French and sang in her native language, The meaning of the songs was plain though. All her songs meant she was waiting for me!

But it isn’t only the singer who might need explanation. The whole method of playing music does as well. You see we used to have these flat black discs – 7 inches across with a spiral groove on each side. That groove was wobbly and the wobbles were felt by a needle resting in it and converted to the sound. You got one song on each side – unless it was an EP or Extended Play record in which case you got two songs on each side.

And as I still listen to Francoise, I have to confess I am listening to MP3s on my computer.

Happy memories!

A Mother’s Day card

September 27, 2015

We did not celebrate Mother’s Day in my family. Mothering Sunday, a church festival, was accepted as appropriate for members of the established church, but the commercial Mother’s Day was utterly derided. I never bought my mother a mother’s day card and I was surprised when looking through old documents to find that my brother had. Mind you, brother and wife married at age 17 (and it lasted until death parted them) and this card was sent by brother and wife. I’m going to guess at around 1965 or 66.


It speaks of that era – colourful, yet cheaply printed with a minimum of colours.

The message seems a bit weak and weedy – ‘To someone nice!’

Inside the card has been signed.


Whether mother had her happiest mother’s day, I doubt. She was already wracked with cancer and I’m sure she knew what we didn’t, that her life expectation was already severely limited.

It is signed by brother and wife, not forgetting their baby son.


At Camp in 1959

September 26, 2015

Visitors came to see us regularly at camp. Our chosen site, near Lewes, was little more than 20 miles from home and car drivers could easily pop down to see us – and they did. I loved being at camp but it seems more staid friends and some who were more on the wild side, loved the atmosphere of our non-campsite camping where we had to be self-reliant in all ways.

Fred and Marjory Davies were visitors. My dad knew them through the WEA – the Worker’s Educational Association. I would put them in the more staid category. Fred drove what I thought was a swish Wolseley car with a walnut dashboard. But they enjoyed visiting and Fred took these photos.


The group of people there, seated between our two main tents, start with my mum and then Marjory. I’m afraid I don’t recognise the next lady. My dad is lounging in his chair and that’s my brother standing up by the telescope. The track going to the top of the hill can be seen on the hillside above the group, passing the scallop shaped chalk pit which was a feature of the site.


This picture looks in the opposite direction and that neat boy on the left is me. I don’t know the two people also on the ground except that the man looks a bit like Fred Davies so it might be him. I do note the poles which supported our electric fence which protected camp from the bullocks in the field. My mother sits outside the bell tent and, once again, my brother is by the telescope.

Happy memories!

Granny grows a sunflower

September 25, 2015

To be strictly accurate this Granny was a step grandmother. My real gran died, back in the 1930s with four young children, Grandad remarried, perhaps in haste, but desperate to keep his family together. Even that never entirely worked. Step granny never had children of her own and maybe was not an ideal substitute mum. But I only knew her as a Granny and she seemed tolerably OK to me, albeit more interested in horse racing or wrestling on the telly than mere step grandchildren.

Back in 1965 she chanced to grow a very tall sunflower which got featured in her local paper.


There’s a reminder of how dotty newspaper photos were fifty years ago – but at least they existed and had real local news.

Here’s the caption to the photo.


Well done Mrs C Ware, I say. UI always called her Granny. Some of her step children called her Mum but others called her Chris or even Aunty.

I’m pleased to have the memory.

Barmouth Bridge – then and now

September 24, 2015

Back in the 1980s – a generation ago – we took our family camping on the south side of the Mawddach estuary for three years running. It was a quiet and undisturbed area with bustling Barmouth less than a mile away across the footbridge next to the railway line.


I think we must have been up near Llynau Cregennen, above Arthog when this photo was taken.

That’s my daughter on the left looking about the age her son does now. I have to say she is also looking cold. A wooded hump rises up from by the water. That is Fegla Fawr – a hill we camped on.

To the right of that a black line goes across the water and that is Barmouth Bridge. This spans the estuary. We can also see, just alongside my daughter’s head and going into the centre of the photo the Fairbourne spit which goes nearly all the way to Barmouth.

I’ve called this a ‘then and now’ but I don’t have a now view. Instead I have the opposite view from Barmouth, across the bridge, over Fegla Fawr and up into the mountains.


The bridge passes in front of Fegla Fawr. Llynau Cregennen is high up in the mountains beyond.

It is a beautiful part of the world and people speak the Welsh language there. I may not understand what they say but by golly it sounds so beautiful and most folks can speak English and they do to we English folk.

Pronunciation is different in Wales too. We learned some things quite quickly back in the 1980s. The nearest railway station to where we camped was and still is Morfa Mawddach. It’s a request stop. If you want to get off the train there you have to tell the guard in advance so he (it was still all men back then) can ensure the train stops. We recall the first time and we told the guard we wished to get off at More fir more datch. Eventually he understood and said, ‘Ah! You mean more var mouthe ack’. We don’t pretend to be any good at Welsh but because road signs are bilingual we have learned many words and mostly we think we pronounce them tolerably well.


At Monyash in October 2008

September 23, 2015

Monyash is a village in Derbyshire with direct family connections.

Monyash had village farms – the house was at the front and barn and byre buildings were attached at the back. There seems to be a squeezer stile to that phone box.

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In fact it also led to some kind of wash sink.


It also led to hilarity as two people tried to get through the squeeze.



Nearby was a small village green with what looked an old monument.



The pub, with ancient blocked door stood by the green.


Morris men were arriving and considerably later we saw them performing outside the Queen’s Arms.


Oh yes, there seemed to be a bikers’ convention as well.




This is Monyash Church which would have been despised by my wife’s relatives from 300 years earlier. Cornelius’s mother, Alice – my wife’s direct ancestor – was a feisty lady who disrupted services across the moor at Leek and spent time in prison for her Quaker beliefs. One of her children  – a breast-fed babe – died in prison with her.

This was one way out of the churchyard. Large slabs are placed in the wall to make a kind of ladder.


After a dull start to the day, the sky was clearing. The sun may not yet have been with us but there was plenty of blue sky.


Just below the church was a small lake called Fere Mere. These were dug in the clay areas so that water could collect and provide that much needed fluid for animals being driven across the dry limestone areas.



I stopped by a field gate to take a photo and three fat lambs – I bet they’d been hand reared – charged over to see me with hope and expectation written all over their face. But of course, I had nothing for them.



And now, the Mere – attractive and reflective.


Steps led down to the edge of the water – and down on into the water. Recent rainfall probably meant it was a high water mark.

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Two drakes – a bit Khaki Campbell in style, cruised over to see us, rippling up the water.


When we didn’t feed them, they hopped up the steps to follow us.


One of the benches around Fere Mere. Very nice!

Well that was Fere Mere, but next door, the school playing field was not coping too well with the quantity of rain.



Monyash House Farm had a National Trust Sign.


Having been for a walk, we returned, not only seeing Morris Men, but also the old reading room.


A Greyhound

September 22, 2015

Sorry. I’m not really a dog lover so this is not a real greyhound. In fact it is a steam railway locomotive.

It has featured on this blog before when I wrote about a special enthusiasts train I went on called The Sussex Coast Limited. The train made a photo stop at Guildford and I, a very inexperienced photographer back in 1962, grabbed this photo of the loco.

That kind of loco was known as a greyhound.

Officially it was class T9and had been designed by Dugald Drummond for express passenger work on the London and South Western Railway in 1899. They quickly gained a reputation for free running and speed – hence the nickname of greyhounds.

In 1962 when I took the photo above, this particular greyhound had been preserved as a part of the national collection of steam engines. It had been repainted to look more like it did in 1899 and was used on special trains and some ordinary service trains.

In September 2015 the very same loco was in service on the Swanage Railway. It arrived at Swanage hauling a train – but had its tender first which never looks quite right and can be very uncomfortable for those on the footplate.


One thing which has changed since 1962 is having female footplate crew. And oddly, the loco is now in the livery it might have had in 1961 when I saw many of this engine’s kennel mates.

A little later the loco was on the front of another train so could be seen properly.


Sorry about half a person!

The fireman (or driver) invited me onto the footplate.

The roaring fire was producing plenty of potential steam.


Let’s take a right side of the cab view.


It isn’t the clearest view of the line ahead.

How great to see an old friend again.

Old Harry Rocks

September 21, 2015

I suppose this post could be about my dad – who was called Harry – sitting in a rocking chair. But it isn’t. The Old Harry Rocks are a cliff formation near Studland on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. And for those who don’t know, the Isle of Purbeck isn’t an island. It is a peninsula.

And it is a great place for a chalk lover like me to get to. There are no roads nearer than a mile away but there’s a footpath which a disabled person was getting along on a mobility vehicle. So a good view of the rocks is accessible but a one mile walk puts many people off and makes it all the more likely that those who do go there will chat and be friendly.

Let’s start with what I regard as an ugly fast ferry passing by the end of the Harry headland as it approaches Poole Harbour.


image004And then look at a bit of chalkland flora


Old Harry Rocks belong to the National Trust. In the background you see the western end of the Isle of Wight.


The cliffs near Old Harry are quite high. The people up on top give some scale.


And there, just separated from the mainland is a new Old Harry.


In the opposite direction there are a couple of stacks.


The nearer one is providing a perch for a black backed gull and a cormorant.


In past times, the maps tell us, there was Old Harry and also Old Harry’s wife. The wife got worn away and the stack we see here is the real Old Harry.


Erosion continues as the action of moving sea and trapped air enlarge cracks and then produce arches as seen in the above photo. In time more will fall in this continually changing landscape.