Archive for December, 2015

A highlight of 2015

December 31, 2015

Back in August we attended a wedding. It was absolutely lovely. The bride and groom were friends who lived in our village. These were friends who are about the age of our children. They chose the church as their wedding venue which couldn’t have been more convenient as their house is just outside the churchyard. The service was lovely and fitted the lifestyle of the couple. There was folk singing and the floral decorations had all been picked at a wild flower nursery. They were just great.

I was able to do a bit of bell ringing at the end before joining in the outside goings on as photos were taken. I could leave the ringing to my friends and colleagues.

image002 I’m avoiding images of the wedding people. They may not want them on a blog. But here are some of the flowers in the church.



The reception was at our wonderful Community Hall. In August weather we were able to enjoy some outside games – boules, quoits etc. as the first meal was prepared. This was a cream tea and, again, avoiding people entirely, here is what was set out in the hall.


Nothing was new. The couple and their friends and relations had been purchasing cheap pretty cups and saucers from charity shops. I believe the bride might have made the cake stands from some of these purchases.

Floral decorations – from the wild flower nursery were enhanced with cut out butterfly shapes.


Again, charity shop maps were used for them. It really was delightful.

In the evening there was a ceilidh band to dance to and a buffet. I have always enjoyed that kind of dancing and that kind of music. If you didn’t dance it wasn’t so loud that chatting was impossible. In fact, like the rest of the day it was lovely.

It felt like a real community event.


A known unknown

December 30, 2015

Back in 2002 it was Donald Rumsfeld, the USA Secretary of State who attempted to confuse the world with his speech about known unknowns.

In my case I am using that term to mean things I didn’t know for a long time, but do now. I’m using it in a family history context and it centres around this book.

The book is Holiday House by Catherine Sinclair. I guess it is late Victorian but it has no publication date. It centres around two orphaned children raised by their grandmother and a kindly uncle not to mention the nurse who does most of the frequent chastising for misbehaviour. I haven’t read to the end of it yet. It is quite heavy going.


It is said to be a book for the young. All I can say is that youngsters in those past times must have had much more perseverance than those of today. There are 320 pages of uninterrupted text to get through.

The author advertises some of her other works on that title page.


I’m afraid these other books will have to remain unknown knowns – that they existed I know but what they are about I have no idea.

We seekers after information find all we can and there is a tiny stamp giving the name of the bookshop.


Now a chap called Thomas Pullinger was, amongst other things, a book seller living on Union Street in Brighton in 1891 and 1901. By 1911 he seems to have given up the book selling and concentrated on picture framing. He’d left Union Street as well. That does help me with my guess of a late Victorian book.

But best of all, this book was awarded to my grandmother.


Now I never knew that granny – Ethel Stevens – attended the Congregational Sunday School in Isfield. That has become my known formerly unknown. But I can be annoyed with that Sunday School for not dating the award or giving a reason for the award.

Granny was born in 1892 which certainly points to that late Victorian era for the book. But it would actually be entirely wrong for the book was written in the 1830s.

But well done Granny, whenever you won it and whatever it was for.

An Octascope

December 29, 2015

The octascope seems to have just about vanished from the world. What a pity! The principle is simple enough for it is like a kaleidoscope where you view pieces of coloured plastic in a tube, with mirrors to produce a lovely repeating rotating pattern. Now take away the plastic pieces and replace them with a lens which enables you to focus on whatever you want and turn it into the same kinds of rotational pattern. You have an octascope and they are lovely.

I think, in my family, we first saw one at the home of our rather Bohemian friends. I know my dad was captivated and set about finding cheap examples for his family – or at any rate, for me and him. I still have mine and here it is, in its box.

image002 This came from The Early Learning Centre and it still has a price label.


That price tag is useful since it is a decimal price but I suspect it may have been priced decimal just prior to 1971. If we take the octascope from the box it has something of a psychedelic look to it.


I’d love to be able to show you a pattern made with this, but I can’t attach a camera and I haven’t (to my surprise) even got a simple way of cheating one with software at the moment. But take it from me, some very beautiful images can be obtained.

I suppose the need for a reasonable lens made them more expensive than the kaleidoscope, but I still can’t really understand why they have vanished from the scene.


December 28, 2015

Being a farmer in Swaledale was always going to be hard work for man but sometimes it was hard work for horses as well. Let’s imagine a farm at Muker. It’s a beautiful place and absolutely idyllic in Swaledale. It’s an ideal place to keep a few dairy cows and to make some butter.

Now Muker is about 250 metres above sea level. If a farmer had butter to sell he’d have to take it to Hawes Market. It’s a journey of about 12 miles and when you get to Hawes you’d be about 250 metres above sea level. But Hawes is in Wensleydale and between Muker and Hawes there are mountains which rise up to 526 metres above sea level – that’s a road height.

Hill climbing with a load was and is definitely hard work for a horse but farmers reckoned that if they had unsold butter at Hawes Market, rather than haul it all the way back to Muker they’d dangle it on a rope in the cool dark limestone caverns that descend vertically from those hills. There were convenient places close by the road which served this purpose – and the butter would still be fine the following week when the farmer returned to Hawes Market. He could haul up his butter and it was all downhill (almost) to Hawes. The area became known as The Butter Tubs which is often shortened to one word – Buttertubs.

If you’ve heard the name it may be because the 2014 Tour de France cycle race came to Yorkshire and used Buttertubs pass as one of the hill climbs.

We went over Buttertubs in our car in 2014. It was thick mist and we were actually unable to see where the old farmer storage chasms were. We had better luck earlier this year.

And here are these deep grykes as these gaps are called, that constitute the Buttertubs.

image001We both read the information boards.



This is not a safe area for the unwary. It would be all too easy to fall.


The view towards Swaledale and Muker


These grykes are deep. The notice board which we read offers a diagrammatic explanation.


Ten years ago

December 27, 2015

Since digital photography came in (for me that was 1998) I have found it so easy to look up what happened on specific days in the past. When writing for the 27th December 2015, I looked back ten years and came up with this photo taken on 27th December 2005.


Signs of Christmas are evident in this shot taken in our sitting room, mostly because of that little pile of books under the settee.

The group of people, who include my daughter and wife, are playing a game called Perudo. This is an international match. Two of the girls on the settee are Brazilian. One of them is now married to the chap with his back to the camera who was a school friend of my son. Do you know, I can’t place the chap on the right but that’s not so unusual at Christmas. I am delighted to say my son still feels able to treat our home as his own and when he stays we can expect friends of his – or friends of friends to turn up. That is always one of the pleasures of the Christmas period.

I am shocked to discover this was ten years ago. It feels like only yesterday to me yet for others, many changes have taken place since then. My daughter is married and her eldest child is now 5. My son, missing in that photo is also married with a two year old. Visitor Steve and his Brazilian wife are married with a couple of children. Visitor Pete who I know was there that day is also married now with two children. My wife and I have both joined the ranks of the retired but seem to remain busy on all sorts of things.

But even so, that day, ten years ago does seem very recent.

Boxing Day

December 26, 2015

Traditionally this is the day for giving and receiving Christmas boxes – that is presents. For many, these days, it marks a day when people can say, ‘Phew! That’s it for another year’. And in some ways it is a bit like that for us this year. Our children and grandchildren have been with us in the run up to Christmas and on Christmas day. Today they head off to see what I’ll call the in-laws. Next year it’ll be done the opposite way around. But this year, and, indeed, into January, we’ll keep decorations up until 12th night.

Back in 1953, when I was but a nipper, it was my grandparents who came to visit us.

image002This was my childhood dining room on Christmas day in 1953. We are about to eat our Christmas pudding. I expect my mum made it, but granny, with as big a grin as I ever remember her having, has taken the knife to it and is preparing to serve it out whilst Grandad, dad, mum, me, brother and sister look expectant. Well, I expect I looked like that, but my back is to the camera so I can’t really tell.

But now to two happy young ladies enjoying a nibble of something in Christmas 1961.


This is my wife and her sister. Behind them on the old telly we can see the base of their artificial tree which sister in law still has.

I wonder what grandchildren might do with photos taken yesterday in fifty or sixty years’ time.

Naomi’s Album

December 25, 2015

For Christmas, I thought I’d return to my Great Aunt Naomi and her note book / album in which people wrote things – usually of a religious nature. Back in that Edwardian era my relatives were devoutly Christian, on the whole in non-conformist communities, so it is to be expected that comment for Naomi would have a biblical theme.

Naomi was destined to meet her maker earlier than anyone would have wished for she died of TB in 1911 aged 31.

I believe this page was written by Naomi herself.


Well certainly it has Naomi’s initials – N F.

I can’t quite make out all of the words but this seems to be based on a poem by Francis Quarles (1592-1644). It is called ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his; He feedeth among the lilies’, A part of this goes:

He is my Altar; I, his Holy Place;

I am his guest; and he, my living food;

I’m his by penitence; he mine by grace;

I’m his by purchase; he is mine, by blood;

He’s my supporting elm; and I his vine;

Thus I my best beloved’s am; thus he is mine.

Well, here’s hoping any readers today have a better Christmas than Naomi did as she suffered from TB.



Dad in the paper

December 24, 2015

Dad getting a mention in the local paper where we lived was not unusual. Dad was always involved in voluntary work, usually of an educational or social kind. He never got involved with politics in terms of becoming a councillor. In those terms he and I have similarities, but once, I recall, Dad was referred to in a paper as the Pooh-Bah of Crawley. For those baffled by this, in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, ‘The Mikado’ there is a lord high executioner and a lord high everything else. This character had the name Pooh-Bah. Dad was being classed as the lord high everything else. Well he certainly was closely involved in many local activities.

And that meant his thoughts and opinions were sought – including this article published before Christmas 1959 in the Crawley Courier.


I think it says a lot about me!

A railway book

December 23, 2015

I bought this little volume from a charity stall at a little market in Sedburgh in Cumberland. It really took me back to my train spotting days.


Well no wonder it took me back, for the book was published in 1960. This was a time when it was not considered bad to like trains and authors and photographers could cash in on a very widespread hobby with a fairly basic idea. H C Casserley was a well-known locomotive photographer and this book is largerly a vehicle for his photos together with some self-written text and technical details of the locos chosen. The book was sold, when new, for 8/6 which is 42½p in present money.

Some 200 different types of loco are described – each with a photo.

I’m picking on just one of them.


If anyone looks at this and says, ‘Aha! This is one of those Terriers the blog author likes so much’, then I say, ‘well done, but not right’. This is Stroudley’s D class tank and very clearly comes from the same stable as my much loved Terriers.  These locos didn’t survive into my train spotting days for on the next page of the book it tells us that no 2252 was withdrawn in September 1950 at which time I was less than two years old. If ever I saw one of these locos then I certainly have no memory of it. Actually, another loco of the class survived in service on an asylum railway in Lancashire until 1957. But in those days Lancashire was as foreign to me as Vladivostok.

There are nice memories for me in this book although inevitably, Mr Casserley’s choice of locos doesn’t match mine.

Stationery Office paper weight

December 22, 2015

The UKs Stationery Office was in existence for a couple of hundred years. There must be tens of thousands of items that were made that carry the SO trade mark. Here is one of them.


This is a glass paper weight and as well as the SO mark with the crown it carries a part number of 69-13.

The age of this is uncertain. My guess, and it is no more than that, is that it dates from the 1950s or 60s. I like the item. Father in Law was a civil servant and probably used one of these items although just where this one came from, I am not sure. What I like is really its elegant simplicity and functionality. It is designed to stop papers blowing in a breeze and it has no added frills.

Amazing what items we seem to gather!

I do not collect paper weights and do not want any more. Neither am I interested in the cash value of this or any other paper weight. It is enough that I find the item pleasing.