Archive for February, 2016

Daffodils at Kew

February 29, 2016

A perfect mix! A railway poster – albeit London Underground and a garden! What could be better?


This is a February calendar image and as I write this I can see daffodils out in my much more rural garden.

This work of art is by Catherine Alexander and dates from 1924. It is titled ‘Daffodils at Kew Gardens’ but the poster implies similar sights at Hampton Court as well.

Actually, I see the wording of this poster as an argument for an integrated transport system. If I arrived at Wimbledon station I might feel it a good idea to go to a very handy Hampton Court rail station by train. But in 1924 that service was operated by a different company so it got no mention.


I’m just going to add that today would have been the birthday of my mother. If she were still alive this would have been the 22nd occasion her birthday could be truly celebrated.

A February gift

February 28, 2016

I have often thought that we should give gifts in February. Sometimes February can be a filthy month with murky weather. Winter might seem to drag on – although not this year when we have barely had a real winter. People tend to get to a bit of a low ebb in February. Actually, I can’t say I do for I love the appearance of the first spring flowers and that includes the white crocuses planted for daughter’s wedding four years ago.


But a random and unexpected gift can still bring pleasure and I was given one this year. It’s a box of pencils.

image004Inside the box there are six beautiful pencils.

image006If anyone hasn’t guessed, these pencils are decorated with art work by Eric Ravilious and produced for museums to sell.

image008What a fantastic gift for me. It really brightened me and it is a gift that will last a long time. Thanks to Clare, Nick and Henry.

A Moonraker

February 27, 2016


I’m not a moonraker by birth but as Wiltshire is, by now, my adopted county I feel justified in calling myself pretty well a real moonraker.

The legend that leads to this name for Wiltshire men and women concerns smuggling and the way the locals, deemed silly and stupid, completely outwitted the excise men by pretending that they were trying to recover a cheese from a pond. It was a reflection of the moon – but when the laughing revenue team went off, the wily Wiltshiremen were able to rake out their barrels of contraband.

Not surprisingly this tale and variants of it have sold well, locally on postcards and here is one of them.


Oddly, this was never part of my own collection but was one my sister had. It has passed to me now.


North Yorkshire Moors railway

February 26, 2016

Yes, this is the NYMR, but not recently and this photo was actually taken by my brother in law.


This was back in 1974 and back then, if I remember correctly, the line ran steam trains from Grosmont to Goathland and a diesel train down to Pickering. This is taken through the front window (or it could be the back) of a diesel train. Now personally, I’m a steam lover, but the front of a ‘heritage’ diesel train is a great way of seeing what goes on

Here, we nerds can see the train is running on the old bull head rail but passengers behind a steamer would never know the reason the train slowed down was because of sheep ion the line. One seems to be sitting very comfortably on the sleepers, resting against the rail. Fences have to be really good to keep those moorland sheep in order.

These days the NYMR is a big concern and runs a variety of locos and services between Pickering and Whitby and sometimes on the Esk Valley line. 2016 will see Flying Scotsman on the line between the 12th and 20th March.

Whatever the loco/train, the scenery will always be stunning.


Robin in Plashett Park

February 25, 2016

Back in 1956 my dad went off cycling with my brother. They started at camp which was near Firle and cycled off to Isfield and area. Dad was searching for places that had meant something to his mother, my gran.

I remember feeling a tad put out that I was not included in this jaunt but I expect dad was right. I was 18 months younger than my brother and never a muscular sort of lad like he was. I dare say I’d have got tired, cross and would have been whinging.

Dad took a number of photos and this one really shows Robin, my brother, But it is in ‘Plashetts’ the wood where great grandfather spent much of his working life and near a cottage where Granny was actually born. This was in the parish of Little Horsted.

I have a contact print dad made from his square negatives, using 120 roll film.


A handy box has been found for Robin to sit on and eat a snack. There’s a tree and a bit of barbed wire to rest a back on! The size of my original photo is two and a half inches square. Good old Dad! He’s written on the back.

image004So we have a place and a rough date. Actually, he should have named the person. Robin, my brother, died back in 1980. I’m really the only person left now, who knew him well in 1956.

I showed the picture my dad took of Granny’s birth cottage just over a year ago. You can click here to see it.


Grandparents’ wedding

February 24, 2016

Granny and Grandad married at St Stephen’s Church in Tonbridge which must have been home parish for Grandad. It was 5th June 1920. Grandad, Reg Ware, had signed up for war service under age and had promptly been captured and became a prisoner of war. I do not know when he was repatriated. Granny was Jessie Jones and I know so little about her for she died in 1932 with four young children. Grandad remarried, perhaps too hastily, and there was an uneasy relationship between step mother and step children. First wi9fe, Jessie, became a taboo topic which was, no doubt, tough for the children.

What we do know is that Jessie was born in Ashton on Mersey in Cheshire and for some reason her gardener father brought his family south to the Tonbridge area. In 1911 the family lived in Hildenborough.

Unless lucky, one doesn’t know much about the earlier years of grandparents. I certainly don’t know how or when the two met. I don’t know if they had been childhood sweethearts or if they met after Grandad was returned home from the war. These days we’d call them childhood sweethearts anyway for they were both still teenagers when they got married. I almost feel it is a surprise that their first child came slightly over a year after the marriage.

We do have a couple of marriage photos and here is one of the bride and groom.


By this time Jessie lived in Leigh and this is thought to be at her family home.

It looks as though Reg has grown since he bought that suit!

This is by far the best photo I have of Jessie so let’s zoom in on the couple.


Shame they weren’t smiling but I still find this a charming and moving photo.


February 23, 2016

Northleach is a little market town in the Cotswolds. Now it’s time here for a dreadful admission. The Cotswolds are OK, but they are not my favourite place. The towns and villages are very twee and pretty – too manicured for my taste. Northleach does something to address the balance. It feels like a place where real people live and work. It is pretty, of course. In fact, a charming place.

We visited with a specific destination in mind and we’ll come to that but let’s see a bit of Northleach first.

The town sign stands in the Market Place.


The houses are in the local stone which always looks mellow.


And yes, there is a market. Presumably Wednesday, when we were there, is market day.


The local butcher – what a delightful building.



It really is a case of every prospect pleases.

Local house owners clearly accept that their windows are clearly visible to passers-by. They add interest to them.


I loved these jelly moulds.

We took a picnic in the churchyard.


But the purpose of our visit had been to visit the mechanical music museum and what a fantastic place that is. Our tour included music boxes, polyphons, piano players and gramophones. There were a number of barrel organs – and I had the pleasure of winding a handle to play one. I was taken back to childhood when we found a hymn tune barrel organ in Tarring Neville Church near Newhaven. There were also small reed organs with music on card discs or paper rolls.

And here’s a player harmonium being explained by our wonderful tour guide who brought things to life. Clearly a real enthusiast.


A fantastic visit.

Speeding North with the Royal Scot

February 22, 2016

Only once in my life have I taken a train that was the equivalent of the Royal Scot. Back in 1970 my future wife and I went youth hostelling in Scotland and the first leg of this was the train from Euston to Glasgow. In those days we had electric power up to Crewe and then a diesel loco took over for the rest of the journey.

Earlier, in the days of steam power, the Royal Scot ran non-stop for the 299 miles from Euston to Carlisle. At that point the driver and fireman were replaced by fresh enginemen for the rest of the journey to Glasgow.

One of my favourite railway books has the title I have given this blog. It was written by a driver and describes the route and the work involved for him and his fireman mate. It is an easy read and a way of discovering just what footplate life was like, at any rate on a reasonably modern express passenger loco.

And here is that book.


We can see straight away that this is no new book. In fact it was published in 1939.


The book is nicely illustrated with photographs and some diagrams. This is the frontispiece which allows us to meet our author/driver.


Driver Earle (for that is his name) is not as tall as the wheels of his loco which, for this trip, was number 6206 – Princess Marie Louise. His fireman was Tom.

Here’s another page of photos.


The detail of the journey is mixed in with little stories that Driver Earle remembers. And he doesn’t fail to describe the scenery, whether it be industrial or the Westmorland fells.


We even learn about life in the overnight hostel and how our driver spends his spare time.

All in all, a good read. I’ve just looked up prices on internet book sellers. It doesn’t seem to come cheap! Mine cost me 6d at a jumble sale – circa 1963

La Tour Penchée

February 21, 2016

Having found that 1996 letter that formed the bulk of yesterday’s blog I spent a while looking at photos from 1996 and realised it had been a significant year for us.

It was the year my dad died. That was a blow for me as I rated him as my best friend – not just a dad. I still miss him and quite often, still, photos I take have him in mind.

But 1996 was also the year when post children life began. Not that children had left home by then. Indeed, daughter was but 16. But she was old enough to be left and, we felt, sensible enough too.

Our son was a university student at Canterbury and we realised we had the opportunity to take him and fit in a quick trip to France – just the two of us. And we first did this in October of that year. It wasn’t the first time I had taken a car abroad but it was still a real adventure for us.

Amongst photos I took – colour print film at that time – was this one.


This is close to Oye Plage – about 11 kilometres east of Calais and along the coast. Back in 1996 I captioned it ‘war time relic?’. I had no internet then to look things up on.

But now I know it is called La Tour Penchée or the leaning tower. It is a wartime relic.  The tower was built by the Germans to look like a church tower in the hope that allied airman would bomb that rather than the town a few miles south. Apparently, at the end of the war an attempt was made to blow up the tower. The attempt failed in its purpose and just left it leaning at about 20o. And there it still is.

It’s nearly 20 years on, but good to know what that building was for!


February 20, 2016

This is a bit unusual on this blog. It’s a bit of writing by my wife. I came upon it in a letter she sent to my sister in 1996 and I am horrified to realise that was twenty years ago.

Anyway, here goes!

I met one of our neighbours for the first time on Thursday. Although we know the people next door quite well, we don’t see so much of those living down by the end of our field. You could call it nosiness, but I like to know who they are. I wouldn’t like to think they were in trouble and no-one around knew about it.

I was concerned when I heard they’d had a baby that died and I did keep an eye out for them in the cold weather. I figured they were alright as I saw their footprints in the snow and from time to time I noticed they’d done a bit of winter digging – not that they’re very tidy gardeners.

To be honest, I don’t really know much about them. They don’t seem to be around at the same times as us – not that I’m down that end of the field very often. They haven’t been here as long as us, though I guess they’re a local family. They probably moved in about ten years ago, but they’ve added some ramshackle extensions since then. I suppose they needed a granny annexe or somewhere for the teenagers that haven’t left home. Actually, I never saw a planning application – I get the impression they don’t have much time for doing things by the council-approved way. We probably should have complained more at the time, but we’re not very assertive – “Live and let live” seems a more hassle-free philosophy for the most part.

I imagine they’re country folk through and through – country rather than village, in that they seem not to be involved in local events, but stick together as a clan. It would be fascinating to know them well and get a feel for their view of our shared environment. Anyway, I can’t see that happening. As I say, I was surprised enough to have a quick, chance meeting on Thursday evening.

I went out to feed the animals about ten to nine, when it was still quite light. I’d fed and counted the twenty-one sheep and knew they were all eating behind me. As I was closing the pop-hole on the duck-house, I was looking skywards, watching an intermittent firework display on the plain above the church, when I saw a movement before me out of the corner of my eye. “Not a sheep,” I thought, “perhaps a fox” and I lowered my gaze for a closer look. To my surprise, I saw a figure, crossing the field in front of me. It’s funny how some folk aren’t obviously male or female at a first glance. I wasn’t sure which of my neighbours I was about to meet.

The figure was wearing one of those all-weather country coats, snug-fitting and cosy, designed to last a life time, irrespective of changing fashion. Heavily built and stocky, with short, sturdy legs, it jogged with a surprisingly jaunty gait and, as it approached me, I prepared to make eye contact and introduce myself. But it continued along its path, eyes focused firmly on the ground ahead, purposefully minding its own badger business.

Let’s finish with the one photo I ever managed to get of this neighbour (or a relative), and that, too, was in 1996.


This all reminds me how lucky we are to live in this age. Both letter and photo come from an earlier age. The letter was written on a computer of long ago and printed out and posted. I could scan it back in as a document. The photo – obviously at night – was taken on film but I have improved it digitally now