Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration but I have had enquiries from about half a dozen aficionados asking when I might return to clog up the internet still further.

Pleased to report that with the help of an offspring who is well into his 50s and thus fully up to date with computer stuff, my new computer is up and running.

The curious thing is that whilst I have been away from these pages, very little has grabbed my attention to the point where I felt compelled to rant about much.  The problem is that there is so much grief, uncertainty, hype and downright bad news that it`s impossible to go on about it all.   So I`ve fallen back on that old subject of football, which is indeed the gift that just keeps giving.

The Premier League has just kicked off and my heroes of the south coast have had an interesting time of it. The new manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, has brought a new, more positive, management style to the squad who have apparently `bought into it` - that is with the exception of the captain, Virgil van Dijk, who has put in a transfer request following interest (and no doubt another shed-load of cash) from Liverpool.

The season`s first game ended in a 0-0 draw at home to Swansea but despite having 29 shots on goal only two of them were on target meaning that it is now nine hours of football at St. Mary`s without the Saints managing to score.  But football can always produce moments of unintentional irony.  This time it was Dusan Tadic who, having blazed a gilt-edged scoring chance wide of the upright from all of two yards out, suggested in a post match interview that "We need to be more clinical in front of goal."   

Oh well, I suppose there might be some comfort in self-awareness.  If only it were true.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


It`s high Summer here in deepest Kent and there are occasions when Barney`s walkies need to be in the shade rather than subject his paws to hot pavements.   So, this afternoon we paid another visit to Holly Hill which is a public open space hidden away on the crest of the North Downs above the Medway Valley.

In 1943 the area was left to the then Malling Rural District Council in the will of Mr. FH Cripps Day and has remained in the ownership of successive local councils since then.  It comprises some 31 acres of mainly broadleaf woodland and at 196 metres it is one of the highest points on the North Downs.   In 1946 the Ordnance Survey constructed one of its 6,500 trigonometric points which were used in the mapping of the country and it`s from the Holly Hill `trig point` that you get expansive views across north Kent and, on a clear day, towards London.   

The photo at the top is one I took today looking out from the wood towards a neighbouring field which is a riot of colour thanks to the rosebay willowherb.   Quite a contrast between the deep shade of the wood and the sunlit field beyond. 

I also took this other photo on the right from the trig point and you can just about make out the towers of Canary Wharf, some 30 miles away - and yet another contrast, this time between the mayhem of London and the utter peace and tranquility of today`s walk in the shade.........

(I am experiencing some serious computer issues which I fear may mean that I will have to invest in a new one and which might mean that I will be absent from these pages for a while.  I hope to resume `normal` service - whatever that might be - before too long.)

Friday, July 28, 2017


I`ve long been fascinated by numbers.  Don`t really know why as I was pretty duff at sums when I was at school.  I guess it may be that, as you get older, you become more interested in more things.  Just a quick example.  The number 26.

What is so very special about 26 is this - it is the only number in the whole panoply of numbers from one to infinity and beyond which is sandwiched between a squared number and a cubed number (25 = 5 x 5; 27 = 3 x 3 x 3) and it was our old friend Pierre de Fermat - he of the famous last theorem - who not only discovered this fact but also a proof for it, which turned out to be infinitely more difficult than the fact itself.

I recall too that when our three sons were little and we went on long car journeys to holiday destinations, we played a numbers game to ease the boredom of the journey for them.  This consisted of finding which of the three of them could spot the pub name with the most numbers in it - Three Squirrels, Five Bells and so on - until one of them claimed to have spotted a pub named The Ten Thousand Pilgrims.  He was, of course, banned from the game and made to sit in the middle of the back seat for the rest of the journey.

In more recent years I have become interested in place names in the UK.  My favourite county for names is the county of my birth, Dorset.  Who can fail to be charmed or puzzled by places such as Ryme Intrinseca, Whitchurch Canonicorum, Melbury Osmond and Melbury Bubb, Minterne Magna or Piddletrenthide.   And it was whilst trawling through the place names of Dorset that I came across Sixpenny Handley and it got me wondering how many other place names there might be in this country which have numbers in them....and how long before you run out of numbers.


Onehouse, Suffolk
Two Mills, Cheshire
Three Bridges, Sussex
Four Marks, Hampshire
Five Oak Green, Kent
Sixpenny Handley, Dorset
Sevenoaks, Kent
Eight Ash Green, Essex
Nine Elms, London
Tenterden, Kent
Ruyton - X1- Towns, Shropshire
Twelveheads, Cornwall

..............................................I wonder if anyone can go any higher.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A confession.   Yes, I am one of the billions now who use Facebook and in my case I do so in order to keep in touch with people and places which are dear to me.  People such as good friends, old comrades from my old regiment - the 10th Royal Hussars; Southampton Football Club and the fans forum, my old schools, people here in the village where I live; and places such as Cornwall, Gerrans and Portscatho, Fawley and Blackfield and Hythe and The Waterside.   Blackfield was where I spent most of the war years, sleeping under the stairs as the bombs rained down on Southampton every night and Fawley was where I first went to school.  

Hythe on the shore of Southampton Water is where we first lived as a family after my father came home after five years as a prisoner of war in Stalag V111B in Lamsdorf and it was at Hythe that I spent a wonderful boyhood with the sea on one side and the New Forest just up the road.  And in the last day or two, someone has posted some photos of Hythe on the Hythe and Waterside Facebook site and they brought back some very happy memories of those times.  With the consent of the photographer - and maybe in a fit of self-indulgence - here are those photos and the memories they recalled.   

The first is taken from what is now a little park that leads down to the water`s edge from The Grove - an imposing building which houses the offices of the Hythe and Dibden Parish Council.......
(Please click on photos for larger images)

When my father resumed civilian life after his trials in that unrelenting Stalag, he worked for the then BOAC, who had their flying boat maintenance operation at Hythe and we lived in a cottage next to The Grove, which was then a large private house and grounds.  I don`t know how or why but we were allowed to walk down to the end of what was the kitchen garden, which ended at the sea wall you can see in the picture.  

This next picture shows some of the new development that has taken place on the site of the former BOAC depot.........

All those years ago - late 40s/early 50s - there used to be a very large black hangar, where the flying boats were maintained and I still remember being enthralled as my mother and I used to sit on the sea wall and watch, spellbound, as firstly the bow of those great liners, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, would appear from behind the hangar and slowly the whole of those majestic ships would come into view. An awesome sight for me as a young boy  and one that lives with me still.

Lastly, another view of the shoreline of Hythe.......

As well as the Cunard liners, of course, there were passenger ships from all over the world coming in and out of Southampton, so Hythe was a good place to go beach combing. One of my school friends from Hythe Primary School and later Hardley, Billy Scammell and I used to spend many hours scouring the shore and we became fascinated by the empty matchboxes which had been thrown over board and washed up from the passing ships.  And so began our collection of match box tops and I still have mine to this day, 70 years on from those happy childhood days.   

Some years ago I discovered that Billy Scammell had passed away - in 2000 at the age of just 60 - when he left Hythe, as I did,  he went on to become a much admired and respected poet, author, critic and biographer.  He is remembered by a blue plaque on his old house in Alexandra Road but as we lost contact, having gone our separate ways, I have no idea whether he kept his collection. What I do know is that he retained a deep affection for Hythe, which features in some of his poems as `the village by the sea.`

So my thanks to the photographer, Julie Yeates, for taking these iconic photographs and for allowing me to reproduce them here.   Thanks for the memories, Julie, of a happy childhood in a happy place.  I hope it won`t be long before I can make another return visit.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


It was just three weeks ago when, having paid a visit to my brother-in-law and his wife`s idyllic Cornish retreat, we stopped off on the way back to pay a return visit to nearby Coverack, a delightful village lying deep in The Lizard.   Many, many years ago, we visited Coverack and in those days it was fairly quiet and peaceful and I remember falling asleep on the harbour wall, seduced by the out of the way tranquility and the timelessness of the village.  Anyway, here`s a photo of that harbour I took on our recent visit.  The village was still quiet, the evening air was wonderful and the sun still shone down on a scene that can only be found in those benign Cornish fishing villages........

....and as I turned the camera around I caught this glimpse of a Coverack resident sitting out in her cottage garden enjoying the evening sunshine.......

Three weeks on and it`s all so very different, as Coverack was left reeling from the effects of a flash flood that ripped through the village, wreaking havoc, destruction and considerable disruption to the lives of the community.   Here`s what that same spot from where I took those photos in Coverack looked like just a few short days ago.......

Yet another poignant reminder of the force of nature and the disruption that it can cause even to such quiet, beautiful, unspoiled places as this.   Now there have been recent occasions when communities and local authorities have been the subject of stinging criticism for the way they have responded to arguably more devastating incidents than the one at Coverack.

But it is refreshing to see just how the efficient and effective response by all of the emergency services, Cornwall Council and their contractors has been welcomed and praised by the good folk of Coverack and who themselves have responded so well to the shattering experience with which they were faced.

All the more reason to look forward to another visit to a place that pulls together rather than one which pulls apart.

(As ever, please click on the photos for bigger and better images.)

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Yes, I think I have finally arrived in Alice in Wonderland.  Out of a feeling of anxiety as a Saints fan or, more likely, sheer curiosity, I find myself looking at the `gossip columns` for news of football transfers before the start of the new season.  

And today I`m left stunned by the report that a certain Neymar, of Barcelona fame, is being linked with a move to Paris Saint Germain. It seems that Mr. Neymar has a buy-out clause in his Barcelona contract that requires any other club to pay a minimum  of £196million for his signature.  In addition Mr. Neymar will receive £45million just for signing on and pick up a weekly wage of £560.000 tax free for five years. And all so that Mr. Neymar can run around a field sticking a pig`s bladder into an onion bag. It`s either a parallel universe or Alice`s Wonderland writ large.

No wonder I harp back to and long for the days of dubbin, Sloan`s liniment, rattles and half an orange and a fag at half time.  I sometimes wonder whether the excesses of the upper echelons of the football world realise that those very excesses are likely to alienate the sensible whilst merely pandering to the bonkers.  And no wonder too that I take comfort in the relative sanity of Southampton, Truro City, Forest Green Rovers and Maidstone United.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

From our Golf Correspondent....

And so eight weeks of intensive tuition has finally come to an end as today Snopper completed his golf lessons under the watchful eye of a teaching professional at a nearby club. (It`s worth noting that both the teaching professional and the club have opted for anonymity, which I will of course honour in this report.)

Now today marked Snopper`s 78th birthday and as a friend remarked over lunch last week, it`s difficult to get your head around the notion of having might have been worth it.   When he embarked on the course of lessons all those weeks ago, the problems encountered by his tutor were simply that Snopper`s grip was wrong, so too his stance and his swing and as time went on it also became apparent that his attitude to the royal and ancient game lacked a certain je ne sais quoi.  Let`s just say that Snopper`s golf was rubbish.

But at the end of today`s proceedings, the professional conceded that Snopper`s driver and iron play had perhaps now reached a stage of adequacy and although a little more practice was needed there was hope that he might be able to live with his limitations concerning chipping and getting out of bunkers.   To be fair, he has had loads of experience trying to get out of bunkers but by and large he took some confidence and satisfaction from the end of term report.

So instead of having more lessons, Snopper is now encouraged to get back out on the course and play.   All well and good, of course, and we will have to see how that goes but even so I think fellow golfers at his home course of Poult Wood should perhaps be forewarned of Snopper`s impending return.   His one disappointment, of course, is that despite the remarkable improvement in his playing prowess and potential, he discovered that it was too late for him to join in at Royal Birkdale tomorrow.  Small mercies indeed.