Thursday, December 28, 2017


I suppose over many years now, I`ve got used to Southampton FC selling their best players.  It`s gone on for so long now, right back to Martin Chivers going to Tottenham, Mick Channon to Manchester City (although he came back again) and in more recent years the likes of Theo Walcott, Luke Shaw, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all leaving for richer pastures.

But it`s Liverpool who have gleaned the best of our talent in the last couple of seasons - Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Nathainiel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, the aforesaid Oxlade-Chamberlain who graduated from Saints` academy before stopping off at Arsenal, and now Virgil Van Dijk all leaving the beautiful south for the temptations of Anfield.

It`s reached the stage when I`m seriously thinking about becoming a Liverpool fan as Liverpool FC have turned themselves into Southampton`s tribute team.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Well, we`ve had Christmas and Boxing Day and the shortest day of the year and in a week`s time we will be at the beginning of yet another year.  None of us knows what 2018 will bring but I`m looking forward to it if for no other reason than to enjoy the light, the warmth and all those summer things that seem so distant as we trudge our way through whatever the rest of winter might throw at us.

And for me, I guess in keeping with my simple tastes, I am really looking forward to a return to the 630 mile long south west coast path.  Over many years now we, along with a succession of golden retrievers, have walked much of the path .  We have selected bits that have appealed to us rather than setting out to cover the whole distance, although I do admire those `finishers` who have managed it.  I`m afraid that in the most recent years, our walks have diminished a bit, thanks to the onset of wonky knees, dodgy hips, bunions and the combined effects of anno domini and avoirdupois.   But we keep going.

Some of my personal favourite stretches of the path have included most of the Cornwall coast - The Roseland, The Lizard, the Far West and the North Coast.  I`m also very fond of the north and south Devon but I think my favourite area of all must be around the Camel Estuary and the clifftops around Pentire Head.   And as 2018 approaches, I`ve got a kind of mini bucket list for the coast path this coming summer and one of the places to return to has to be that stretch of path from Pentire to Lundy Bay on Cornwall`s north coast.

I noticed last April when we wandered down towards Lundy Bay that the real magic of Springtime was there to be found in all its splendour and charm.  It`s no good just keeping on walking;  sometimes nature compels you to stop and see what it has to offer.  And so, in an effort to brighten yet another gloomy winter`s day and to remind me what I  saw when I had the good sense to pause on the path and take it all in, here`s a photo I took on that faraway April day........

(Please click on photo for better image)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Whoever and wherever you may be, dear reader, I hope you have a happy, joyful Christmas and that 2018 is kind to you, your friends and family.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It seems a long winter; in fact, the older I get the longer they become.  But then I do suffer from the seasonal affective disorder known as SAD, aka the winter blues.   But help may be at hand, for tomorrow is the shortest day (and the longest night) of the year, when the sun is at its lowest and, after a day or so`s pause, begins to climb back up again.  

Anyway, here`s a photo I took just a couple of days ago whilst taking Barney for his walkies and it illustrates the midwinter gloom surrounding a lake in our parish:-

And it reminded me that, six months ago to the day, we were enjoying the longest day (and the shortest night) of the year in deepest Cornwall, with the sun high in the sky and the dark, depressing days of winter but a distant memory.   Here`s one I took then:-

I know which I prefer.

Whilst munching my snacky lunch today, the BBC news came on and whilst they thought they should firstly report the story that the Met. Police are going to re-examine loads of rape cases, it was pretty clear that the BBC news editors could hardly wait to report the contents of the IMF Report into the UK`s economic prospects post Brexit.

With almost undisguised glee, the BBC mentioned that the IMF had `downgraded` to UK`s growth prospects to 1.6% in the coming year and that it would plummet to 1.5% the year after we leave the European Empire.   What they failed to make clear was that these forecasts would see the UK economy come down, `plummet` from the current growth rate of 1.7%.  Hardly a dramatic fall  but it typifies the BBC`s obsession with accentuating the negative with anything to do with Brexit.

And, of course, it again exemplifies the attitude on the part of the London-centric, Liberal elite, with the BBC in the vanguard, who are beside themselves that the great unwashed British public had the audacity to vote to leave the EU.  There is, of course, a growing, not very subtle campaign to change people`s minds by constantly promising all kinds of doom once we throw off the shackles of the United States of Germany.

A couple of things.  First, my own personal Brexit vote was cast in full knowledge that there would be consequences, but at least they would be our consequences and ours to sort out and overcome, which as a nation we are perfectly capable of so doing.   And next, of course, what the BBC and all the other deniers of democracy fail to grasp is that the more we are threatened, however surreptitiously, the more people like me are determined to hold on to those principles that convinced me to cast my vote the way I did.   And surely Messrs. Barnier, Juncker et al must realise that the more `arsy` they become, the more determined will be our majority desire to get away from them.

But what happens if the elitist campaign wins the day and, however unlikely, undemocratic and unconstitutional it may be, another referendum is called and one that votes to remain?  Well I guess that will make it 1-1 after extra time.  I suppose we`ll then have a jump off against the clock or, heaven forbid, our national future will be decided on penalties.   And you just know how atrocious our record in penalty shoot-outs is against European opponents.

Monday, December 11, 2017


I was sorry to learn that Chris Rea had suffered yet another heart attack whilst performing in Oxford the other evening - the 35th gig of his current tour.   He was rushed to hospital and his condition was described as `stable,` which was better news than might have been expected.   He has naturally had to cancel a couple of shows, although there might be an outside chance that he could fulfil the last engagement of the current tour at Bournemouth tomorrow evening.  Let`s hope that signifies a full recovery might be possible but something tells me he would be better off putting his feet up and getting a decent rest.  After all, he`s 66 now.

He is perhaps best known for a whole string of hit records including Driving Home for Christmas and The Road to Hell.   But for me, his most memorable compositions and performances came when he wrote and sang about his birthplace of Middlesbrough.  I know little about Middlesbrough - David Armstrong, the former Saints midfield dynamo was signed from Middlesbrough FC and, more recently, a very good friend from my National Service days hailed from there before he left us a year or so ago.

But you get a real flavour of the town in some of Chris Rea`s songs about the place - Stainsby Girls, Steel River and especially Windy Town, probably my favourite from all of his large and impressive collection.  So, leave the Road to Hell behind and get on the Road to Recovery, Chris.  Here`s `Windy Town`:-

Saturday, December 09, 2017


Well, it`s the deep midwinter - the shortest day just 12 days away - but even at this time of the year there are things worth looking out for.   Here`s a picture I took a few days ago when the late afternoon sun was lighting up the rushes alongside our local lake and even the hedgerow still had some colour to brighten the day.......

(Give it a click for a larger pic)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

We had a week in Padstow a couple of months ago - seems like ages ago - and on our first evening there we wandered down to the harbour.  I took this photo showing the glorious sunset.  Trouble is, we`ve got to wait until next April before we`ll be there again.......

Monday, December 04, 2017

Seems to me that despite every reason to count my considerable blessings,  there are just so many things to worry about, complain about, get annoyed and frustrated by, that it`s not always possible to decide what subject to have a good rant about - the choice these days is just too much.  

So I`ve turned instead to another `interest` of mine, which is photography, albeit not to anything approaching a professional standard but nevertheless I have taken some photos over the years of which I`m a bit smug.   So I thought I would share some of them here, kicking off with one I took just a couple of days ago as Barney and I took our walkies around a local lake.   Here it is......well, at least it`s peaceful.  Click on it for a larger image.....

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


I just wonder what the English roses have done to be overlooked in favour of a foreign, catholic, feminist, divorced commoner of mixed race.  Just asking, that`s all.

Monday, November 27, 2017


Yes, I know.  For some years now I have suffered from the condition known as seasonal affective disorder, aka SAD, which just about sums up my state of mind at this time of the year.  And as well as the winter blues brought on by short days, long nights and cold, wet inclement weather, it seems to me that there is an increasing number of other reasons not to be cheerful, all brought about by human activity.

Here`s a list of `events` which seem to kick off once the last vestiges of summer have gone. 

First we had Bonfire Night - 5th November - when the country seems to celebrate an unsuccessful gunpowder plot to blow up Parliament, with all its attendant crash, bangs and wallops that do little more than frighten the life out of our faithful canine companions.

Then the first of a succession of imports from across the pond in the shape of Halloween. Well, perhaps not strictly accurate.  Originally, All Hallows Eve heralded the beginning of three days of observing Allhallows tide, the time in the liturgical year devoted to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows,) martyrs and all those who have departed.  So much for history then.  Today`s reality has seen Halloween transformed into yet another transatlantic import devoted more to rampant materialism than anything else.   

Which brings us to Thanksgiving - the traditional American celebration of harvest.  It is rightly observed in the USA but I have noticed a tendency for it to sneak in to our consciousness here in the good ol` UK.  But if that incursion comes to not very much in years to come, the retail insurance has well and truly cemented itself the day after Thanksgiving in the shape of Black Friday, yet another import from our former colonials  

I`m more than a bit concerned about Black Friday. It sounds a bit `racist` - maybe it should be Beige Friday to coincide with the growing fad for fluidity and neutrality in all things - and it`s not just the Friday but this latest commercial razzmatazz  seems to go on for the best part of a week, judging by the daily e-mails and adverts I get.

And to complete the SAD picture, we now have not only the celebration of Santa`s birthday at Christmas and then the New Year to look forward to but now also the prospect of yet another royal birth and yet another royal wedding (presumably not necessarily in that order.)  Joy unconfined.

So all in all another winter of discontent even though the shortest day is only a little over three weeks away.   Bring it on.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


I was sorry to learn yesterday of the passing of Keith Barron at the age of 83 after a short illness.  He was, of course, a much admired actor who, in a 50-year career performed in a wide variety of films and television plays and serials.  He was one of those people who you tended to watch for himself rather than the character he was portraying, such was the charm of his personality and style.

But he was also something of a character himself.   Among the many tributes paid to him is one from Cornwall where, in the 1980s, Keith Barron ran a restaurant in Hayle. He last performed in the county in 2014 when a stage version of `Duty Free` toured Truro`s Hall for Cornwall.  In an interview at the time he said, "The show is still amazingly popular - probably because it`s about the eternal quest of trying to get your leg over.  Not just men, I hear there are several women like that, especially in Camborne."  A joker to the end.

Now here`s where I go off on the odd tangent - not unusual, I know.  Out of the long and distinguished list of his performances, the ones I immediately associated with when I learned of his passing were when he was cast as Nigel Barton in Dennis Potter`s plays for television - Stand Up Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton.  

And it`s here that my attention becomes diverted to Dennis Potter, arguably the most influential dramatist of the last century.   In addition to the Nigel Barton ones, he bequeathed us such memorable plays as The Singing Detective, Lipstick on Your Collar, Pennies from Heaven and Blue Remembered Hills, the last written in the  Forest of Dean dialogue, the area which formed the basis of Potter`s upbringing.   My last and lasting memory of Dennis Potter was of him delivering a televised speech whilst drinking liquid morphine to help him through the pain of the pancreatic cancer which ended his life shortly after.

And so, in something of a tortuous route, the loss of Keith Barron has also led me back to AE Houseman`s `A Shropshire Lad` which contains the following:-

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows.
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content
I see it shining plain.
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

Seems somehow appropriate in remembering each of those who gave us so much enjoyment and so many memories.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


OK, I confess.  I`m rapidly approaching my 80th year; I get a bit flustered at times; I`m not too smart with smart phones - I just need a phone, that`s all;  I get confused with hi-tech stuff, which is why this blog is a touch on the simple side;  and I guess it`s just that there are so many things in the so-called modern world that I just don`t get.  Or maybe I don`t want to get.

The latest is this thing about `gender fluidity.`  I noticed a report yesterday about a maths teacher who is facing the sack after accidentally calling a transgender pupil `girl` rather than `boy.`  The student, who `identifies as male,` became irate after the teacher said `well done girls` to the pupil and a female friend for working hard.  Result?  Pupil lodges complaint, pupil`s family accuse teacher of picking on their child, teacher suspended and faces disciplinary hearing which could end up with him losing his job.

This is happening at the same time as `drag queens` are being asked to visit nurseries so that kiddies as young as two can be told about transgender issues.  Now I haven`t got a problem with anyone in the LGBT community or, indeed, anyone with a penchant for BLT, but I have a difficulty understanding why on earth children are being introduced to the notion of `gender fluidity` when all they have to do is glance down and take a look.

We are indeed heading for a snowflake generation, who seem not to be learning about life as it unfolds in what is known as experience but also being incapable of accepting any form of criticism, any form of setback (they`re not allowed to win or lose anymore, bless them.) 

Now I quite expect that my comments are out of place and out of time, politically incorrect and doubtless leading to a knock on the door before too long, but I look back to my grandparents and my parents` generations and thank goodness that I was brought up to face life and all its trials, its triumphs and disasters and just get on with it.  As the saying goes, you`ve got to learn to lose before you can enjoy the winning.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Recognise this?   Thought not, for it was written and recorded in 1970 at the time of the appalling loss of civilian and military life as a result of the Biafra War.  The lines above are, of course, from Gilbert O`Sullivan`s `Nothing Rhymed` and it seems that nothing really rhymed for him back then - nothing made sense - the world had gone mad - and he was troubled by the indifference shown by the many to the terrible plight of the few, even though the few in the Biafra conflict accounted for between 500,000 and two million civilian lives lost to starvation.  

It`s a theme that was repeated in 1986 when Neil Finn of Crowded House again witnessed that same indifference.  A few lines from `Don`t dream it`s over` illustrate what I mean:-

`And the papers today
Full of war and of waste
But you turn right over to the TV Page.`

I guess it was forever thus and those, like me, fortunate enough to have our Bonaparte Shandy and our apple pies no doubt still turn to the TV pages and become yet more desensitised to what is really going on in an increasingly troubled world.  

But here`s a shout for the much misunderstood Gilbert who, in a catalogue of genius songs, shone a light on his own bewilderment, his own frailties, his fears, his sensitivities and his own private sense of loss (alone again - naturally.)  So, here`s `Nothing Rhymed` reminding us all that the world is still full of war and of waste and that in reality nothing really rhymes but also that nothing ever really changes:-

Friday, November 03, 2017


I don`t know if it still happens but as I haven`t been to a cinema for more years than I care to remember, I don`t know what happens nowadays.   When I used to go, there was always a stampede once `THE END` appeared on the screen,  Now either the cinema-goers had a bus or a train to catch or they just wanted to get out before the ritual of standing to attention while the national anthem was played.

Trouble is, it`s easy to miss the best part of a film if you join in the stampede.  A case in point.......

One of my favourite films is `Sense and Sensibility`, beautifully directed by Ang Lee.  And it`s a favourite not for the Oscar winning screenplay and the superb acting by a talented cast, but for two other reasons.  The first is the filming locations, especially those in and around the Flete Estate in south Devon, where we have stayed on many occasions in the past and found contentment in the utterly unspoilt nature of the Erme Estuary.  Much of the `action` takes place at Efford House - it`s Barton House in the film - and the house and its surroundings has been used often for filming - `International Velvet` springs to mind.

The other reason is the quite wonderful film score by Patrick Doyle.  But those who left the film early, as the end titles came up, missed the best part of his score, for he had set  Ben Jonson`s `The Dreame` to music, beautifully arranged and sung by Lincoln`s very own Jane Eaglen.  Here are the lyrics :-

Or scorn or pity on me take,
I must the true redemption make,
I am undone tonight.
Love, in a subtle dream disguised,
Hath both my heart and me surprised,
Whom never yet be durst attempt awake;

Nor will he tell me for whose sake
He did me the delight or spite,
But leaves me to inquire
In all my wild desire
Of sleep again, who was his aid,
And sleep so guilty and afraid
And since he dares not come within my sight.

..........and here is what people missed as the credits rolled and they clambered for the exit:-

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Well, we survived Halloween last night, which was a great relief especially to Barney, who doesn`t take kindly to his evenings being disturbed.   I think it helped that we turned off the outside light and didn`t leave a pumpkin on the doorstep - there seems to be a useful convention in our village that you only get `tricked and treated` if you do leave a pumpkin outside your front door - so we had a peaceful evening which by-passed the imported commercial mayhem which Halloween seems to have become.  

So, next stop Bonfire Night with all its gunpowder, treason and plot, scheduled for this coming Sunday.   Now I could understand the idea of celebrating on 5th November if the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to blow up Parliament and assassinate King James had actually succeeded.  Instead, it turned out to be a dismal failure and so I am left wondering what on earth we are doing spending all that money on fireworks, going to all that trouble and causing yet more mayhem in order to celebrate what was a truly spectacular failure.  

But then it, like Halloween, has turned into yet another commercial jamboree that I could do without.   And don`t get me started on Christmas - please.......

Sunday, October 29, 2017


Yesterday was Barney`s birthday.  He was nine years old, which if one dog year equals seven human ones, then Barney is now in his 60s.   He`s wearing well, enjoys all the things dogs are supposed to enjoy - eating, sleeping, sniffing and walkies.  So, yesterday I took him up to nearby Platt Woods, which both he and I have enjoyed for many years and it was good to see him scampering around through the carpet of Autumnal leaves.

As it was his birthday, he sat on this bench and asked me to take this photo of him, beaming happily at the camera.  So, happy birthday Barney and thanks again for all the good times, the friendship, companionship and loyalty.  I just hope the next few weeks aren`t too stressful for him as he hates fireworks and Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year all go with a bang around here.

For more about the Chronicles of Barney, there are 38 more posts here -  - just realised it`s one of those links where you have to highlight it, then right click and there`s an option to go to the page,

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Tom - thank you so much for all the music and the charm.  The Wilburys have now lost George, Roy and Tom and this must leave Jeff and Bob devastated not only at the loss of yet another fine fellow musician but also of a friend who spoke the same language and loved the music of life.  (Tom Petty 1950-2017.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Our Golf Correspondent reports...

I wondered why Snopper had been absent from the golf courses of mid-Kent recently, so I caught up with him the other day to find out what was going on.  It seems that, following his intensive course of lessons, he has decided to `hone his game` at the driving range before venturing back on to the fairways.

I watched as he went through his routine at the range and I can understand his desire to make sure his game is at least presentable before re-entering the competitive environment.   I watched his remodelled stance, his remodelled grip, his remodelled swing and his newfound attitude which is designed to come to terms with the challenges of the royal and ancient game.   Snopper quoted the advice given by Jack Nicklaus all those years ago - "The more I practice, the luckier I get."

So how was our anti-hero getting along, I wondered.  Well, I have to report that his session on the range produced some really quite respectable results - a few genuinely decent shots, some `OK` ones, perhaps a few more in the `adequate` category and some that were reminiscent of the old Snopper we have come to know so well over all these years.

But the finale to this particular visit must surely have been the very last of the 50 balls he hit from the driving range bay.  You see, he always likes to finish well and so he addressed the last ball as it peered up at him from the green baize practice mat:  his determination to leave on a high shone through clearly as he took up his new stance, checked his new grip and swung through the ball as he has been encouraged to do.

Sadly, the result was not the climax he had in mind as the ball squirted off the toe end of the club, smashed against the side panel of the driving bay, ricocheted with an almighty bang and was never seen again.   At which point, Snopper collected his clubs and ran away.   Seemed the sensible thing to do at the time and, so far at least, there are no reports of claims for damages being reported.   

For some, it seems, the more they practice the more things remain the same.......

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Like most people, I was sorry to hear of the passing of Sir Bruce Forsyth.  In fact, I`m always sorry to hear of anyone`s passing but it seems that when someone of Brucie`s standing leaves us, there is an outbreak of national mourning which at times reaches the point of being almost self defeating.  It`s almost as if there is a need to turn  sad events such as this into yet another theatrical production.

So, despite the pull out supplements, the tribute specials on TV, the knighthood, the multimillionaire legacy for his former Miss World widow, the bust already in place at the London Palladium and the mansion alongside Wentworth Golf Club, there are now calls for a public memorial service at Westminster Abbey no less, a permanent memorial in his home town of Edmonton and the BBC is considering erecting a statue outside the BBC Television Centre.  I`m no longer a TV licence payer, which is just as well as I would genuinely hope that the statue might not be funded from the licence fee but from public donations from those who think it appropriate.

Of course, Brucie was a much loved part of the lives of so many people for so many years and the last thing I want to say is to enter anything other than my thanks for his 75 years of entertainment but I think we are in danger, yet again, of turning this sad moment into an event of which I`m not sure even Sir Brucie would approve.  I might be wrong, of course.

We seem these days to be turning into a nation which almost thrives on tragic events - I suspect `social media` might not help, where too many people feel the need to be associated with this kind of event - a bit more of the `look at me` obsession - and leave `RIP` messages for people they don`t even know.

No matter, I`m sorry Brucie has left us but I will content myself in my own mind by allowing his passing to be restful and peaceful.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The last time and place I expected to see yet another example of the double standards so prevalent in modern day living was at the start of the second day`s play in the first Test Match between England and the Windies at Edgbaston.

Now of course there is, quite properly, worldwide condemnation for yesterday`s appalling events in Barcelona and so one can understand why today`s play began with a minute`s silence in memory of those who perished and were injured in Barcelona.  I`ve absolutely no problem with that, in fact it is to be applauded. 

But what puzzles me is why there was not either another minute`s silence or even a two minute one so as to also remember the victims of the dreadful loss of life earlier in the week in Sierra Leone.  Just saying, that`s all.

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.