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. 

Friday, July 14, 2017


This is what you get when you point the camera directly into the sun setting over Penpol Creek;   sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn`t.  I think this one did:-

Monday, July 10, 2017


I see that Sir Vince Cable, recently reinstalled as an MP following his all too brief time away from the Mother of Parliaments and the likely new leader of the Liberal Democrats now that Tim Farron has completed his gap year, says he is "beginning to think that Brexit might never happen."

He goes on to say that "enormous" divisions in both the Labour and Conservative parties and a "deteriorating" economy would make people think again.   "People will realise that we didn`t vote to be poorer and so I think the whole question of continued membership will once again arise," he said.   He went on to suggest that, whilst the LibDem policy of a second referendum on the terms of a Brexit deal didn`t "really cut through in the general election," it could offer voters "a way out when it becomes clear that Brexit is potentially disastrous."

All part of the growing, insidious and relentless `campaign` to brainwash people to think again and reverse the referendum decision to leave the European Union.  My fear is that, in the end, people may be frightened off paying whatever the financial and economic cost may be rather than being inspired by the opportunities and freedoms that leaving the EU will bring.  And comments like those from Vince Cable, the BBC, Sky, parts of the print media, social commentators and so called`celebrities` are all part of the plot.

Anyway, a couple of things following Cable`s comments.  First, maybe the Liberal Democrats should undergo a name change to the Liberal Undemocrats, since they clearly have no respect for the democratic process whereby the majority of voters opted to leave the EU.   But also the obvious solution to the LibDems` policy review must be that, whilst they will doubtless say they do respect the outcome of the referendum, the final outcome of the negotiations should result in the UK staying in the single market and the customs union and remaining subject to the diktats of the European Courts.  Bingo!!

Saturday, July 08, 2017


Yes, folks, today is indeed a very special day. Now for some people, the day might revolve around sporting issues - the British and Irish Lions drawing the series against the New Zealand All Blacks; the third day of the first test match at Lord`s between England and South Africa; the next stage of the Tour de France where Chris Froome is grimly hanging on to le maillot jaune; or even, believe it or not, a plethora of pre-season football matches. Oh, and I almost forgot Wimbledon, which is, of course, utterly forgettable.
Speaking of football, our street`s local hero, Gillingham`s box-to-box midfield dynamo cum pacy flanker and attacking wing-back with a good engine and an eye for a pass, recently married Scott ("Buzzin` Six-Pack") Wagstaff, featured in last night`s away fixture at nearby Faversham Town.  Waggy played 45 minutes, which was highlighted by him providing an incisive pass for the Gills` opening goal but also saw him blaze the ball over the bar when well placed. Still, it`s early days, to be fair and plenty of time to get his mojo working.

Back to today and the choices just keep coming.  For devotees of left wing socialism there is the Durham Miners Gala, where Jeremy Corbyn is sure to rant on about cuts in public services and how awful everything is and, of course, for those of a certain je ne sais quoi there is the London Pride thingy, the start of the Pride season up and down the country.

Now whilst neither of these events holds any attraction for the likes of me - aged, grumpy, set-in-my-ways, not a little bewildered at the changes that have occurred in my getting on for 80 years - it`s good to see that today there is something for everyone of whatever political, race, ethnicity,gender or spectating penchant they may have.   But, me being me, I will look out hopefully for the Stockbrokers and Bankers Gala in Canary Wharf, whilst I try desperately to convince myself that in a distant galaxy, far far away, there is a Straight Pride thingy going on right now.


Friday, July 07, 2017


This is a picture I`ve nicked from the BBC Newswatch web page and just beneath the picture on the web page it says, "Viewers opinions on the coverage of events by BBC News, addressed by the editors and decision makers in charge."  Honest, that`s what it says.

I`ve watched this short, 15 minute programme now and again, which isn`t always easy as it`s shown at obscure times on obscure channels and I`m not sure it`s even listed.  No matter, the `viewers` with opinions write in or text or e-mail or something and some of them even turn up either on home made videos or ones produced by the BBC as an `aid to viewer inclusiveness.`

Now not just recently - but frequently and regularly - opinions have tended to be questionable about the BBC`s news coverage and in particular about the thorny subject of Brexit.  A cross party group of MPs have just published a report that is highly critical of the way in which the BBC are covering the issue of Brexit and they found a strong tendency for the BBC to accentuate the negatives, for example opening reports with phrases such as "despite Brexit".......the economy is doing rather well, etc; and invariably to report negative issues, the latest being the threat to Wimbledon`s strawberries because the Kent fruit growers can`t get hold of enough foreign pickers.  The BBC should, of course, be balanced and impartial.  Fat chance.

Anyway, whatever the issue for criticism of BBC news might be, up pops an `editor` or a `decision maker in charge` to respond the the viewers opinions.   And guess what, they are always right, never wrong and never, ever admit to or apologise for getting it wrong. On the matter of the MPs` report, a BBC spokesman said words to the effect that the BBC is strictly impartial and takes its balanced reporting extremely seriously.   Well, he would wouldn`t he?

A hundred years ago in a former life, like most people I was often guilty of getting things wrong and I always found the best solution was to admit to the mistake, give an honest answer as to how it came about and demonstrate the steps taken to see that it won`t happen again.  How refreshing it would be if the editors and decision makers in charge did the same.  They might discover that it`s far less stressful to be honest and that it`s not a crime to be wrong now and again.   The real crime is usually the cover-up and dealing with viewers opinions in a manner bordering on contempt.   Well, it is the BBC, isn`t it?

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Yes I know it is the so-called `closed season` in domestic football but here we are in early July and games are still going on - Rangers losing to some Luxembourg outfit in the early stages of the Europa League for example.   But it`s the off-field activities, rumours and speculation that seem to grip the starved minds of the football fanatics.

And I guess I`m no different, although being a Southampton fan, I might tend to take a more jaundiced, more bewildered view of what`s going on. A few examples have come to mind in the last week or so.

The first concerns our old friend John (The LegEnd) Terry, late of the parish of Chelsea and now apparently taking up residence in Birmingham.   Now Terry has a history of self parody which sets him apart, perhaps culminating in his extraordinary `performance` at a Champions League Final when, not having played or been on the bench for that game, he still felt it his place to tog himself up in full kit, go up the stairs, collect the cup and brandish it around for all to see.  Goodness knows what Wayne Bridge must have thought. Now Terry has arrived at Birmingham his early announcement that he sees his future as a manager of his beloved Chelsea again demonstrates the limitless nature of his arrogance.

I`ve been watching the transfer speculation and it seems that Chelsea and Manchester United (those well known twin impostors) are determined to recruit just about every player who might or even might not come on to the transfer market.  Today`s idiocy suggests that United are looking to spend £100,000,000 on one Romelu Lukaku whose claim to fame is that he seems adept, given half a chance, of burying the ball in the back of the net.   And Chelsea`s very own enfent terrible, Diego Costa, is demanding no less than £400,000 a week for the privilege of him staying at Stamford Bridge.   It`s all utterly mad and increasingly meaningless.

Turning lastly to matters closer to home, Southampton have dismissed French manager Claude Puel for finishing eighth in the Premier League and narrowly losing the League Cup Final at Wembley, but the truth is more that Puel`s style of play did not find favour with the St. Mary`s faithful, having been brought up on a diet of fast flowing, reckless, desperate relegation battles.

Instead of M.Puel, we now have one Mauricio Pellegrino, a 6`4" former centre back from Argentina, via the Spanish League.  Arguably our most successful of recent seasons was under the management of another former centre back from Argentina, via the Spanish League.  His name was Mauricio too.  I hope the Saints board were not under the illusion that they had managed to entice Mauricio Pochettino back from Tottenham, but in the bonkers world of football, you just never know.

Sunday, July 02, 2017


Living as I do in the good ol` U of K, I suppose I share the national obsession with the weather which can of course, be very unpredictable and ranging from scorchio to brass monkeys and everything in between - if you get my drift.   To quote Tom Jones, it`s not unusual for us to have the four seasons in one day and so, along with our weather obsession, I guess we might also be obsessed with the weather forecasts.

Now some of these are worth watching for their entertainment value - Tomas Schafernaker  (?sp); Alexis Green, the well known Saints babe who presents the weather forecast on BBC South Today;  David Brain who not only does the same on BBC Spotlight South West but also is prone to including videos of well known south west locations;  but by and large, weather forecasts at least on TV tend to be pretty dull affairs, if not a bit complicated for those of us without degrees in atmospheric science or meteorology.  I suppose the most riveting are the forecasts on BBC Radio which include such items as the state of the sea (usually rough or slight); winds (usually light to variable); and visibility (precipitation within sight, etc.)

Now  Porthallow in deepest Cornwall marks the mid point of the 630 mile long south west coast path and, as an aid to travellers and locals alike, has installed a weather stone, designed to make forecasting simple, quick and accurate.   Here it is:-

I took this photo on a recent visit but some of the detail  was obscured by the stone itself. Just to fill in the gaps, the forecast for sunny is `shadow on ground;` the one for snowing is `white on top;` foggy is `can`t see stone;` and when the stone is swinging, it means it`s windy.  So congratulations to the good folk of Porthallow for this splendid initiative which, if it catches on, could save the BBC £millions.