Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Leaning on a Lampost

Once I got a moment I stopped at looked at the lamp in the corner this morning.  It has been in the museum for a while yet I never look at it.  At one time it lit up the station platform aiding the inspector and guards to catch fare dodgers and find dropped coins when the passengers had passed through.  It is amazing to think we used to light all our lamps by gas!  Houses, churches, theatres and pubs were all gas lit.  This gave the benefit of also warming the place up but made the people drowsy somewhat. That must have annoyed many a preacher and aided many a pickpocket I suspect.  
The daily round of what we called in Edinburgh, 'the Leerie,' who went around with a long pole with a wee light on the end opening each lamp, lighting the wick and passing on to the next.  All over the land men wandered about with their pole, kids chasing them asking for a shot at lighting the lamp, a job mostly occupied by aged men, possibly unfit for any other purpose.  How long would it take to light a town during the 19th century, especially when some 'Jack the Ripper' type was urging you to hurry up so he could get on with his er, occupation.  
Some gas is still in operation, Buckingham Palace is lit , outside, by gas lamps, as are the royal parks and Covent Garden area!  Berlin has some 44,000 lamps in operation as have some areas in the USA. With the privatisation of gas I suspect to have gas lit streets today would quadruple a towns costs! Today the street lights around here go off between midnight and five am to save cash. The railway must have been more atmospheric in those days.  Mist, gas light, steam engines, the mixed aromas, nothing like that exists today sadly.

Interesting to note Google offered a hummingbird for 'earth day, yesterday Charlotte Bronte's birthday was commemorated but nothing was on show for the risen Christ.  Google deliberately avoids Christian festivals although all sorts of obscure American personages and scientific ones are on offer.  Militancy at work, certainly not 'equality.'


Monday, 21 April 2014

OK Everybody, Back to Work!

Right, that's it, holidays are over, the kids are back to school tomorrow, you return to work, unless you are in Australasia where you are already sitting on a bus heading for the destination longing to be back enjoying the high life. Others will emote that depression later in the next 24 hours.  I also look to struggling out in the morning as being Tuesday I will be attending the folks at the museum.  Now the school hols are over we will not have a thousand bairns wandering around leaving glitter all over the floor, drawing rude pictures on the old school blackboard, nor putting sticky fingers on glass cases.  We will have adults doing that instead!  Of course soon after lunch I will be back home full of ideas to forget in the following days, and probably asleep and dreaming of delights unknown for a wee while.

You are I am aware sick to the teeth of my preoccupation with dead soldiers, so let me shake your molars once again.  Having succeeded in finding Private French, the last man in that cemetery, I today soldiered on in my quest to find the last Great War grave in the main cemetery.  For the umpteenth time I wandered around the dew covered grass, in what was becoming a very warm sun, searching diligently for a man who would not acknowledge my calls. Then today, while wandering fruitlessly in a corner I found him, right under my nose! Several other men are buried nearby and somehow Sergeant Smoothy had hid himself.  Still I found him now and all the local men buried here are identified at last.  
A sad tale indeed lay in front of me.  I suspect Smoothy had been a regular soldier at the outbreak of war and fought his way through some of the bitterest fighting at Ypres, Loos and probably the Somme also.  His Division was demobilised early in 1919 and on a 'first in first out' basis he returned home to his wife and almost two year old son.  However within a few months he developed an appendix problem and died in hospital leaving his widow with the son to look after.  A year later this poor lass suffered again as her three year old only child died and joined her husband in the grave.  The effect must have been traumatic but she herself lived on until 1963 when at 80 years she rejoined her husband at last. Love is a strange thing, she never remarried, possibly because of love, possibly because she was in her thirties also, possibly because the trauma did not allow her to.  How very sad.
Also quite sad is the name on the foot of the fallen crucifix to the side of our man.  I had a quick look but the name is not found on Google.  This couple lived their lives and passed on leaving so little trace even Google cannot find their name anywhere! 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

HA! Found it!

The cold northern wind did not hinder my desire to once again return to the cemetery down the road. Being 'Good Friday,' a designation I still think unsuitable, the streets were quieter than usual and the sun shining early in the bright blue sky above made for a delightful outing.  Once at the destination I again was happy to sit and listen to the birds singing in the trees all around. The trees and large bushes in the old part were once small seedlings planted lovingly behind a tombstone, now the reach to the skies in some cases and the birds happily make their homes there.  Such birds at this time of the year in the UK have a delightful cheery song and the variety of the voices is wide.  The fact that one is chasing his woman and another threatening all around that this is 'his patch' is unknown to most of us listening and probably smiling smugly.  The cheery, cheeky bird that takes crumbs from your lunch is just as willing to hump anyone else's partner or thump any who get too close to anything that belongs to him.  These creatures are a wee bit more human than we think!

While stumbling through the undergrowth I decided to venture forth into the darkness under a large round tree or bush, sadly my knowledge of tree names is poor.  There to my delight and indeed surprise I found the man I had been looking for!  The reason he had been difficult to trace was simple, he was almost in front of me!  However I am happy now that part of the job is complete and his billing has been finished.  The surprise is the address given is that of the old workhouse.  Later this was converted into houses but was it like that in his day?  Confusion reigns here.  Certainly his grave is wide, a woman I take to be his mother joined him in 1924, and it is possible one of his six siblings may have joined later but the names being omitted or unreadable on what I could actually see here.  A grave that size indicates money was available and with a funeral today costing around £5000 how much would this cost back then?  Someone had cash under the mattress I wonder.

Nothing much else happened but I was intrigued by the woman, along with two children, who found themselves in the middle of the lion enclosure at a safari park when the car caught fire.     
The lions the report says, could not take their eyes of the burning car.  Hmmm freshly roasted dinner lions, yummy!


Friday, 18 April 2014

Thursday, 17 April 2014

How to Fail at PR.

Not long after I began delivering stuff around London I entered one of those glossy, or should I say 'glassy' new blocks of flats just south of the river.  I walked through the glass door, opening it first, and looked for the lift.  I couldn't find it!  I was trapped for a few moments  in walls filled with floor to ceiling mirrors and at first it was difficult to work out what was what.   More by luck than discernment I found the buttons, pressed and a mirror slid back to reveal the lift.  My floundering was over, embarrassment gone, and life continued as before.  
I watch David Cameron's sad attempt to catch a few votes at Easter time from Christians as see him floundering desperately for success.  Turning this way and that he reaches out to 'Hoodies,' 'gays,' the City, and the 'church,' and never at any time really considers that it always looks like a cheap PR stunt. Christians are living amongst those at the bottom of the pile, even those with money, as churches provide many of the 'food banks' his policies, well George Osborne's policies, have given us.  Almost a million people have at least once used such places, and this in a nation Cameron claims is a 'wealthy nation.'  There are few votes gathered from those with their eyes open Dave.
Dave appears to have little concept of how his mutterings are received.  He offers so many pronouncements on a variety of subjects and nothing positive occurs.  It is all publicity to him, PR was the one job he attempted before politics, and judging by the use he makes of his own PR, standing in Waitrose with a shopping basket, visiting a 'porridge factory' when in Scotland, or racing to be seen in Oxfordshire when there was flooding (he arrived later in Somerset where floods had arrived long before), it is clear he must have been made redundant from that job. 
This was a muddled view on Christianity, even his speech writer appears to lack knowledge of the subject, in truth he does not know what it entails.  Hopefully someone this weekend will tell him the truth about sin, judgement, repentance and the meaning of the cross.

It was 18 years ago at the Easter weekend when I arrived here.  Easter was at the end of March that time and life was difficult for the first few days as everything closed down and I had nothing with which to feed the electric meter which at that time worked on a card basis. It was not possible for reasons I forget to obtain cards until after the weekend was over, five pounds had to stretch four days in an all electric house!  It was freezing!  I spent much time in places that were open or huddling over a candle to find some heat!  Today is somewhat more comfortable but the heat element while enjoyable is ebbing away once again.  For reasons I fail to understand Easter brings colder weather, maybe this is a sign?  I can remember going to watch Fulham playing Plymouth one Easter just to see George Best play in the flesh.  Easter Monday is an important day in England's football calendar and naturally enough the sleet spent all afternoon attempting to neutralise my face!  I recall reading about the Battle of Arras in April 1917.  Then too attacks were to be made at night so the darkness gave some cover to the attackers but a deep layer of snow made them stand out whatever they did!  That was one way to spend Easter, face down in front of a 'pill box!'  Now the wind is coming from the north and Sunday offers rain, it must be Easter.  

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday Wittering

I spent most of this morning with my head under the sink giving the bathroom its annual clean so to improve my view of the world I present an old picture of an Edinburgh penguin!  Cleaning I can inform those eager to know is not much fun.  Apart from inhaling the aroma of cleaning chemicals the dust, now ingrained, decided my nose was the place to be.  After an unseemly long time there was a vain attempt to continue the clean up elsewhere but for reasons as yet unexplained I gave up instead, it's only muck anyway, it will still be there next week.  I also considered doing the windows and their grime but decided to leave them until after the weekends rain has passed by, that will do the job for me.  No need to be too enthusiastic about such things.

Sadly this detracted from chasing dead soldiers although I did get some work done on one or two other items including the county habit of religious dissent. Since the early attempts to translate the bible into the native tongue caused the then authorities much distress and led to their desperate need to suppress such nasty goings on the locals have always done their best to disobey.  Bible reading in the vernacular became quite popular in the 1500's.   What surprised me however was the use of burning at the stake to remove such felons.  I never quite understood the reasons for that.  Hanging is quicker, as is a sword, yet this was the chosen means of execution throughout Europe, very strange. Several hundred years went by with dissent continuing until religious freedom appeared in the late 17th century with the 'indulgence act.'  Such freedom is being restricted once again however in the UK.

I made little attempt to get involved in the news today but found myself gripped when I came across the ferry in South Korea that capsized.  I think it was the thought that wee girls and boys were trapped inside that moved me.  It appears they were mostly adolescents and hundreds are trapped inside the upturned hull even now, probably past it by now.  How sad.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Tuesday Tattle

As you can see it was another day of hustle and bustle around the town.  I am not altogether to clear as to whether these are heading for Mr Butcher or being used to cut the grass on rich folks lawns.  I do know the man standing at the side almost out of the picture is worrying the sheep, he keeps repeating "Mint sauce, mint sauce."
Lamb chops are far from my plate today.  Having been at the museum I was not in the mood for hard work by the time I returned home.  All that tea drinking was tiring me out!  Then there was the usual confusion in the morning regarding the kids, who all appeared happy.  Not clear if the boys who arrived were too keen on creating Easter Bonnets mind.  We now go through the long process of replacing the lass who left recently.  Do they keep the capable and popular girl who has been doing the job competently, and in a very organised manner since then, or do they employ someone who fits their image conscious minds?  The secrecy, the whispering, the needless time wasted would not go down well in certain other organisations I have known. Especially those with only a few staff and a capable management.  Be 'up front,' state your case and get on with it.  Not like that here it appears.  

However I limped home and returned to what I do best, I fell asleep.  I have now discovered seven people who died during the war, civilians all, and am struggling to know their stories.  How silly all this is, yet how interesting to piece things together.  Just along the road from me one February Saturday night in 1941 a German plane dropped a few bombs.  Three died, on 13 year old in a house and one unlucky 19 year old lassie who was passing at the time, probably hurriedly!  Many were hurt, garage destroyed, houses badly damaged and now a Sainsburys car park fills the space left!  A sad but not uncommon story that I wished to know for some time and discovered quite by accident.

I occurred to me that I forgot to add yesterday that while I sat pondering in the quiet, deserted cemetery, enjoying the sun, silence and passing birds fluttering by, a cat appeared out of the undergrowth.  It stared towards the large fir tree from where finches sang out to the world.  He did not notice me behind him as I watched his antics, I called and he turned and stared wide eyed, almost as if he had seen a ghost!  I thought for a minute I could hear his heart beating, pumping away to the dozen, but it was more probably mine still recovering from the bike ride downhill!  I noticed a large pigeon fly overhead and when I looked back the cat had disappeared. I hope he has recovered.  

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Little White Dot

Can you see the little white dot in the far distance?  I saw it this morning and once again was touched by the feeling of loneliness this dot inspired.  As early as my bones would stand it I cycled off, against the cold north wind, down to Bocking Cemetery.  I was looking for one of the two remaining dead soldiers to complete the collection of fallen from the two wars. Unfortunately neither have the normal war grave tombstones as both are buried in family plots. From a picture on another memorial site, now removed as the owner has left the town and moved to bigger things.  I knew he was buried near a hedge.  There is no hedge!  It must be an ivy covered wall, the wall exists but his grave does not! The search is not helped by the council eco friendly idea of allowing the older part of the cemetery to go 'wild' for the sake of flora and fauna.  This helpful idea limits visibility of the stones that lie an inch or two off the ground.  Bah! Nothing found so I will venture forth after better preparation next time. Someone has a map of the plots in the council! 

So instead I pondered Private Bennett lying here alone, far from home, isolated in a pathway of freshly cut grass among a few local worthies and chirping birds and fluttering butterfly's.  I know his regiment was formed in Hamilton for 'Home Defence,' that is there was no intention to go overseas to fight.  This type usually comprising older, married men, with the simple intent of stopping Germany invading.  In 1916 the Division was transferred from their homeland to defend the south east of England, the most likely place for invasion, and spent some time watching Zeppelins pass by and drop a bomb or two.  The 2/6th Cameronians were billeted in Terling, a small village about four miles south of Braintree.  How I ask did this man end up in Bocking cemetery?  I can trace no information of any kind, and this is annoying me.  A while back I sent the information with photos to the Cameronians Museum but they could tell me nothing.  
Could it be an accident during training, that would be hushed up army style of course.  It may well be he suffered a pre-existent condition which took him out, and an injury of illness may have seen him placed in one of the local VAD (Voluntary) Hospitals that sprung up during the war.  That at least would explain why he was buried here.  

I sat for a while in the restful quiet, cheerful birds chirping and distant traffic the only noise. How was he buried?  Did a few orderlies from the hospital give him a 'basic,' but considerate funeral? Could it be that a detachment of his Company arrived, led by a piper perhaps, sloped arms, while pallbearers carried him to the grave.  Would the padre, and some say the Cameronians were mostly Catholics but I have no proof of this, would the padre say a few words about the 'resurrection and the life,' and 'he who believes in me will live?'  Was a rifle volley of blanks fired over the grave, a trumpeter blowing the 'Last Post,' and did the men march away, heads bowed, thoughtful perhaps, and leave their comrade alone, so very alone? 
Hamilton in 1916 was very far away.  Any family who wished to visit could do so, if they had the money, could get on a train, find accommodation, and take the time to travel so far.  Was he married, children perhaps?  So many questions and so far no answers.  
The war has left many men far from home and often alone and forgotten, so our Private Bennett is not alone in this.  Six men from the wars lie in this ground, one young woman also, another pile of unanswered questions there. As for Bennett, once he departed this life he ceased to worry about loneliness, it is the relatives and friends who have the stress.  His thoughts would be occupied elsewhere.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Hello Blossom

What a difference Spring makes!  Sun shining, blue sky, a wee bit chilly but lovely all the same. Not that I saw much of this as I was forced to remain indoors watching cup semi finals.  Quite why they don't fix up a telly in the park so I can watch in comfort there I am not informed.  When I think of it I am not informed about much these days.  Living as I do in my own little world it can be surprising to discover things occur outside my remit.  In any decent society I would be informed daily about such events, rather in the manner thon queen woman gets information in a big red box everyday for her to ignore.  

Long days are back again, how I enjoy them!  Rising around six (back to bed around 12) and now wandering around in the cool of the day while down under the cyclone rage through and rain lashes down.  It makes a change I can tell you!  I note however Perth is still suffering high temperatures and the have the audacity to grumble about heat!  Bah!  
Another Sunday passes, another evening when the kiddies go home rather than shout and scream their lungs out in the park.  Maybe they have forgotten tomorrow is a day off?  At times like this, with the sun just beyond the horizon, the sky a light blue still, and a hush descending over the land I wish I was bedside a lake, or the seaside.  That would improve things, as would a large steak and a few friends (whatever they are).  A cat purring at my side, worries put away, ah that would be nice.  


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Friday, 11 April 2014

Classic Show

One of the UK's best comedians, famous for his radio then TV shows in the 1950's.
'The Blood Donor' was one of his best! Made even better as having been injured in a road accident he had no time to learn the script.  He therefore read the script off 'idiot boards,' throughout.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Bread, Bacon, Cheese and tea.

That was what I had for breakfast after I toiled up the old railway for another heart attack exercise time.  The problem with strenuous effort is that the hulking body that causes women to stop and stare requires fuel.  Now I had actually gulped down a fried egg sandwich before I left at six this morning, well 7:30 after I ate breakfast, but once I returned and walked to the shop for fresh bread I got tempted by the grub on offer.  

I have lived here 18 years now and still cannot get over the delight of passing green fields, country views, blue skies and the wide open spaces found outside the town.  Sometimes I wonder how and why we live in cities?  When the air is warmish and the beasties abound the mind is refreshed from all the gunk poured into it during the day.  

I returned to the gunk myself and continued searching for dead soldiers.  While interesting it drives my mind round the bend.  Happily I am on to something different tomorrow.  Life changes at Easter.  The kids swarm around the streets in packs, the girls with their noses in the air and their hair in a bun Victorian style, the boys trendy as always and as intelligent as a packet of peanuts!  

Is that house looking at me?
The politicians have taken the two weeks off to fiddle their expenses and travel the world on jollies! This means we will have less serious news, apart from the obsession with that South African murder trial, and the plane lost at sea.  The media forced to stay at home will be desperately searching for anything that will fill space no matter how insipid.  Hmmm maybe I ought to make a splash somewhere!  

Look, bunnies!  As I passed I noticed lots of bunnies making the most of the dew on the grass to have their version of bacon sandwiches.  This is not always a good thing as many farmers creep around at this time with shotgun in hand.  I heard several bangs this morning as I meandered along, young crops do not require rabbits says Farmer Jones!  Sad in some ways but if they are not culled they will destroy the farmers livelihood.  There were masses of them out today. As I wandered past the eggs, small eggs, packets of eggs, fluffy chickens a chocolate bunnies I wondered what has this to do with Easter? Even the 'Easter cards' had little about Jesus, indeed nothing but a flowery cross was on show, yet this is Easter, without him rising from the dead we would not be wasting money on all this chocolate!  Why are shops scared to say so?

I kept hearing the 'Beach Boys' song 'Country Air' as I pulled muscles all over my body.  It suits this place better than sandy Californian beaches I guess.  Not that I have seen the sandy Californian beaches, I did once see the shore at Southend however.  I breathed fresh air, listened to little birds chirp, almost fell over a dog or two and decided bacon for breakfast tomorrow and let the bike rest, it needs it.   

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Change of Plan.

My day was well planned, I was involved from the off in my work and I exercised by playing Beatles songs and dancing (with the curtains closed) until I fell down (two minutes!).  Things were going well when the museum called. The afternoon talk required help, someone has to make the tea!  So changing my plans to suit I wandered down in the afternoon expecting a crowd for the tea and biscuits.  
There were three names on the list!
However with half term this was to be expected and Jenny did her bit by bringing her mum, dad and neighbour along!  With three members of staff it swelled the crowd!  The picture is taken in a manner to indicate a larger audience than actually arrived.  
It was good however.  The chap discussed the wool trade over almost a thousand years.  The wool made England rich, much off it exported to what is now Holland, Belgium and France, and if you wish to see what it does look at the Suffolk village of Lavenham!  Check for pictures of the place, a huge church paid for by wool exports.  The English parliament saw the speaker in the House of Lords sitting on a 'woolsack' to represent the wealth thereof.  
By the time of the Reformation things changed.  Protestant believers in what was then Spanish Netherlands were persecuted so moved to various parts of England.  Bringing their 'Bays & Says' they found welcome in East Anglia and the resultant operations lasted well into the nineteenth century.  This was the substance of the talk.  The separation of wool from the fleece, washing, weaving, turning into bays or says.  The bay was a standard length of 35 yards long and one and a quarter yard wide (You work it out).  This was hard labour work, it made much money, allowing for various wars, rebellion and the like that hit the trade, and made some people a great deal of money.  Those doing the dirty jobs got the least!  
This was an interesting story, especially as we have the remains of the old mills that took over once this trade lessened and many remain who worked at the weaving, in fact one visitor was a retired weaver, and he wished us to know this!
A good afternoon out, even if it ruined my day - again.

Good job I am not one to complain.....