Monday, 30 March 2015

The Man's Story

I decided to take a look at the story of the young man lying in the grave at the wee church I visited the other day.  Like many of such tales it is sad indeed.

Gunner Frank Raven, artillery men are always called 'gunner' not private, was born in Great Tey in 1896 to a ploughman working on the farms round about. By 1901 there were nine in the family and he was the fourth brother out of six. His sister I suspect would still be the house bully, they usually are!  Each one was born in Great or Little Tey indicating how dad moved from farm to farm according to the possibility of work.  Ploughmen however were highly skilled and better paid.  The eldest brother, at twenty years of age, was a pork butcher and by 1911 all the working boys were farm hands.  By then the sister and elder brother had gone, not unlikely married, possibly however sickness was rife before the NHS.
I have no idea what sort of dwelling they rented but I suggest an outside loo, a pump or well for water and crowded rooms, par for the course at the time of course.  Some villages retain their pump making it a visitor attraction. Occasionally I notice them removed into peoples gardens as ornaments.  Life on the land would be run according to the light, and summer would mean long days of hard back breaking work, especially later when harvest had arrived.  No transport bar a horse if you were lucky, or possibly a chance ride on the cart on the way home.  

The census of 1911 shows the family at Broad Green, Great Tey, not far down the road where he worked on the farms.  Five sons lived here with their parents those not at school were on the farm. Not much else available I suspect or was there no desire to move away I wonder? 
War left its mark on every part of the kingdom.  Agricultural workers often saw this as a chance of escape from a hard, dull life, especially if foreign travel was involved.  On November 1915 Frank signed the attestation form pledging to serve for the duration of the war.  He travelled to Colchester, a few miles down the road, possibly walking all the way, and enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery Regiment. Did his brothers go with him or had they already enlisted?  I do not have time to look.  He was by then 20 years of age, five foot six in height and I suspect very fit.
Within six days hew as posted to Great Yarmouth for basic training and by the 13th of December with what appears to be the 13th Company.  He remained there, based I guess at Yarmouth defending the coast against enemy shipping and Zeppelins passing over.  That are was on their main route into the hinterland.

I suspect Frank had never travelled far in his life.  Possibly into Colchester, maybe Braintree, however I doubt he would have been to Great Yarmouth before.  Certainly he would never had considered travelling to Cricklewood where he was posted to the 6th AA Company on the 1st of May 1916.  This anti-aircraft company were part of the answer to Zeppelins and Gotha Bombers that upset the people of London so. Faded writing makes things unclear but he appears to be there until September when he possibly developed a sickness. This was indeed serious.  So serious that he was discharged from the army on medical grounds on the 8th of February 1917.  This was a time when men were desperately required and only serious illness or wounds would enable such discharge.  The cause was a form of cancer and on the 28th March he died.  He was 21 years of age.

His address is given as Houchins Farm, next door to the 1911 address. farm workers, especially good ones, did not have to travel far for work even if the wages were poor.  It comes to mind that eight shillings a week might have been the wage while factories nearby paid twelve.  Franks character is described as 'good' by his officer so he no doubt was a reliable worker.  The army rewarded the deceased with a war gratuity (£4 in Franks case) and a medal to remember him by.  
I don't think we should forget him, do you? 


Saturday, 28 March 2015

I Took a Walk Today

I decided at the last minute I was going to take advantage of the bleary sun that appeared in between the clouds to go somewhere new today. Remembering the buses use a different timetable on Saturdays, and don't run at all on Sundays, I checked the supposed times online.  This gave me just enough time to grab my coat and run.  I then returned and put my shoes on.
I thought of a place to go and sitting upstairs at the front with the sun shining through the windows it was almost like Spring, if you ignored the clouds.  We proceeded apace and after about twenty minutes I judged we were nearing the stop for the place that was in my mind.  So I rang the bell and as they say, alighted.  Quite what that word means I am not sure.  Does it mean I got lighter by getting off, could they imply be leaving the bus that object of delights felt lighter?  I know not and worried little about it at the time.      
It appeared to me my goal lay just down the road and I proceeded in an easterly direction, as the constables would say, before deciding to first walk up the short street marked 'Dead end' as the sign pointed to the church of 'St James the Less.'  Less what we will ignore for now.  
On the way up the road I noticed the kind of thing often seen in the back roads of English villages, on this occasion it was the turret of an American tank sitting in the front garden as if this was a normal sight to see.  In this part of the world, in among the quiet bungalows where nothing but wife swapping and money laundering are the usual pastimes people often parade their hobbies for the few passers-by to enjoy.

Whether the old tractor in the rear actually works these days I doubt but the American truck looks like it may sometimes be used.  
I sauntered on passing the quiet houses, enjoying the near seclusion from the world hurtling by less than a mile down the road and arrived at the small church.  To the right, just behind the car park, lay a field, the recently ploughed earth a light brown colour as it waited for the offerings beneath to start sprouting. Two houses stood on the other side and nothing moved, not even a bird.  

The church was erected in 1130 but I failed to discover by whom and for whom. Such churches were often built by the local Lord for the villages in his area but I know not who he may have been.

Much altered since the 12th century, and renamed St James the Less in 1365 in stead of St Mary for some reason, the church conveys and impression of age. The mustiness in the air pervades the building heightening its attractiveness rather than lessening it.  Somewhat darker than the photos show light fills the place today through two large windows on either side, I think these may have been the ones inserted in the 14th century.  It is always something to admire when we talk of buildings renovated so long ago. This small church has been used by people for hundreds of years, mostly agricultural types, I suspect there was little else on offer then, working themselves to death every hour of the day on what must have been back breaking toil on the fields.  

One interesting recent discovery was the aged paintings that once ran round the walls.  Most of these were removed during the reformation but the majority of these appear to have survived reasonably well. Of course years of whitewash have hidden them so this may have preserved them to some extent but it also damaged them so these are difficult to interpret at first sight.  The explanation booklet I could not find but one day I will discover more.  

The old beams above the window may hold the roof up but originally this was probably a thatched roof, tiles would come later.  Many houses around here remain thatched and the Thatchers art was dying out by the 1960's but demand has once again trained men to the job.  needs must I suppose.

One small portion of coloured glass dating from the 1400's is found high above the window in the apse. Too insignificant for reformation zealots but maybe the windows in this church were not stained in any way, money would be scarce.

Sadly such buildings are usually locked as light fingered peoples appear looking for treasure, I however was fortunate enough to get into this one today.  There is no treasure here, the building itself, and the wall paintings, are the treasure and one worth visiting.  

I was much taken by the organ, which I suppose actually works, especially because of the size.  What a delight, however I am not keen on organ music as such and my delight might fade if I heard it in operation.

The round end and building material can be clearly seen here.  The rubble used is typical of local churches.  No stone in sufficient quantities here, occasionally Roman bricks can be seen where once proud villas have fallen apart and been reused by the Saxons and later Normans for their buildings.

Naturally I found a dead soldier in the graveyard, there is usually one somewhere.  Even little villages like this, still only a handful of houses, only seven families in 1810 and only a couple of dozen hoses in the area now.  How many attend the church I wonder?
Anyway having enjoyed my fill of the delightful place I wandered on towards what I thought was my intended destination.  As I walked I realised I may have made a mistake somewhere as this appeared to be failing to make an appearance.  My knees ached, the weather became warm, so I jumped on a bus to discover I had indeed got off at the wrong stop by about three miles!  The bus pass came in useful!    
The destination was a church I often pass on the bus, it was locked!
Maybe the good Lord took me to a better place, certainly he knew more about where I was going than I did!
My knees now ache, I need to eat a large steak and sleep for a week! 


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Clarkson and Psychology

Difficult to say what is the biggest news item today.  Is it the plane crash costing around 150 lives or the sacking of Jeremy Clarkson from 'Top Gear?  I notice another contender is causing tears, screams and outrage in that a member of a group called 'One Direction' has walked out and wee girls are throwing themselves out of windows everywhere because of this.  For myself I tire of the delays in dealing with Clarkson, who has gone too far once to often, and sacking was the only step possible.  The information regarding this plane crash in the Alps is as always limited and I am not willing to read acres of space telling me how relatives are in tears.  That is neither offering information nor necessary.  Let people grieve alone I say. 
Clarkson was good in that he often said what many think but are not in a position to say so.  The PC lobby shuts the mouth of freedom far too easily, Jeremy cut through this.  He did go too far and there are those who say that lamping a producer because his dinner was not ready is a step too far and sacking was the result.   The singer, if he is a 'singer' concerns me not.  Such groups are there to sell to wee girls, not to produce music.  I suspect like most of this kind their offerings would be covers of others songs. Real musicians, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison and Joe Cocker and many others wrote and sang their own works usually.  They had something to say unlike the 'Bubblegum Music' still on offer today.
What's that about ageing...?

Scots they say are the most friendly and open people, Londoners the most miserable.  At least according to a psychological survey just published. According to whoever runs this thing where you live affects your personality, gosh I never thought that!  
Of course where you live affects you, the history of the place, going back thousands of years, the environment in which you live, hill, seaside, plain etc, all have an effect on you and those brought up there.  How could it be otherwise?  I could have told them how grumpy Londoners can be after 20 years of it, and it has always been thus, and Scots are of course happy, jolly always keen to be friendly type of people, and don't you forget it pal!   
However I sometimes wonder about psychologists.  Once upon a time it was the popular thing to study, then it was media studies as the money was better, I suspect the chattering classes are into gender studies today.  Rarely do such folks study something useful, like History!  
Some degree of psychology is a requirement, to attempt to understand humans is a good thing, however all to often some crazy studies appear with little practical or positive effect and such as that are published in the press.  This long study has only told us what we already know, was it worth it?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Nothing Day

Such a nothing day today.  I spent so much time staring into the laptop I missed the sunshine.  By the time I went out for bread it was becoming cloudy as the rain returns once more.  The chap who runs this establishment has left his beast outside to impress folks.  I thought it a great little show and had to grab a picture or two.  When I was 16 these were very popular and I was torn between dreaming of having one of these or a proper motor bike like a BSA or Norton.  Naturally I got neither as there was no money of any sort.  It was ten years before I managed to get my hands on a short lived Suzuki, not nearly as splendid as this beast on show here.  My renown technical achievements soon rendered it useless!
All the bikes I admired, Triumph, James, BSA, Royal Enfield and the like died soon afterwards as the word 'innovation' was a stranger to the companies that made them in the English Midlands.  The Japanese however were very much into 'innovation' and their superiour Suzuki's, Honda's and Yamaha's soon became the thing to buy.  Simple things like a push button start as opposed to kicking the brute helped many enjoy the bike.  Oil not dripping everywhere was another advantage. In every way the Japanese were better and by the 70's there was no more UK bikes.  Occasionally one or other reappears for a while, always producing huge bikes that cost millions, and only Royal Enfield continue as before, this time based in India.  All official bikes in India at the time were Royal Enfield's and they had their own factory there.  They bought up all the machinery from England and shipped it out to their factories and continued to make the bikes, still do!  These are now imported into the UK, indicators and other things added to make them legal and appropriate, and the 350 and 500 are occasionally seen on the roads here.
Ah well, when the rain stops tomorrow afternoon I might blow up the tyres on my bike and pedal around, or not as the case may be...


Sunday, 22 March 2015


Champion indeed!  The Heart of Midlothian have succeeded as we all expected but how they succeeded! After the years of Mad Vlad the club suffered a 15 point deduction at the beginning of the previous season as punishment for fiddling the cash.  Vlad moved back to Lithuania (he is a Lithuanian Russian) and soon was asked to pay the government there a million or so that he owed them.  He was found later somewhere in Moscow where he fits in well with the Putin mob.  
The loss of points made it obvious our mostly young squad would be relegated which in time occurred. We then looked to the new season in a division feared to be very difficult to escape from. With a new board of directors a clean sweep was made by the new management team.  Out went many steadfast players, to my and others annoyance, in came Craig Levein and Robbie Nielson with their newfangled ideas.  I was unsure about this, Leveins tactics had been a failure before and Robbie would be his lapdog.
How wrong we were!
Robbie is his own man and the two, along with the board, have worked well together to develop a new style both on the field and in the training regime.  A skilful, hard working approach has brought a result in which the Heart of Midlothian have won the championship before the end of March! Only one game has been lost and by the end of the season it is possible we may have scored 99 goals, at the moment we have a mere 84!   My early season doubts, shared by many, have long since faded away.  Now we simply await the make up of the new team for next year with a sense of excitement when we once again return to play among the big boys.  Whether we do well or ill means little at this point, the Heart of Midlothian people rejoice with hope in the football future.

The result that ensured the Heart of Midlothian return to the top division created such joy that the sun began to fight its way through the clouds!  The world rejoices, as it should!


Saturday, 21 March 2015

Bleak Fair

Poor man has arrived here once again when the weather is gray and chilly.  He should know by now he rarely sees the sun when he arrives.  The shows themselves change each year, what once was lots of roundabouts this year is almost entirely bouncy castles!  The few kids I saw as I passed were happy enough with that mind.  Poor man had three of his expensive banners ripped by a passing thug late one night so already he is out of pocket.  With the weather as it is I suspect he will be struggling to break even.  A rather risky business travelling the country.
This is the only picture I have taken since being out the other day.  Dreich weather has put me off going anywhere.  On the other hand I have watched lots of football and spent a lot of time asleep!
There was a time when I never seemed to have time to myself, now I have plenty.  One of the advantages of my position is the lack of need to rise early, struggle to work by bike, bus or other means, spend a long day with people determined to ruin my life, earn too little cash, sometimes enjoy the life and often wish I could be elsewhere.  Now all I need is a large donation of twenty pound notes to ease the day.  
Actually having most of my needs met, the house with swimming pool is still outstanding, I suspect I may use such cash to travel around taking pictures or spend too much time in bookshops, charity and proper, lining the bookshelves with worthwhile and entertaining reading.  Finding decent bookshops is however very difficult unless you live in the big city.  So many have closed because of Amazon that only the strongest survive.  
I mention this because I am once again going through a 'Roman' period.  I am browsing through Tacitus 'Annuls' as find it interesting.  I bought this in a shop when I was looking for his 'Histories' and was fooled by the one word title.  The copy I already possessed is called the 'Annals of Imperial Rome' and the one I bought was a new version again by Penguin.  Fool that I am!  I still have not got the other. Interesting how Rome was governed in such a manner, the Emperor being almost totally powerful yet spending much time wary of others making bids for power, usually women!  Why Harridan Harman never mentions them I do not know.  
The rich and powerful in the senate could also fall from grace and lose their heads if luck goes against them, today they merely move to other lucrative jobs and write about their enemies. Nothing much changes with those in power, it was ever thus.  Jesus, Lord of all, washes his disciples feet, these men build empires to their glory walking over any who get in their way and excuse the deaths and destruction that happen to occur.  Big houses, vast bank accounts with no tax paid, 'Top Gear' used as a shopping mall for cars rather than watched to see three idiots driving, and nothing but enmity from so many around them, all who disappear when the money vanishes.    
I envy them not.
No news in the papers, just election lies, half truths and deception.  Lots more to come I fear.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

East Anglian Railway Museum

What better way to tire yourself out than to wander round a railway yard!  In fact what appeared at first sight to be a small railway sidings became larger with each turn that appeared.  A siding here a building to visit there, in the end I was pooped!  A wonderful display of static railway stock, most of course concerned with East Anglia and the Great Eastern Railway, but not all.
This 'heritage Railway' arose in the years after Dr Beeching's famous report that closed hundreds of what he claimed were loss making lines throughout the UK. The lines around this one were closing and by 1970 is was intended to end the Marks Tey to Sudbury line and the station at 'Chappel and Wakes Colne' was leased in 1970.  By 1986 the site became fully operational as a museum. However the line to Sudbury did not close and plans to run trains was abandoned as the line refused to die! One train of two coaches runs back and forth at hourly intervals to this day and very useful it is too!  This is very much a working museum in which visitors can walk through the shops where coaches and engines undergo renovation.  On 'operating days' engines run on the short line using diesel or steam as available.   Also a miniature railway operates and other attractions for adults and kids are on offer. 

The signal box allows the chance to operate the levers, heavy enough when not connected to anything, imagine if working daily on these?  Almost everything in the past involving physical labour appears to have been designed to increase the heart rate.  The station offices have been returned, if they ever left it, to a time when such lines were common throughout the nation.  Railways had a place for many people until the arrival of the cheap bus after the first world war. These buses ran up to the door, or near enough in small villages thus taking away the long walk to the nearest station.  Goods traffic however continued for many years after that in spite of the abundance of ex-army lorries on the streets.

The man in the signal box had a somewhat lonely existence some think but the responsibility was great. One mistake and it could lead to two trains meeting unexpectedly!  This line, quiet today, was however carrying passengers and goods for some distance there fore it could be very busy.  The man in the box was however kept warm and fed by the heating and cooking arrangements provided.  Coal on offer from passing engines and water from many sources.  A pub stood outside the gate at the time so he was well cared for!

The station master had an office to himself with a much better fire than that in the signalbox, as indeed he would have said it ought to be.  Working on the railways was a job for life then and well worth it as a good pension was on offer. Families would follow on for generations on the railway, throughout the land they would be loyal to their company.  Here it was the GER, Great Eastern railway, and like the others everything was embossed with their name.   Shame about the old queen mind.  Or is that paper boy just late?

The waiting rooms were decent enough in those days of yore but why were the ticket offices always seen through a small opening?  I remember Edinburgh Waverley also having large brown wooden ticket offices approached behind a barrier with only a small opening to speak through, not that I ever did, that's what dad's are for.  The GER have an opening only a foot high and a couple of inches for allowing cash to pass through.  Were they so scared of robbery or tantrums from passengers then I wonder?  I admit they remain behind glass today but at least you can see them!

Like most such places the EARM attempts to save items that no longer run on the lines.  The rusty green train is the last of those electric trains that carried millions of commuters in days of old.  One day it will be restored to its finest livery.  Sugar beet was a large part of agricultural output in this region and this wagon reflects the sights often noticed on the lines in the sugar beet heyday.  

These coaches provide adequate comfort, better than some today and the first class had the luxury no longer on offer of a compartment, often to oneself!  How the rich lived, kept apart from the peasants.  

It became the thing for disused coaches to be turned into camping holidays for many.  These died out during the 60's but some are still available in coastal regions.  While the coach looks a bit austere today many folks came from homes a lot less luxurious than an ex-railway coach turned into a tidy sleeping area.  I like the idea and would try one if I were rich enough.  In the past many old railway wagons could be seen in gardens used as huts, sometimes old coaches also.  This appears to happen less today possibly because of the reuse of materials and a stricter control of the staff!

Onwards through the crossing gates, past the shunter 'John Peel' into the shed where engines, coaches and anything else is restored to pristine condition.  I will save you the technical details and I don't understand them.  If I get involved in anything technical it breaks so I move on.  The greenish bulk in front is a railbus undergoing slow restoration.  One day this will transport folks on the short line, one day. 


The renovation of tank engine No 11 shows how efficient the workers are. Some of these men, mostly retired, have been working here for forty years.  Friendly, enthusiastic and highly efficient they all appear to enjoy their work.  You can see 'Thomas the Tank Engine,' a must in all such places, being worked on at the rear.  The Reverend Wilbert Awdry who wrote the original books understood how railways worked and his books always kept to railway procedure.  Once he, or his descendent's sold out to the BBC the stories were not always as accurate as they ought to be. 

Ah the days when milk was transported by such containers and dropped off at each station.  Tesco would bring it back if it was cheaper!  The cattle trucks are used less today, except when football specials are on order.

The variety of equipment, all operational or soon to be operational, is fantastic.

The view from the small office once used by the man in charge of coal is delightful, when it doesn't rain. He would be charged with caring for the income and outgoings of all coal deliveries, and probably others also.  Coal was used by industry and home until the late sixties and it is hard to imagine the stour hanging over the streets darkening the houses when all and sundry lit their fires. The first page or two of Charles Dickens 'Bleak House' shows the effect of rain mixed with chimney smoke as folks moved about London in his day.  Worth reading just that page.  Edinburgh was not called 'Auld Reekie' for nothing and I remember the blackened buildings showing the effects of a society dominated by smoke!  It is unusual now to see smoke coming from a chimney and the smell is somewhat romantic, even though it chokes you.

Fancy driving an electric train?  This heritage centre does offer the chance to drive a steam engine on occasions.  I just mention this when you are next wondering what to do with your charity money....

And where do you go to after a hard days work?  The pub, well the English working man does anyway.

And after that...?

That was a great day out!  This is a well run operation with many good plans for the future.  Many attractions are planned and hoped for to attract people to see their heritage, know and understand their history and have a good time also.  Good people with a lot of care for their past and much to tell the generation today.