Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Annual health check

The nurse assures me that I am still alive as my pulse and blood pressure are just what they should be.  My weight is very good for my height and my alcohol and salt consumption are both within limits.  I now await the results of the blood and urine tests.  At least the nurse didn't utter those damning - some might say patronising - words. "for your age".

Meanwhile, there is too much calling for my attention for me to write any more.

Monday, 6 July 2015

And here we are, home again

Last Wednesday, I and several other members of Brighton Lions Club flew to Germany to meet up with the Schleissheim Lions Club with which we are slowly forming a close relationship.  We flew back last night after a most interesting and enjoyable few days in and around Munich.  We left Munich in temperatures about 35 Celsius, only to land at Gatwick where the temperature was 20 degrees lower.  It felt almost freezing!

I can't say I am over-keen on Bavarian food and I'm unable to drink their beer, but visits to beer
gardens and the famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich were musts.

The oompah band was playing when we went into the Hofbrauhaus, as shown left.  The beer hall is enormous with dozens of large tables, some of which are reserved on regular and/or at regular times for regular guests.  Regular guests are also able to keep their own beer steins in special locked cages - but there are only 550 of these and the right to keep one's own stein here can be passed on as an inheritance!

When I - and many others - hear the name 'Dachau' there is only one thing that springs to mind.  Or there was only one thing.  That has changed a little now as we visited the town yesterday for the church fete.  We arrived just before the open-air service had finished and were amused to see that as the congregation stood for the final hymn, some men swiftly removed the benches acting as pews.  These were then placed beside the tables already set up under the chestnut trees in readiness for the midday meal - and drinks - to be served.  We spent most of the afternoon relaxing in the shade of the trees while the temperature soared to nearly 40 C - 104F, eating, drinking and chatting with our German friends.

So now its back to earth again.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Fake antiques

It was reported in yesterday's newspaper that the Great Wall of China is now the Not So Great Wall of China.  It seems that locals have helped themselves to some of the stones in order to build houses for themselves - although that was probably not within living memory.  Some parts of the Wall - presumably smaller stones - are being sold to tourists, although I beg leave to be just a tad sceptical of the origin of those stones.  Some of the towers are crumbling because nobody is quite sure just who is responsible for their upkeep.  Other parts of the Wall are simply wearing away as a result of too many tourists.  A bit like constant dripping wears away a stone.

Reading that news story made me wonder; just how much of the Wall really is the genuine, original thing?

"This is my grandfather's axe.  My father gave it a new head and I have replaced the haft."

It happens all around us.  Take some of the old cathedrals of England, such as Canterbury.  Parts of the building, especially statues and other fiddly bits, have eroded badly over the centuries and stonemasons are busy making replacement parts.  Just how much of the building must be original for it truly to be called a 14th (or whatever) century cathedral?

And what about HMS Victory, Lord nelson's flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar?  It has been sitting in Portsmouth dockyard for many a long year and I am reasonably sure that bits of decking, rigging etc have been replaced over time.

Or a really old house such as the Clergy House at Alfriston.  This has a thatched roof which has certainly been replaced several times since the house was constructed in the 14th century.
The Clergy House, Alfriston.                                            © John Miller

And is that glass in the window really 700 years old?

Mention of the Victory reminds me of the story of the guide who told a party of tourists, "This brass plate is the spot where Admiral Lord Nelson Fell".

Said a tourist, "I'm not surprised,  I nearly tripped on it myself!"

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Kissing is out

Yesterday being a fine, sunny summer's day I decided on a walk across 39 Acres and around the Roman Camp, which - as I'm pretty sure I have mentioned before - has nothing whatsoever to do with the Romans.  It's official name is Hollingbury Hill Fort and it dates from the Iron Age, thus predating the Romans in the British Isles by about 600 years.  Nevertheless, the locals, for some reason I have never discovered, call it the Roman Camp.  The defensive ditch and the ramparts remain, although the ditch is probably not as deep and the ramparts not as high as when the fort was constructed some 2500 years ago.  At a rough guess, the camp/fort covers about 30 acres with perhaps a quarter covered in gorse.  Each year, the council cuts a section of the gorse down to the ground but it very soon grows again and the oldest plants are well over six feet tall.  But what surprised me yesterday was the lack of blooms.  Not a single yellow flower was there to be seen!

Now my old granny was full of wise and not-so-wise, pithy and not-so-pithy sayings, but never once did I hear her say, "Kissing's in season when gorse is in bloom".  But with no gorse in bloom, presumably kissing is out of season.

Not that it makes much difference to me at my age.

Situated within the ramparts are a number of disc barrows, a relatively rare kind of Bronze Age burial mound which predate the Iron Age defensive measures by anything up to about 1500 years.  They would have been the burial sites of important people, possibly chieftains.  The largest in the Roman Camp provides quite a view across Brighton and out to sea.  Several times I have seen people picnicking on this spot, probably quite unaware of what they are sitting on.  The evil in me has always prodded me to enlighten them but I have managed to resist the temptation.  So far.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sunday traditions

As we ate our roast pork yesterday, I fell to wondering if the Old Bat and I are the last people to follow that Olde English tradition of eating a roast meal on Sundays.  For as far back as I can remember - and probably even farther back than that - Sunday has meant roast dinner.  But we have adjusted the tradition a little: we eat dinner in the evenings.

When I was a child - and, indeed, for some years after we were married - Sunday dinner was eaten in the middle of the day.  This is (or was) probably a throwback to the old days when the main meal of the day for the working classes was dinner eaten at dinner time.  The next meal would be tea, usually eaten at about fine o'clock, and consisting of bread and butter and jam, followed by cake.  I say bread and butter, but for many of us it was bread and margarine, butter either being unavailable or too expensive.

So, dinner - roast dinner - at 12.30 or 1.00pm or thereabouts.  Accompanied by the Light Programme of the BBC wireless - it wasn't called radio back then.  For many years, the programme at 12 noon was Two-Way Family Favourites with Jean Metcalfe in London and Bill Crozier in Cologne.  The format was simple:record requests selected alternately by relatives in Britain and (mainly) soldiers stationed in Germany as part of the BAOR, the British Army of the Rhine.  That was followed at one o'clock by programmes like the Billy Cotton Band Show, The Navy Lark or Round the Horn.

I have tried to find snatches of those shows but as they were radio and not television (back then) it has proved beyond me.

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Too busy today to think of anything to write, so here is a picture taken on the Downs way back in June 2011!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Royal thoughts

Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have, this week, been on a state visit to Germany.  The television news here in Britain has just about covered it, as have the newspapers.  Well, the quality press at any rate.  What I and others have found astounding is the reception they have received with the sort of crowds we might expect to see in Commonwealth countries or, in London, on special occasions.  This is the picture, printed in The Times, of the crowd greeting the Queen's appearance on a balcony in Frankfurt.

They are on the balcony just above the Union flag in the centre of the picture.

Meanwhile, this was happening in Windsor:-

Then there's this:-