Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bedtime stories

I mentioned yesterday - and I rather suspect that I have done so on at least a few earlier occasions - that I am an avid reader.  The so-called experts tell us that if parents want their children to enjoy reading, they (the parents) should read to their children.  Now, I most certainly make no claim to be an expert in this or, indeed, any other matter.  All the same, expert or not, I have an opinion. And you are going to be given the benefit of that opinion.  I think it is important that parents do read to their children, although whether or not children go on to enjoy books may not be influenced by the presence or absence of parental reading.  I really have no particular opinion on that part of the question.

I personally enjoy reading.  Did I say that before?  But what I don't know is how much my parents might have influenced that.  You see, I have no recollection whatsoever of my mother ever reading to my brother and I.  And, for the most part, it would have been my mother rather than my father who would have read to we boys as we were both war babies and our father was away at sea for most of the first five years of my life.  That said, I do remember my father reading to us.  We would pester him for ages before he would agree to do so, and our choice of book was always the story of Robin Hood.  This had some great colour illustrations and was our favourite book - but my father wasn't too happy with it.  For some reason, he always managed to mix up "bow" and in "bow and arrow" and "bow" as in "bow from the waist".  Through in a few "boughs" - as happened quite naturally since the story was set in Sherwood Forest - and poor Dad became totally confused.

Parental influence aside, I have always remembered the teacher who took my class for religious instruction, Mr Holly.  Yes, that really was his name, and he was no relation to Uncle Holly who appeared in Selfridges department store in London just before Christmas every year.  But to return to RI.  Mr Holly - was that really his name or is my memory playing tricks again? - was a great one for widening the scope of his lessons.  He seemed to think that just about everything on Earth was connected to religion in one way or another and any subject under the sun was appropriate for discussion.  But what I remember him for is his advice to read as much as possible about as many things as possible, even if it meant reading the corn flakes packet at breakfast.

I'm not at all sure that either of my sons is a great reader - I know my daughter is - and as either the Old Bat or I would read to the children every day, this might just point to the fact that the experts don't always know what they are talking about.

This one of my favourite family snaps - the Old Bat reading to the two boys.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

What's in a name?

In a fairly recent posting I discussed what it took for a town to become a city and my mind, as usual, wandered into other territory.  Namely, the names of our towns and cities.  I believe that some of the place names in Australia and the USA, to take just two examples, are based on the names given by the earlier inhabitants.  But many of the other, anglicised names were simply copied from the settlers home country.  I'm completely ignorant of how places were named in other countries such as France, Italy or Spain, but I do know that many village, town and city names here in England are corruptions of names given by the invading hordes of Danes, Saxons, Angles and Romans.  Except in Cornwall.

Cornwall is something of an oddity.  The most south-westerly point of Great Britain, it was to this rocky promontory (and Wales) that the Celtic tribes were pushed by the invaders.  As a result, the place names in Cornwall tend to be different from those in any other part of England.  Many start with the letters "Tre" - Trevivian, Trelawney - or "Pol" - Polperro.  There is a distinct similarity between Cornwall and Brittany, in France.  Both were Celtic strongholds and as well as topographical similarities, there is the similarity of the ancient languages and the fact that Cornwall and Brittany have the world's only black and white flags.

But I'm digressing again.

Many English place names end in "chester" or similar - Chester itself, Rochester, Winchester, Chichester, Gloucester, Worcester, Leicester to name but a few.  That is because these were Roman fortified sites and the names are based on the Old English, from the Latin castra, a camp.

"Ham" is a common ending in town names, as in Chatham, Nottingham, Tottenham, Oldham.
This comes from the Saxon for farm or homestead.  In some instances the prefix refers to the situation of the homestead (the Chat of Chatham could refer to the valley in which the farm was situated) while others refer to the name of the homestead owner.  The insertion of "ing" as in Gillingham means the family or people of the person named, so Gillingham means a homestead of Gylla's family, from Old English ham (village, homestead) and ingas (family, followers).

Then there are many "tons" - Crediton, Honiton, Northampton, Southampton.  "Ton" meant a place surrounded by a hedge or palisade.

"Borough" - Edinburgh, Middlesbrough, Peterborough, Canterbury - comes from the Anglo-Saxon "beorgan", to shelter. An earthwork, and hence a fortified town.

And what of Brighton?  Well, it was at one time Brighthelmstone and was abbreviated a couple of hundred years ago,  There are various suggestions about the source and meaning of this name, such as these I have copied from www.mikeperris.com:
The origin of the name of Brighton is somewhat contentious. It has been translated as "a sea town with a bright or burning watchtower", or named in reference to the brightly decorated helms of the local ships, or "the divided town" (Brist meaning divided in ancient British, with the old river Wellesbourne doing the dividing), but the following seems to be the most common account:

Within the small area of North, West, East and South Streets, the invading Saxons built a group of villages, one of which was called Bristelmestune, named after Brighthelm, who was either a Saxon priest (in France) or a Saxon warrior (killed on the South Downs), or possibly a Saxon farmer, depending on which account you read, although the warrior angle crops up more often than the others. According to a number of sources, including an article in the Daily Telegraph, Brighthelm is said to mean Bright Helmet, although I can only guess whether the words "bright" and "helmet" would have had any meaning to Saxons. Anyway, a shiny helmet appears prominently, if unofficially, in Brighton's coat of arms.
Oh well, you pays your money and makes your choice.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Intimations of mortality

Wordsworth might have had his intimations of immortality but for the Old Bat and me the opposite has been the case.  A couple of days before we left for France, we received the news that one of the OB's oldest friends had died.  The funeral is to be on Friday after we return so we will at least manage to be there.

When we were first married all those years ago - getting on now for half a century! - there was a group of six young ladies who kept alive a friendship formed at school and, chiefly, at Guides.  They met regularly, one evening a month, taking it in turns to host the "girls' night", those girls' nights generally lasting until the early hours.  Through marriage, childbirth, in one case divorce and later remarriage (which is a story all on its own), the meetings continued.  One of the girls moved away.  She didn't drive but once or twice a year her husband would drive her down to Brighton and she would spend the night with us so the girls could all get together again.

Then, about five years ago, one died.  An embolism, I think.

Two years ago a second developed a brain tumour and died.

Now a third member of that group has died - again, a tumour.

I don't know the figures for life expectancy in this country for women born in the 1940s, but I do find it quite surprising that all three died in their 60s.  I think 68 was the oldest.

It makes me think.

Friday, 26 April 2013

If it isn't fun, don't do it

(Just a brief introduction for those readers who are unfamiliar with the set up of Lions Clubs.  These clubs are grouped together in areas called districts, each district being led by a District Governor.  Many DGs select a motto for their year in office. Each district holds an annual meeting known as a convention.)

Several years ago, the District Governor for Lions in south-east England adopted as his motto, "If it isn't fun, don't do it".  It was his opinion that although the objects or Lions Clubs are serious, achieving those objects did not necessarily exclude having fun and enjoying ourselves.  I think that his motto may perhaps have been something of an overstatement although it is surprising just how often even the apparently dreary jobs can be capable of enjoyment and the odd moment of hilarity.

I said above how each district holds an annual convention.  These, at least in England, are held over a weekend with a "host night" party on Friday evening, business sessions all day on Saturday, a banquet and ball Saturday evening, and frequently something else on Sunday morning.  I have been to many conventions but have generally restricted myself to the Saturday business sessions.  I don't do host nights.  And the reason for that is that they usually involve fancy dress.

There was one occasion when I was persuaded to go to an evening function in fancy dress.  the do was held at a seafront hotel here in Brighton and my embarrassment riding there in a taxi and then walking the last few yards was excruciating.  And that in Brighton where anything goes!

No, that's not me in the picture.  That's the current president of Brighton Lions Club and her husband at this year's host night.  They seem quite happy to make fools of themselves in this way - as, indeed, do many others.  But I see no fun in it at all.  And as the man said, if it ain't fun, I won't do it!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Morning, Colonel

I should think that, in this country, the magpie is the bird with the worst reputation.  We are told that there has been a drastic decline in the number of our smaller song birds and many people blame this on the magpie for eating both eggs and young birds.  Granted, there do seem to be more magpies around now than there were a few years back, but over he last few months there also seem to have been more and more of the smaller song birds in the garden.  As well as house sparrows (no sign of the supposed decline in their numbers!) we see more chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, blue and great tits and wrens than ever before, with plenty of blackbirds and a sprinkling of robins, song thrushes and hedge sparrows.  And although there are more magpies in the park than there used to be, there doesn't appear to be a commensurate decline in the numbers of other, smaller birds.

There is an old rhyme about magpies:

One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy.

Seeing just one magpie on its own is thought to portend bad luck in some form or other whereas two magpies together are the opposite.  There is a way to fend off the possibility of bad luck coming if one sees a lone magpie.  One is supposed to greet the bird with a respectful "Good morning, Mr Magpie.  And how is your lady wife?"  Or one can doff one's hat, spit over one's shoulder three times, or even flap one's arms and say, "caw" to imitate the missing second bird!  Or just salute and say, "Good morning, Colonel".

In Scotland a single magpie near the window of a house is not just bad luck but the sign of impending death; possibly because they were believed to carry a drop of the devil's blood under their tongue. Some believe that the reason the magpie is cursed is because it was the only bird that didn't sing and comfort Jesus when he was crucified on the cross. In German, Italian, French, and Norwegian folklore magpies are often depicted as thieves. Yet in China the name of the bird is translated as "happiness magpie" and spotting one it is considered a sign of good luck.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Glad to get away

I'll be glad of this break as everything seemed to be going bananas in Brighton over the last few days.  It didn't help that for much of the morning yesterday my internet connection was only spasmodic.  And even when I did have a reasonable connection, several of the sites I needed to visit were having problems themselves.

I have been trying, without any success at all, to make a start on the minutes of the Lions' zone meeting from Monday last week.  I did manage to get the latest issue of Jungle Jottings out of the way, for which I am grateful, but there are a few other little bits and pieces that will have to wait until we get back.  By then the grass will need cutting again, and I still have to dig the vegetable plot when the onions and garlic should already be planted!

My main bugbear has been Brighton Lions Housing Society, of which I am both secretary and treasurer as well as the unofficial deputy chairman.  We have been negotiating for some time with the owners of a plot on which we would like to erect a small block of flats.  It has been a complicated business with planning problems and various other spanners being thrown in the works.  the trouble is that Bill, our chairman, has been doing most of the work and he is away for three weeks in Mexico.  I'm away now, and the chairman of the land-owning company goes away tomorrow.  And they were hoping to have a deal tied up by 15th May.  As I pointed out to them yesterday, we are awaiting a report from our valuers, then we need to agree a price, then we need to be sure the planning committee will agree to what we want, then we will have to arrange finance.  That will all take a bit longer than three weeks.

I hope that by the time this is posted I will be the proud possessor of a heat lamp.  My shoulders are causing me, not pain exactly, but quite considerable discomfort and I hope a few minutes every day with a heat lamp might improve things.  But heigh, what's a little discomfort in my shoulders when I've two legs, two arms and all other essential parts intact.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

What a relief

Today being 23rd April, I just had to kick off by flying the flag of St George.  Of course, it's not just St George's day, it is also the 449th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.  But to get back to the whimsical title of today's piece.

I was relieved, when I descended the stairs first thing this morning (well, it was first thing for me although some of you may well have thought that it was half way through the morning by then).  Anyway, as I came downstairs I was pleased to see that the morning paper had been delivered.  It wasn't yesterday, and on Sunday we received only one of the two papers we have delivered.  Granted, our newsagent is usually very good and if, for some reason, our paper has not been delivered by, say, nine o'clock, we just ring him up and he comes round.  But I was just a little concerned that we might have done something to upset him.  If that had been the case, I'm not at all sure what I would have done to get the papers delivered.  There is another newsagent very nearby, but - and this is really leading to the point of all this drivel - I can't go there.  I've been banned.

We have lived in this house for more than 40 years and for 40 of those years we had our papers delivered from the newsagent's shop just round the corner, only about 200 yards away.  Of course there was the occasional hiccup but there was no great problem and we maintained a very amicable relationship with the three different proprietors over those years.  Until the present husband and wife team took over.  There were many occasions when our paper failed to arrive and when I went round to the shop, I was told a different fairy tale each time.  Apparently, our house was not clearly numbered (untrue) or the paperboy couldn't find it (he had the day before) and so on and so on.  Eventually it reached the stage where I could stand it no longer and I accused the newsagent of lying.  That did it.  He told me that it was costing him money to supply me with my daily newspaper and that I could get them elsewhere in future.  I was banned!

So we changed to a different newsagent, the only other one who will deliver to our street.  If he should ban me as well I just don't know what I would do.


We won last night - Tony and me, that is.  Not only did the two of us win the shove ha'penny, we also had the highest score of the evening.  Brighton Lions' pair won the pool and other came third in the darts and the dominoes.  Overall, Brighton came out on top - which means we are still top of the table, albeit only by two points.  There are still two events to come - indoor curling and skittles - and those are not our best events so it seems unlikely that we will be Zone Olympic champions this year.


My wine rack needs restocking so I'm off tomorrow.  I have scribbled a few little bits which I will put on the schedule to be posted while I'm away.

Monday, 22 April 2013

This sporting life

One thing that I could never be accused of of which I could never be accused (let's at least try for proper grammar) is taking part in sport to the detriment of anything and everything else.  I am not - and never have been - a sportsman.  It was only on very rare occasions that I failed to be excused from playing rugby at school; I failed dismally at cricket as, when batting, I always shut my eyes when the ball was bowled and when bowling, I never managed to get the ball to the other end of the pitch.  The one and only time I "took part" in a game of hockey I kept tripping myself up with the stick.  And tennis?  Let's not even go there.  I realised at a very early age that any sport involving a ball or similar projectile was not for me.

That said, I did - for a while - become reasonably proficient at darts.  When I worked for the bank there was an annual inter-branch knock-out competition and the team from my branch - of which I was a member - actually won it one year.  My speciality was hitting the numbers across the bottom of the dart board, especially the 19.  The 5, 20 and 1 - being across the top of the board - were out of my reach.

On Harrison's Rocks - but that's not me!
My sport, if sport it can be called, was rock climbing.  Not that I was ever really any good at it,
but I did enjoy it.  What surprises many people is that here in Sussex we have some of the trickiest climbing in the country.  No, not the chalk cliffs: they are far too dangerous.  Inland, in the Weald, there is a sandstone ridge with several outcrops where the rocks are 50' to 60' high.  Not especially high, but still tricky.  There are none of those big, solid hand- and footholds one associates with the granite rocks of the Lake District or the Wye valley.  Climbing at Harrison's Rocks or Eridge is a delicate matter of balance.

But there are occasions when I really push my luck and try my hand at other sports - yes, even at my age of three score years and getting on for eleven!  Tonight is to be one of those occasions.  Every year, our local Lions Clubs take it in turn to lay on an event in what we call our Zone Olympics.  One club organises a toad-in-the-hole competition, another a shuffleboard evening.  There is usually a quiz and 10-pin bowling.  Tonight we are playing pub games: darts, pool and shove ha'penny.  I am now far too dangerous to be pointed at the dart board and you can forget pool, but shove ha'penny is about my level.  Tony and I did pretty well last year, if my memory serves me, and we are hoping to do at least as well tonight.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Could it be that spring has sprung?

What a difference some sun and blue sky make!  This was what greeted me when I opened the curtains yesterday morning.

After lunch, the better part of an hour in Stanmer woods where everything is starting to come together.

That green floor will be a carpet of blue in a couple of weeks or so when the bluebells are in bloom.  Fortunately, the Stanmer bluebells are still mainly the scented English variety rather than the unscented Spanish which is supposedly taking over.  I love the celandines.  They always look as though they have been dipped in acrylic paint.

And by the way, happy birthday, ma'am.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

They say things come in threes

Yesterday dawned a reasonably bright day with no rain and only a very light wind.  I was relieved that it was so and that consequently the Old Bat announced after I had walked the dog that she would drive herself to the MS Centre for her hyperbaric oxygen session and do the Friday supermarket shop afterwards.  I was relieved because this would free me for the morning so I could concentrate on the Lions paperwork that is building up.  I really would lie to have it finished before we leave for France in the middle of next week and this would give me a full three hours to tackle the next issue of Jungle Jottings, draw up a duty list for the Lilac Lark fair, print out some more of our charter night menus (the card has to be fed into the printer one sheet at a time) and maybe, just maybe, make a start on the minutes of last Monday's zone meeting.  I duly moved my car from the drive as the old duck would not want to drive the Passatt, and opened the garage for her to use her Micra.  Next, to switch on the computer.  But first, a cup of coffee and a few minutes with the paper. 

I had drunk perhaps a third of my coffee when it dawned on me that I had not seen the Micra passing the kitchen door.  And then the Old Bat called me through the open window.

"My car won't start."

I tried, but nothing was happening.  I quickly swallowed the rest of the coffee, grabbed my wallet and brought the car back down the drive.  No paperwork was going to be done that morning.

When we had unpacked the shopping I rang my breakdown company.  At first I was told my membership had lapsed but I knew I had renewed it about two months ago - and that was confirmed by the chap in the membership department who apologised most profusely for his colleague's mistake.  But to cut a long story short (as they say), the breakdown van arrived outside the house less than ten minutes after my call.  Yes, that's right - less than ten - one oh - minutes after my call.  What terrific service!  After the mechanic started the car with a battery boost and it had been idling for 30 minutes or so, I moved it onto the road and, later, took it for a drive to finish charging the battery.  Now the Old Bat just needs to replace the battery - which I think is the original and is therefore ten years old.

So, the boiler outflow pipe has been repaired, the washing machine ditto, and now the OB's car has refused to start.  Things really do come in threes.


The view from the bedroom late yesterday afternoon.

Friday, 19 April 2013

In which my friend hands me a problem

That title perhaps gives the impression that the cantankerousness I described in yesterday's post has continued into this morning but that really is not the case.  How could I be cantankerous when somebody who has known me for years, albeit mainly at a distance of thousands of miles, describes me in these words:

...someone I really admire, who really puts a great deal of effort into his daily blog posts, who is very talented and extremely humble.

As I read those words I puzzled over the person to whom Skip could be referring.  I know he reads many of the same blogs that I look up every day - as well as a whole lot more that I don't.  Could it be, I wondered, that there is another fantastic blog that has so far passed me by?  Curious to see what I had missed, I checked out the link provided and almost fell off my chair when I discovered that the link led straight to my blog.  Skip was describing me - ME! - as "very talented and extremely humble".  Then I remembered the title of his blog (With His Tongue Planted Firmly in His Cheek) and my hubris was deflated like a pricked balloon.  This was simply an example of Skip's Californian sense of humour: he was just teasing.  But that's OK - I can take teasing from a person I admire as much as I admire and respect him.

The first think that passed through Skip's mind when he realised to what my title refers was probably that this is not a problem.  It's a challenge, an opportunity.  (Skip's one of those annoying people for whom the glass is always half full, never half empty.)  (You will take all this in good part, won't you, Skip?)

But I have insulted him enough and it's high time I either put up or shut up, so I'll put up.

Thank you, Skip, for your kind words - and I accept the award with all due humility.  While I'm on my feet, I must thank all those people who have made it possible for me to be here today, receiving this most excellent award.  First, naturally, I must thank my mother and father because when you get right down to the basics, it's only because of them that I'm here at all.  Then there is Miss Richards, although she is probably long gone to that great kindergarten in the sky.  She ran a nursery school where, at the age of four, I learned joined-up writing - which I had to unlearn at the age of five when I went to "proper" school.  Then there's my dental hygienist.  I'm not quite sure why I should be thanking her, but I will do so anyway.

So that's that.  No, wait a minute!  In order to accept this award I'm supposed to do something else: ask myself some questions or something and give the answers.  A sort of self-interview.  Skip went for just a couple of questions but I have done some research into this and I find that some recipients have posed as many as ten questions (or simply stated ten facts) while others have completely overlooked this bit.

Who is my favourite author?  I have long been an avid reader of fiction.  It gives me the opportunity to escape from real life and live vicariously.  But to describe any author as my favourite is taking things a bit too far.  As a youngster, I enjoyed Enid Blyton's books such as the Magic Faraway Tree and, at a slightly older age, the Famous Five and Secret Seven series.  Arthur Ransome's books such as Swallows and Amazons provided hours of entertainment, as did W F Johns' Biggles books (I owned every one of those).  Now I'm more into Robert Goddard, Peter James, Elizabeth George and similar writers.  I can't really describe any one author as my favourite, but two books that I can and have read many times and which would probably, on that score, count as my favourites are The Cruel Sea and HMS Ulysses.  I have linked those titles to reviews on Amazon because others have written about them far more eloquently than I ever could.

And lastly, it is simply necessary for me to pass his award:

to other poor, unsuspecting mugs epically awesome bloggers so that, by the time we have finished, every blogger in the universe and beyond will have received it.  So, ladies, here you are:

Number One Nana at Benchmark 60, and

that lady with the split personality who is ABroad with a View.

And just to prove that I'm not really misogynistic,  It's coming your way as well, Buck!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Maybe that's why

You know that feeling you get when you don't feel quite as well or fit as usual but you know there's nothing really wrong?  Or nothing you can explain, anyway?  Most things seem just too much bother to do and there is little or no pleasure to be had in anything except getting into bed at night?  You just feel sort of lethargic and oomph, as though you are a balloon only half inflated?  Well, that's how I've been feeling the last week or so.  It hasn't helped that over the same period I have been stiffening up with arthritis.  No real pain, but distinctly uncomfortable at times.  The other thing is that I have become horribly irritable and tetchy, which is quite unfair on other people.  I do try to hide the tetchiness but regret that I have not been entirely successful.

I had to see one of the practice nurses yesterday for a blood test and she put her finger on the reason.  "It's the lack of sun," she said.  And I think she might well have something there.  We haven't seen much sun for months, this having been what seems like the longest winter of my life.  So far it seems to have lasted pretty much for 10 months.  Let's hope we actually get a summer this year.

That said, temperatures have risen recently and more and more flowers are coming into bloom.  The first tulips are out, as is the forsythia, but there is as yet no blossom on the plum tree like there was when I took this picture at the bottom of the garden back in - good grief!  It was in 2006!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

You learn something new every day

Well, that's what my old granny used to say and, on the whole, she wasn't a million miles from the truth.  There have, quite coincidentally, been two things that have prodded me into doing a bit of learning about what makes a city.  Now, you might well be excused for thinking that as I have lived in this country for 70 years, I would have some idea of what it takes for a town to become a city.  Up until a few years ago I, like most people, would have said that a city is essentially a very large town and has a cathedral.  Like most people, I would have been thinking of those ancient cathedral cities like Canterbury and Salisbury, Gloucester and Worcester, Norwich, Lincoln and Durham.  Many people would still say that, but I know better.  I know that it is not necessary for a city to have a cathedral.  I know that because Brighton & Hove was made a city to mark the millenium but we have no cathedral.

Then I remembered that some cities - curiously enough, usually with cathedrals - could by no means be described as very large towns.  Ely, for instance, has a population of little more than 15,000 or 16,000 while Lichfield has only about 32,000 residents; but both have cathedrals.

I was quite obviously back at square one with neither the size of the town nor its ecclesiastical status apparently having any great influence on whether or not a town is promoted to city status.  Time, then, to look things up.  So, what did I learn?

First, there are 50 cities in England plus more in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The dates when city status was granted to each of them is recorded as being somewhere between 673 (Ely) and 2012 (Preston), although there are twelve English cities whose dates of incorporation as such are so long ago that they are lost in the mists of time.  Canterbury, Carlisle, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Exeter, Gloucester, Lancaster, Lincoln, Winchester and York are described officially as having been cities "since time immemorial".  But we are still no nearer knowing just what makes a city.

In the past, towns with a diocesan cathedral were granted city charters, but the cathedral requirement was dropped in the 19th century.  The important thing is that the charter is granted by the monarch.  According to the Department for Constitutional Affairs website: "City status is a rare mark of distinction granted by the Sovereign and conferred by Letters Patent. It is granted by personal Command of The Queen, on the advice of Her Ministers. It is for Her Majesty The Queen to decide when a competition for city status should be held. Competitions are usually held on occasions such as important Royal anniversaries."

You might wonder what rights or privileges apply to cities but not towns.  The answer is, none at all.  City status is just that - a status thing.

And, basically, there we have it.  There are, however, a few little anomalies.  For example, Rochester received its charter as a city in 1211, but when Rochester was absorbed into the Medway unitary authority, the council overlooked the need to appoint Charter Trustees.  As a result, the city status was lost - but nobody noticed for four year!  They've been trying ever since to regain their city status without any success so far.

London is another anomaly.  Most people across the world would argue that London, by which they mean Greater London, is a city.  But that is not the case.  Greater London contains towns and villages - and two cities, London and Westminster.  The true City of London is just one square mile in size and is situated on the north bank of the Thames, around St Paul's cathedral and the financial centre.  This is the city that has a Lord Mayor, although just to confuse matters, there is also a Mayor of London, that is, Greater London.

Which reminds me: I must look up which cities have Lord Mayors and why.


Took a walk up the Waterhall valley yesterday afternoon and I was astonished to see tadpoles in the dew pond.  I wouldn't have expected them for another couple of weeks.  Granted, they were very tiny - not much bigger than fruit flies.  And here is the pond in all its glory.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

If it's not one thing...

When, last Tuesday, my new find in the shape of Geoff came round to repair the boiler outlet pipe that I had marmelised, I had also asked him to repair another outflow pipe.  I had just a day or two before spotted that the outflow pipe from the bathroom hand basin had come adrift just where it entered the main downflow, either because it had pulled out of the joint through shrinking or because the pipe had snapped.  Geoff was unable to do more than a temporary patching job because the pipe was too wet for the required glue to set (or something like that) but he has promised to come back today.

Meanwhile, the washing machine died on Friday with the week's towels still sitting in water in the drum.  I hoiked them out into a bucket and we called Jeff - a different Jeff.  This Jeff has serviced our washing machines for years and he promised to come on Monday if he couldn't find the time on Saturday.  By the time I got back with the dog on Saturday morning, Jeff and his son (could he be yet another Jeff?) had the machine in pieces and I was shown the circuit board that had mysteriously caught fire.  Fortunately, Jeff was able to find a suitable replacement.  He also replaced the drive belt while he was at it.

When the Old Bat told me what she had paid, I remarked that we wouldn't have had to pay much more for a completely new machine.  The cost did seem a tad steep to me, but I had to confess it was not a whole pile more than I had paid to have the boiler outflow repaired.

Heigh ho, the joys of home ownership.


Swanning through Youtube yesterday afternoon I almost fell into the arms of the beautiful, Croatian guitarist, Ana Vidovic.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Eating well

It seems a long time since I have mentioned food - although now I come to think of it, I did write something about moelleux au chocolat not all that long ago.  I printed out a recipe and the Old Bat tried her hand at it but with a marked lack of success.  The result was perfectly edible and tasted very good, but it wasn't what we had expected.  I reckon she left the puddings in the oven just a little too long.  She argued that if she had taken them out sooner, they would not have been cooked.  My counter-argument was that the centre is supposed not to be cooked and the outside should be soft and squashy, not quite as firm as was the case.  But I can never win an argument of that sort so I just stop bothering.

Anyway, we have eaten very well this past week.  My worst meal was actually the one I ate at the Inn on the Park on Tuesday evening.  I was the duty Lion for the blind club transport and the meeting consisted of a meal at a pub on a mobile home park.  The pub is a bland, unwelcoming sort of place - and the meal was similar.  Tasteless chicken accompanied by thing gravy, boiled potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli, followed by a stodgy and equally tasteless spotted dick and custard.  I remembered afterwards that I had eaten there before and the meal was just as forgettable.

At home, things have been different and altogether better.  I'm ashamed to say I have forgotten what we ate on Wednesday, but there was a superb steak and kidney pudding followed by a lemon mousse on Thursday, Friday we ate pork chops served with a grainy mustard sauce, hasselback potatoes and cabbage.  That was followed by mincemeat tart with Cornish clotted cream.  A flaky pastry shell stuffed with Gruyere cheese and pieces of gammon from last Sunday's roast was partnered with parmentier potatoes and (whisper it softly) spaghetti in tomato sauce on Saturday, followed by apple crumble and cream.  Then yesterday we ate the traditional Sunday roast: pork, with roast potatoes and the obligatory two veg, plus sage and onion stuffing balls and apple sauce, all followed by crème brûlée.


The temperature did hit 18 yesterday and I did mow the grass. I don't know the name of this little flower - it's about an inch and a quarter across - but have always thought of it as a type of anemone.  It grows in the woods in Withdean Park but these are in our garden.  We never sowed them; they just appeared one year - and very welcome they are, too.  Wonderful what a bit of warm weather will do.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Too late

While walking round Withdean Park in the rain yesterday afternoon (as one does if one has a dog) I spotted a large, white tent, almost big enough to be called a marquee, that had been erected right down beside the London Road.  There were a number (There was a number?) of crush barriers used for crowd control as well.  Later I discovered that this was to be the start of the fourth Brighton marathon - for the "elite" runners.  The rabble, or hoi-poloi, would start in Preston Park as in previous years.  I am quite unable to see the pleasure in either running 24 (or is it 26) miles or watching other poor fools doing it so I wasn't disappointed to find that by the time I stirred myself into walking the dog this morning, the marathon runners had already gone and the crush barriers were being loaded onto a truck.

With all the complicated road closures associated with the marathon, this is not a day to try venturing into town.  But it really doesn't affect me personally and many thousands of pounds are raised for numerous charities.  If you have ever fancied running a marathon in under ten minutes, then this video is for you.

We have been told that the temperature might possibly, just possibly, reach the dizzy height of 18 degrees today and it certainly felt pleasantly warm while I was out.  It's noticeable that the grass has started growing and I really should mow it - if only it would dry out enough.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The cup that cheers

Let's put the kettle on and we'll have a nice cup of tea... a nice cup of tea... a nice cup of tea...

What a peculiarly English - or perhaps British - sentence that is: I doubt it would easily translate into any other language to mean quite what it means to an Englishman (or woman).  It's an adult version of, "There, there, never mind.  Mummy will kiss it better." "A nice cup of tea" might not cure everything, but it is guaranteed to make things look better, however black they are.

We English drink a lot of tea, far more than other nationalities, except perhaps the Chinese and Japanese.  Quite why that should be is, as far as I am concerned, something of a mystery.  Could it be something to do with our colonial past?  Maybe, but let's not bother our heads about that right now.

There was a time when tea shops were a more common sight on the high streets of English country towns than the growing number of coffee shops that are being foisted on us nowadays.  The menu was less extensive in those olde worlde tea shoppes as well.  Nothing like the lexicon of coffee varieties on offer at Starbucks or Costa Coffee: just tea, with maybe a toasted tea cake or a scone with strawberry jam and cream or a slice of Victoria sponge cake.  There was something much more refined about tea shops, with their dark wood tables and chairs with chintz-covered cushions.  You might even have been able to buy a cup of coffee in some of them - and you could possibly stipulate that it be made with "all milk".  That was what my mother liked.

If one was invited to take tea with somebody really posh one might be asked one's preference: China or Indian?  Most people, though, have no idea what the difference is.  Like me, they just drink tea - and probably think the only two kinds are normal tea and builder's tea.  Builder's tea is so strong that the spoon stands up in it.  That said, there is what seems to be a growing tendency for people to drink Earl Grey tea.  This is a blend flavoured with the rind or oil of the bergamot orange.  According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey's men first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. The tale appears to be apocryphal, as Lord Grey never set foot in China and the use of bergamot oil to scent tea was then unknown in China (according to Wikipedia).

The Old Bat and I are probably not among the country's greatest tea drinkers.  I do take a cup up to her first thing in the morning, but it is not until mid-afternoon that I drink a second cup.  The Old Bat doesn't, though.  She will drink either coffee or - shudder - peppermint tea.  But we do enjoy a cup of Earl Grey after dinner in the evening. 

I was once persuaded to try drinking one of those herbal teas - lemon and ginger, it was.  Ghastly stuff.  I don't like iced tea, either.  Or green tea.  Just give me a cup of good old Rosie Lee (which is Cockney rhyming slang).

One of my childhood memories is seeing a picture of the Cutty Sark, the famous tea clipper now at Greenwich.  I don't know if this is the picture I remember, but if not it's very similar.

Friday, 12 April 2013

This, that and the other

First, this.

John May posted a pic of the Carpenter's (or is that Carpenters'?) Arms at Windsor and I was reminded of the visit of Lions from our twin club in Maryland as we had taken them to Windsor for the day and had lunch in that pub.  That wasn't the only pub we visited during the eight days they were over here: we tried Hangleton Manor (which is also the oldest secular building in the city of Brighton & Hove); Rose Cottage, Alciston - one of the smallest bars I have ever seen; the Druid's Head, Brighton; and other pubs in Rye, Canterbury and Dover as well as the restaurant (and bar) at Brighton & Hove Golf Club and ditto, Blind Lemon Alley.  Each time, Joe W (there were two Joes) insisted on taking a photo of the beer pumps (with the barmaid).  I thought I had copies of all his pictures but have been unable to find them.  You'll just have to make do with this picture of most of the group at Hangleton Manor.  I'm not sure what had happened to Joe.  Maybe he was already ogling the beer pumps - or the barmaid.


Now we come to that.

When I was telling you yesterday about the Handy Man I have found, I didn't tell the whole story.  Geoff had started a plumbing business and had built it up to employ four men.  They reported people asking if they would do sundry small jobs about the house such as hanging a picture - and Geoff was smart enough to spot the niche.  He now has a team who travel through the city centre on motor scooters so they are less likely to suffer delays and can park more easily than they could with a van.  There are three or four handimen, a plumber, an electrician, a plasterer etc etc.

Geoff told us about some of the jobs they have done.  One woman (a regular) called them in to rescue a hamster which had got under he floorboards.  Another rang Geoff at 5.00am to say that she thought her gas boiler, which Geoff had serviced the day before, was about to blow up.  He could hear banging through the phone and, having been assured that the customer had turned off the electricity supply to the boiler, reluctantly got dressed and drove over.  The problem was the side gate banging in the wind.  Then there is the guy who rings up every month with a list of jobs - but the men must not arrive before 9.30 and must be gone before 3.30 although he is happy to pay for a full day.  It turned out that he has a girl who is turned on at the thought of DIY but he can't stand it so is happy to pay provided the woman doesn't know!


And, lastly, the other.

I am well aware - you have no need to tell me - how lucky I am to see my grandchildren as frequently as I do.  Especially my little princess.  She and her father (my younger son) were with us last Saturday for dinner and again yesterday for lunch.  Yesterday they stayed for about two hours and the only time young E stopped chattering or singing was when she was eating.  I realise only too well that any grandfather thinks his one and only granddaughter is the prettiest, smartest little girl in the whole world.  I don't think she can twist me round her little finger, although the Old Bat swears she can.  I just think it is a grandfather's right - indeed, his bounden duty - to spoil his one and only granddaughter.  Not that I do, really.

It is a delight to see how she has matured over the last six months - effectively, since she moved from the reception class to year one.  Her reading ability is now at least a year or 18 months ahead of her age, she can write and spell well, and hold an entirely logical and reasonable conversation with an enormous vocabulary.  For instance, she startled us the other day when she declared that two words - which could have been Nutty Norah or something similar - anyway, she declared, "That's a rhyme.  Oh, no, it isn't.  It's alliter...  alliter..."


"Yes, that's it.  Alliteration."

I then asked her to explain what alliteration is.  And she did.

Yesterday, she wrote two plural words and put apostrophes before the "s" in both cases.  I asked her why but she didn't really know so we tried to explain the use of an apostrophe to indicate missing letters.  Next time we see her she'll probably know all about the greengrocers apostrophe's.

And she won't be 6 until the end of next month.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Roll on Thursday

Yes, I know that today is Thursday but it's next Thursday that I am eagerly anticipating.  You see, that will be the day after the funeral.  Whose funeral, you ask?  Do you really need to ask?  Well, perhaps you do - if you are not an inhabitant of this sceptred isle set in a silver sea.  Anyway, the funeral in question is that of Maggie That..., sorry, the late Baroness Thatcher.  If you have been living on a different planet to everybody else who might stumble upon this blog (or the two or three poor, demented fools who look in every day), you will need to be told that Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom's first (and so far only) woman Prime Minister died on Monday this week.

On Tuesday, my daily paper, which is a broadsheet, ran to 44 pages in the general news section, that is, excluding the separate business and sport sections.  Of those 44 pages, no fewer than 31 were devoted to the life, times and death of Maggie, and those pages carried no advertising.  Yesterday, the first 11 pages were likewise.  I had to visit our local Asda with a prescription and while I was waiting for the pharmacist to fill it, I wandered over to the newspaper stand.  Every newspaper (with the exception of Sporting Life) devoted its front page to... guess who.  No, wait a minute!  The Daily Express didn't!  Now that did rather surprise me as the Express is a Tory paper - or so I always thought.  (They carried a story about a new super-gel which might be the answer to pain relief for sufferers from osteo-arthritis without the side effects commonly associated with the drugs currently used.)

Now I know that there are some people who think that Maggie will be found sitting right next to God (others think she will be telling God what to do), but I do find the adulation just a little OTT.  Sure, she did a very good job as Prime Minister and was arguable the best peace-time PM this country has had in the past 150 years or so.  And she didn't hang about over the Falklands affair.  But I thought she got carried away with herself.  Indeed, it seemed to me that by the time she was ousted, she thought herself infallible.  Either way or any way round, come next Wednesday I will have had quite enough.  But now I come to think of it, next Thursday's paper will be full of the funeral - so roll on Friday!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

There was something

I know there was something, but I'm blowed if I can remember what it was I was going to drone on about this morning.  I had it all thought out as I walked through the park with the dog, but now...

Anyway, I have succeeded.  You know how difficult it can be to find somebody to do those little DIY jobs that are just to much for you?  Jobs like putting up a blind or fixing a leaking tap, re-hanging a door or repairing a pipe.  Well, I have finally found someone to do just that sort of job, the little jobs that so many builders don't want to now about.

It started last Thursday evening when I backed the car down the drive after a Lions' dinner meeting.  A gust of wind blew our neighbours wheelie bin part way across our shared drive and in trying to avoid it, I clipped the opposite front wing of the car on the outflow pipe from the boiler.  The scratches in the car paint should polish out OK, but the pipe was broken.  Over the weekend I glanced through a freebie local magazine and saw the ad: no job too small, it said.  Assembling flat-pack furniture and all sorts of jobs like that.  I rang on Monday and Geoff turned up yesterday and did the job, siting the pipe above car level so I won't hit it again!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

For sale in Patcham

Ever fancied owning a windmill?  Well, now's your chance.  The Grade II listed Patcham Mill is on the market.  Although known as Patcham Mill, it is actually in Westdene - and is sometimes known as Watrehall Mill as it overlooks the Waterhall valley.  Interested?  Then you might like to take a look at the agents' brochure.  Of course, the cost of upkeep will be fairly substantial - on top of the asking price which is for offers in excess of a million.

If that's a bit rich for you, you might like to think of living in Church Hill, part of the old village of Patcham.

Just in view at the far end of this row is a tiny, white-painted cottage.  This, too, is for sale - at less than a quarter of the asking price of the mill.  Mind you, it's basically a two-up, two-down, with the front door opening straight from the street into the living room.  The agents particulars - and more pictures - are here if you are interested.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Let's have a laugh

I can't decide which people I despise the more: those who don't pick up after heir dogs, or those who do but then leave the plastic bag on the grass.


At least there is a chance that those who don't pick up miht not have noticed - but they were probably too bust sending a text or chatting to a friend to pay attention to what their dog was doing.



OK, the laugh.  It is now all but a week since Suldog suggested we might like to name our favourite comedy team in his comments and I still haven't got round to doing so.  He mentioned Laurel and Hardy as being among his favourites and many years ago I would have said the same as their films were regulars at the Saturday morning pictures my brother and I occasionally went to at our local cinema.  There have, since then, been plenty of others who have provided me with moments of hilarious laughter.  David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst played the Trotter brothers in several series of Only Fools and Horses.  David Jason also teamed up with Ronnie Barker in another sitcom - Open All Hours - but I rather think I should be looking more for comedians providing sketches rather than performing in sitcoms.  That brings to mind duos such as Cannon & Ball and Little &  Large, but they pale almost into insignificance when compared to the acknowledged masters such as Morecambe & Wise or the Two Ronnies.  I have posted clips of Morecambe & Wise before so today I'll give you one of the Two Ronnies' most hilarious sketches.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sand castles

When I was naught but an itsy-bitsy child, our family summer holidays were invariably spent at Mrs Ponsonby's guest house in Broadstairs, a Kentish seaside resort that considered itself a little more refined than either Margate or Ramsgate which towns lay to either side.  Broadstairs had a fairly small bay with a jetty at one end making a small harbour to shelter a few boats.  At the other end of the bay were rocks which were uncovered at low tide so we could scramble among the seaweed and rock pools.  Also uncovered at low tide was what I can only describe as a seawater swimming pool - though I don't recall ever seeing anybody swim in it.  Some of us would sail our boats there, though.  The beach between harbour and rock pools was sandy and it was here that we spent most of our time as there was still a reasonably wide stretch of sand even at high tide.

The sand at the top of the beach only got wet when it rained so it was not a lot of good for building sand castles - although quite good for burying Dad up to his neck on the few, very few, occasions when he was with us and let us do it.  It was the wetter sand below the high water mark that was better for building castles, especially when my brother and I were old enough to have done with filling a toy bucket and turning it upside down.  We would build our castles perhaps three feet high and would fashion a runway round and down and through, down which we would run tennis balls.  But even those elaborate sand castles would be nothing compared to what will be seen in Brighton from tomorrow.  It is tomorrow that the city's annual sand sculpture festival opens.  Some 2000 tons of sand have been imported especially, partly because we don't have sand in Brighton (except a very little at low tide) and if we did, it wouldn't be the right sort of sand.  Anyway, the theme this year is music.

The Old Bat and I haven't been along to see the festival for some years now.  When we went the theme was ancient Egypt and there were some fantastic sculptures on display.  I haven't the faintest idea how the sculptors manage to keep the sand in place.  Here are pictures of some of them.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


I don't know if this little thing will bring your dinner party conversation to a complete halt or if it will actually start something.  What you need to do is announce that you will proceed to prove, by means of statistics, that your fellow diners each have more than the average number of legs that people in your town or country have.

Go round the table asking each person how many legs they have.  The answer should, in most cases, be the standard two.  (If it is otherwise, you will have started by saying that you will prove that most of your fellow diners have more than the average number of legs.)

You will then assert that, because there are some people with one leg or even no legs, the average number of legs per person is actually 1.99 recurring.  It has already been demonstrated that everybody in the room has two legs, therefore each of them has more than the average number.

Use this demonstration of the futility of statistics at your own risk.  Don't blame me for the bread rolls and assorted cutlery that are thrown at you.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Class of 2013

As an introduction to this, my latest fascinating insight into life in modern Britain, I had hoped to embed a video of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett in their famous class sketch but although I managed to find t on Youtube, the sound was too poor.  Instead, this take off of the original sketch might amuse you as the two Ronnies are joined by Stephen Fry.

I wouldn't say that social class is as important in Britain now as it was even 50 years ago but it is nonetheless still hovering in the background much of the time.  It really came to the fore when Prince William's engagement to the then Catherine Middleton was announced.  A member of the royal family was marrying somebody from the middle class!  Shock, horror!

The Middletons are middle class?  Even though they are wealthy enough to send their two daughters (and probably their son as well) to Marlborough, one of England's top public schools?  If they are middle class, what does that make me?

For some reason, I had always thought of myself as being middle class, albeit lower middle class, but I re-assessed to situation and realised that I was really no higher than upper working class.  Heigh ho, I thought, there's no shame in that.

But the BBC have been spending the licence-payers' money again, this time on a survey into class.  They have concluded that instead of the traditional three classes of society - working, middle and upper - there are nowadays no fewer than seven social classes.  There is the elite class at the top of the pile, followed by the established middle class, the technical middle class, new affluent workers, traditional working class, emergent service workers, and - right at the bottom of the heap - the precariat.  (I don't propose to go into any detail of the methodology used to the differences between the classes.  If you are interested, go to the BBC web site.)

There is a calculator on the site - here - and it was this that showed I am "established middle class".  Whooee!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Those pesky phone calls

We'll get onto that business in just a minute but first I must tell you that it's snow joke.  Yesterday afternoon, before I noticed that I had omitted to press the "publish" button - which is why my post was so late, the Old Bat wanted to go shopping.  As we got out of the car there was a flurry of snow, and it was still just about flurrying when we got back into he car.  But that was all it did.  Until late in the afternoon and early in the evening.  Then it came down quite hard and actually lay on the grass.  It was still there when I got my back off the mattress this morning but started disappearing quite soon.  Until I took the dog out.  Then it came down again most unpleasantly. 

But to get to those phone calls.

There has been a survey undertaken recently which shows that the majority of people feel the same as I do about the false bonhomie of those people who address me by my Christian name and ask after my health.  It is anathema to most of us.  The one of the regular writers in my daily splurge informed readers of various ways he deals with these calls, from telling the caller he will fetch the person and leaving them hanging on for several minutes to telling them that they are contravening fictitious legislation.

Two or three ways of dealing with these calls that I have tried have not been spectacularly successful.  I have tried interrogating the caller about his connection with the deceased while calling loudly to a constable to trace this call.  I have actually tried this only once and the caller didn't seem to latch onto the fact that I was impersonating a police officer.  He tried to answer my questions but still refused to give me the number from which he was calling.

The Old Bat has forbidden me ever to use the other method again.  I put on a somewhat camp voice and started off, "Ooh, you do sound nice.  Will you be my friend?  I don't have a friend and I would so like to have one.  You sound so nice I think I would like to have you as my friend.  Do say you will be."  And so on.

I do have another idea which I plan to put into practice next time somebody calls and asks me to take part in a "survey".  I shall be as friendly-seeming as they are and will say, "I'm so glad you called.  We'll get onto your survey in a moment but first, can you give me your home phone number?  You see, I am drafting a survey and will be wanting to carry it out in the next week or so.  You are obviously into this kind of thing so I would like to invite you to take part.  I will try my best to make sure I call as you are sitting down to dinner or as your team is scoring the winning goal or some equally inconvenient time.  So what number should I call?"  I don't suppose they will really get the message - but it will give me a little fun at their expense.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Another Easter done and dusted

A very pleasant weekend it was too.  Granted, there was still a viscious north-east wind but we saw blue skies and sun as well.  The wind is still with us today but the blue sky and sun are nowhere to be seen.  Oh well, the forecast, apparently, is for the wind to go into the west at the end of the week bringing higher temperatures - and probably rain.  At least the lack of rain over the past week or more and the still wind mean that the paths in the park and Stanmer Woods are now firm and not three inches deep in mud.

While we were away I was introduced to the I-pad.  I found this to be an amazing little gizmo and very handy for connecting to the interwotsit.  I had almost made up my mind to buy one when I found out that they cost £300.  I was impressed by it - but not £300 impressed!

Even with the blue skies and sun I took nobbut the one pic, the view from our bedroom.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Five years...

I find it absolutely amazing that it is five years since the Old Bat and I drove on after our Easter on the farm to spend a few days in deepest Cornwall with my brother and his wife.  They live in a village a short distance from Falmouth and within easy reach of England's southernmost point, the Lizard.

Monday, 1 April 2013

A Sussex legend

I will tell you the legend behind the Long Man of Wilmington. The Long Man is a figure cut into the steep, north-facing slope of the South Downs a few miles from Brighton. He measures some 230 feet from head to toe, making him the second largest chalk figure in the world. His origin is unknown, but Sussex being Sussex, there is a legend.

In days gone by, before even our great-grandfathers' great-grandfathers were born, there were two giants living in Sussex, one on each of two hills on the South Downs. No-one knows what names the hills had in those distant days, but nowadays they are called Mount Harry and Firle Beacon, probably because the giants who lived on those hills were called Harry and Firle.

Every morning, Harry would look towards the east as the sun came up. On seeing Firle, he would call out and the two of them would discuss their plans for the day, the prospects for the weather and so on. In the evening, Firle would look westwards towards the setting sun and would call out to Harry. They would tell each other about how their plans for the day had turned out and chat generally as the sky darkened from the east.

Now it came about that the two quarrelled. What the quarrel was about, nobody knows, but neighbours being neighbours, it was probably over something quite petty. Harry and Firle no longer told each other their plans, nor did they discuss how their crops were doing, nor about the chances of rain in the morning. Instead, they hurled insults at each other. Then one day, Firle throw a lump of earth at Harry. Harry responded by throwing a large lump of chalk. This hit Firle on the temple and he fell down, dead on the instant.

Harry was immediately full of remorse and rushed across the valley. There was nothing he could do: even giants can't be brought back from the dead. Harry decided he would have to bury Firle. But Firle had been standing on Windover Hill at the time and Harry couldn't face carrying him back to Firle Beacon, so he decided to bury him where he lay. He thought of erecting a headstone, but chalk - the local rock - is quite unsuitable for headstones. Instead, Harry dug round the outline of Firle's body, his two staffs included, through the shallow topsoil to the white chalk beneath so that all who passed by could see and remember the giant Firle. Harry left Sussex after that, never to be seen again, but his memorial to Firle can be seen to this day on the slope of the Downs above the village of Wilmington.

Just seemed appropriate for April Fool's day.