Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Running to stand still

Was it the Red Queen who was trying to make Alice run faster to stop everything going backwards?  It's been rather like that chez BP the last few days.  I came back from the Lions meeting on Wednesday last week with a host of things to do - and every time I have completed one job it seems to have thrown up three more!  The result has been a complete lack of time for blogging.

Anyway, I think I have broken the back of those tasks, although there is still quite a list that will need attention, urgent attention in some cases, when I get back from France in the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering by how much the value of my car has depreciated over the last 24 hours now that VW have been proved to have falsified the emission figures of their diesel cars. I drive a diesel-powered car, although it is not a VW.  All the same, I reckon that it won't be long before all manufacturers admit doing exactly what VW have done.  And who will want to buy a used diesel now?

It does occur to me that VW (and probably other manufacturers as well) have sold cars under false representations.  How long will it be before some enterprising lawyer starts recruiting potential claimants for a class action?

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Getting ready . . .

. . . for the 5th November. Only this year, the Lions fireworks display will be on the 6th.  It was only agreed yesterday so I have spent most of today writing a press release, updating the web site to allow ticket sales and finding this video which I actually put together some years ago.

It's all come together very late this year because the cricket club (Sussex County Cricket Club), whose local ground we have used in the past to host the display, this year decided they didn't want the Lions and want to go it alone.  In some ways they have done us a favour as development in and around the ground would have meant us using smaller fireworks whereas by moving to the race course we can increase the size, thereby gi9ving spectators more bangs for their bucks.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

What happened to yesterday?

Somehow the day just sort of slipped by without me finding the time to post anything, which is probably just as well.

But meanwhile, the world - at least, this little corner of it - seems intent on going to hell in a handcart.

A traffic warden in a town not so vary far along the coast ticketed vehicles parked on private land.  Shops in a short row in the town each have a strip of land beside them and the shopkeepers, not surprisingly, use them for parking their vehicles.  The road at that point has double yellow lines indicating that parking is prohibited.  Notwithstanding the fact that the vehicles were not parked on the road, they were ticketed because they had to cross the double yellow lines to get to where they were.  And that, according to the traffic warden, is illegal.  But what about where the council has provided drop kerbs for people to enter their driveways, and subsequently painted dou8ble yellow lines?

The council concerned (Worthing) has apparently refused to cancel the tickets but said that the drivers can use the appeal process.

Anyway, there are signs at the entrance to an area where I sometimes walk the dog that say "fouling prohibited.  Offenders will be subject to a fine of up to £1000 or prosecution."  My dog doesn't ANY money, let alone a thousand smackers!

And what about that distinguished actress (or should I call her an actor?) Dame Helen Mirren?  She has been reported as saying that a boy should not put his arm across the shoulders of a girl.  That, according to her, shows that he treats her as "his property", not as an equal.  She neglected to give her opinion of a girl putting her arm around the waist of the same boy.

Another one who is living in cloud cuckoo land (in my humble opinion) is the new leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, Mr Jeremy Corbyn.  He has been known to advocate that we in this country should follow the example of Costa Rica and get rid of our armed forces, or at least allow people to opt out of contributing towards the cost of them by deducting that from the taxes they pay.  He has wasted no time in showing his true (republican) colours either.  A service was held yesterday commemorating the men who took part in the Battle of Britain 75 years ago.  Mr C, having turned up with mismatching jacket and trousers, the top button of his shirt undone and his tie askew - at least he had put on a tie for once, refused to sing the national anthem but stood in silence.  (I suppose we should be grateful that he even stood.)  It seems to have passed him by that this was a service recognising the men, many of whom died, who were instrumental in ensuring that this country and he retained the right to express his mealy-mouthed, weaselly opinions.  It will be interesting to see if he manages to tidy himself up for Remembrance Day.

Monday, 14 September 2015


I looked at the clock this morning and saw the time was 8.25.  No, I was not just falling out of bed, I had been up some time.  But what if I had been only just getting up?  I'm retired and, having no place of work where I am expected at a prescribed hour, what time I get up is my business.  If I want a lie in, I shall darn well have one!

Anyway, the time was 8.25.

Now, many people these days, especially the younger generations, would say the time like that: "eight twenty-five".  Others might well say, "twenty-five past eight".  I, however, am from an older generation to whom it comes quite naturally to say, "five and twenty past eight".  Ten minutes later I would call it five and twenty to nine.

I suppose there was a time when it was normal to say things like "three and forty" instead of "forty-three" but nowadays the only time one hears a number expressed that way is at twenty-five minutes past the hour or twenty-five minutes to the hour.  Except in that nursery rhyme:
"Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie."
Now I come to think of it, that nursery rhyme has a couple of words one rarely - if ever - hears today.
"The king was in his counting house" while "The queen was in the parlour".
I suspect that the only time one hears of a counting house these days is when a building once used as a bank is turned into a pub and called "The Counting House".  But I think it is a great shame that the word "parlour" has fallen into disuse.  I suppose it came to mean the front room of a house that was kept "for best", used only on very special occasions.  The chairs would be rather uncomfortable and all the furniture highly polished.  There would probably be an aspidistra in the window.  Actually, that could almost describe the front room of our house when I was a child, although we didn't call it the parlour.  To use it was just the front room.

But despite what I say about the room being uncomfortable furnished and reserved for special occasions, I think the word "parlour" has a snug, comfortable ring to it, quite possibly a small room in an old country cottage.  Or the "bar parlour" in a pub, called "the snug" in some parts.  "Parlour" is a much better word than "lounge", which implies that people are expected to flop around, or "sitting room" which is just too prosaic.

We - the Old Bat and I - don't have any of those rooms.  We have just the one reception room running from the front of the house to the back.  We call it the living room.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

By the left, quick march!

It is, I am told, a convention that there are three subjects not discussed at dinner parties; namely money, politics, and religion.  Whether or not that convention still holds true is something about which I am not qualified to comment since it is quite a few years since I last went to what my have been described as a dinner party.  But it is a convention which, as a general rule, I try to observe on this blog.  As a general rule.  But, given that it is my rule, I feel comfortable about breaking it if I so wish.

Yesterday, the Labour Party elected a new leader.  Well, the result of the election was announced yesterday.  The new leader, one Jeremy Corbyn, of whom scarcely anyone had heard only three months ago, is supposed to be an old fashioned socialist, far, far to the left of any leader of the Labour Party for the last thirty years or so.  He has declared that if the Labour Party wins a general election and he is appointed Prime Minister, there would be renationalisation of railways and electricity, gas and water companies, Britain's nuclear deterrent would be scrapped, we would possibly (probably?) pull out of NATO, the Bank of England would be told to print money, there would be an end to austerity and the recent welfare reforms would be reversed.  He is a declared 'friend' of Hezbollah and Hamas and would be willing to enter into discussions with Argentina over the future of the Falkland Islands.  This, we are told, signifies a return to Old Labour and the end of New Labour.

It always seemed to me that under Tony Blair, the Labour Party was not all that far to the left of the Conservative Party.  Both the main political parties seemed to occupy the middle ground, the Conservatives having moved in from the right and the Socialists from the left.  There were differences between the parties and their ideas, but the country was, by and large, comfortable on the political front.

But I am concerned that, by electing such an ardent left-winger, the Labour Party has thrown the political scene in this country into turmoil.  If the Labour Party has really moved so far away from the centre, will the Conservative right-wingers pull their party away as well?  What will all those one-time members of the Shadow Cabinet who have already refused to serve under Mr Corbyn do?

I seem to recall that there was a split in the Labour party some years ago, a split that led to the formation by Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Bill Rodgers and Shirley Williams of the Social Democratic Party.  (I have just checked and discovered that this happened back in 1981!)  Some years later, the SDP merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democratic Party.  Could there be a similar happening in the near future?

We shall, I suppose, just have to wait and see.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Stuck in the car park

We are due to be heading over to my elder son's this afternoon for a family get-together and barbecue and are just waiting for our daughter to arrive from the Midlands.  She has rung to say she will see us in Hangleton (at my son's) as she is stuck in the car park.  In other words, she is on the M25.

Friday, 11 September 2015


One of these days, when I can find the time to do the job at least half properly, I will write a post about Stanmer.  Right now, though, I will content myself with saying that Stanmer is a village on the edge of Brighton, set in a park that was once known as the Stanmer estate.  If I had a shilling for every mile that I have walked through the parkland, the woods and the fields of the estate I would be a rich man!  Anyway, here is a picture of what I always think of as the back lane to Stanmer.  I rather doubt that this lane has a name at all, but if it does, I don't know what it is.

That's a pretty large dog sitting in the field!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The wrong side of summer

As is so often the case, now that the children have gone back to school the weather has decided to give us what may well be our last taste of summer.  The blackberries are ripe, the rose hips glowing scarlet and the autumn fruiting raspberries are starting to come into their own.  The grass is wet with dew in the mornings and the night air almost has a chill to it, but walking over the fields with the sun on my back in the afternoon is bliss when I'm sheltered from the wind.  And there seems to be something special about the evening light.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Long to reign over us

(For those who are unaware, the title of this post is a line from the national anthem of this country.)

And she has been.  In fact, today she becomes this country's longest reigning monarch.  Ever.  She became Queen in February 1952, a month I can always remember as that is the month when my paternal grandfather died, the first death of which I had ever been aware.  So, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, has now held that position for 63 years, 7 months and 2 days.

By the time of the coronation in June 1953, some 16 months after she had actually become Queen, I was away at school on the Isle of Wight.  Most of the excitement of the event passed me by but I do remember that I had a cardboard model of the gold state coach in which the Queen rode to Westminster Abbey.  A film of the coronation was shown at the local cinema and we were taken to see that.

I suppose it might seem somewhat anachronistic to have a monarchy in the 21st century, although there are others in Europe   But I am sure that the vast majority of we British are happy with the status quo.  Our head of state is above party politics and doesn't divide the country in the way that so many elected presidents do. We have been so very fortunate that the Queen has served her country so dutifully.  Long may she continue to do so.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Photo: Alastair Cunningham
I have in the past told of Sussex legends concerning the Devil's Dyke and the Long Man of Wilmington.  Today my story is set in the picturesque village of Bosham.

Bosham lies on a small peninsular jutting into Chichester Harbour, a favourite spot for yachting.  The village dates at least back to Roman times and tradition holds that Emperor Vespasian maintained a residence there, although there is little evidence of this.  The legend I am about to relate concerns the king who ruled England from 1016 until 1035.  This was the Dane, Cnut - or, as he is known in England, Canute.

King Canute had a palace at Bosham, probably (according to Wikipedia) where the Manor House now stands.  He converted to Christianity which he took to Scandinavia where he was also King of Denmark and Norway.

There is a common story that he had his throne place on the shore and tried to stop the tide coming in.  However, the truth is thought to be that he did this to prove to his over-deferential courtiers that he was not that powerful, saying, "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again "to the honour of God the almighty King".  It is said that this took place at Bosham - or maybe Westminster - or maybe Southampton.

Anyway, a daughter of King Canute is reputed to have drowned in the nearby mill stream and was
buried in the village church.  In 1865 a coffin containing a child's skeleton was discovered, buried in the nave, and this was thought to be the daughter.

There is a legend that Bosham Church was plundered by Danish pirates, who stole the tenor bell. As the pirate ship sailed away, the remaining church bells were rung. The tenor bell miraculously joined in, destroying the ship. The bell is still said to ring beneath the waters whenever the other bells are rung.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Vague thinkings

Well, it is Monday and even though I am long since retired, I still tend to view Monday mornings with a slight sinking feeling.  Completely irrational, I know, but there it is.

So, what, you ask (or maybe not), are these vague thinkings?
  • I do hope that nothing horrific happens between now and Wednesday afternoon.  I think it will be sometime in the afternoon on Wednesday that the Queen becomes the longest reigning monarch this country has ever had.  The newspapers over the weekend covered the anticipated event but the colour supplements yesterday were almost devoted to it.
  • The funeral of my friend went off on Friday almost without a hitch.  There were so many people there that the crematorium rigged up a loudspeaker system outside the chapel but the funeral directors managed to cram everybody inside, standing in every space available.  I had agreed to make a tribute and had laboured long over what I would say.  What I had not planned for was that two of his sons would speak before me and between them they covered quite a lot of what I had planned to say.  My tribute had to be made very much off the cuff.
  • Unfortunately, the Old Bat had been unable to accompany me.  We had been out for a meal on Thursday evening and just as we were leaving, she fainted.  Everyone was very kind and attentive but she recovered after a few minutes and felt much better once outside in the fresh air: it had been hot in the restaurant full to overflowing.  But next morning she felt unwell, so unwell that I had to cancel an appointment she had with the oncologist that morning.  The doctor, however, telephoned while I was out and told her that things were looking good although she would like another blood test next week just to be on the safe side.  I was much relieved as it was this time last year that almost the same thing had happened and that was when the Old Bat had to be admitted to hospital as an emergency, only to be told she had cancer.  Thank goodness she was back to normal on Saturday.
  • That picture of Watendlath Tarn yesterday reminded me of another lake picture.  This is Siesta Lake in Yosemite National Park.  It seems hardly possible that it is now very nearly nine years ago that i took this picture.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Watendlath - a last look

I last visited Watendlath seven years ago this month.  The old Bat and I, my brother and his wife had rented a cottage near Grasmere.  Getting to the cottage from the village was almost as tricky as getting to Watendlath.  First there was a narrow lane to negotiate  with two gates into and out of fields to be closed before we reached a farmyard.  In the yard, we turned sharp left and descended to cross a narrow bridge before heading off-track across two more fields - with their attendant gates, cows and sheep.

Our home for a week.

While we were there - in the Lake District - we visited Dove Cottage (Wordsworth's home) and Hill Top (Beatrix Potter's home) as well as some of the most scenic parts.

Mr MacGregor's garden at Hill Top
Dove Cottage

And, of course, we went to Watendlath.  There had been changes since I took the Scouts there for tea.  Now there was a pay and display car park, courtesy of the National Trust who own the land, and the tenant farmer had added a bit onto the farmhouse to use as a cafe with picnic tables on the terrace outside.  But despite these changes, which were really no more than superficial, the place still exuded a feeling of peace.

Watendlath Tarn

I'd like to think I might go back again some day but, in all honesty, that does seem a bit unlikely.  In any case, maybe it would be better for me to remember the hamlet as it was rather than see what other changes might have spoiled it for me.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Scouting out Watendlath

While on that last visit to the hamlet when the Old Bat and I stayed at the farm, we sought out a suitable camp site.  I was then running a Scout troop and the plan was to camp that summer in the Lake District.  Although I was the only leader at the time, my brother had volunteered his services.  between us we would drive a minibus (for the scouts) and a van (for the gear) from the Sussex coast to the Lake District.  My brother was working in Coventry, about half way between the start and the destination, and he arranged that we could bed down on the floor of a Scout hut in the city to break the journey.

Anyway, the Old Bat and I found a suitable spot for the camp.  It was in a field strewn with lumps of granite so we would have to pitch the tents in free spaces, and there was a stream running through the middle of the field.  Quite a fast-running stream, I might add.  This provided great amusement to the Scouts, who organised races between metal plates rather along the lines of Pooh sticks.  I wish I could remember just where that camp site was.
Click to enlarge

Much of the week was spent hiking on the fells.  I remember one particular hike quite well.  We had driven to the head of Borrowdale, to a spot where the valley forked into two.  From there we would head up to Styhead Pass, then round past Sprinkling Tarn to meet Grains Gill and follow the stream back off the fells.  When we were part way round - we had past Sprinkling Tarn and were approaching Grains Gill - the mist descended as it does sometimes in that part of the world.  We were well prepared with maps and compasses and we had suitable footwear, unlike so many others on the hills that day.  We heard one man, wearing sandals, complain about the lack of signposts!  As we descended the gill, we noticed that another group, unsuitably clad and probably lacking the basics such as a map, had tagged on behind.  It seemed obvious to us that they were expecting - hoping! - that we would lead them to safety.

Then one afternoon we hiked over the fells to Watendlath.  I had arranged with Mrs Tyson at the farm that she would provide tea for us, including Cumberland rum butter: "a lightly spiced butter, laced with dark rum - this traditional old recipe originates from the county of Cumberland in the Lake District of Northern England. In Cumberland, rum butter served with oatcakes or buttermilk scones were given to friends who called at the house to see a new baby. In turn they would leave a silver coin, and on the day of the christening, when the butter bowl was empty, the coins were placed in it. A sticky bowl, with plenty of coins sticking to it, meant that the child would never be wanting. The saying goes...... “Butter symbolizes the richness of life, sugar the sweetness of life and rum, the spirit of life.”"

Watendlath Farm in 2007

Friday, 4 September 2015

Return to Watendlath

Less then two years after my first, mesmerising visit to the hamlet of Watendlath, I was back.  The Old Bat and I stayed in a small hotel in Keswick - in separate rooms, I might add, as we were not then married and I had promised her mother.

Strange to tell - well, it seems strange to me - I have no recollection of that visit to the hidden valley.  I do very well recall that we climbed a hill on the opposite side of Derwentwater, Catbells.

Walkers follow the path to the summit of Catbells fell looking over Derwentwater towards Keswick and Skiddaw
Anna Gowthorpe/PA

In our youth (as we were then) this seemed a gentle stroll. The main problem was the sheep that seemed intent on eating the Old Bat's bar of chocolate!

(Not a good picture but one I scanned from an old 35mm slide.)

Actually, this is possibly the most popular walk in the Lake District and Catbells is not exactly a mountain, being only 1,480 feet high.

According to the Wiki, "The fell's unusual name may well have come from a distortion of 'Cat Bields' meaning shelter of the wild cat, although this is not certain. The fell's name is sometimes written as Cat Bells and is so printed on some maps."

Some time after that visit I came across the four books by Hugh Walpole,  The Herries Chronicle.  Watendlath featured in the books and it was as a result of this that on our next visit to the Lakes we stayed at Watendlath Farm where the farmer's wife, Mrs Tyson, provided bed, breakfast and evening meal.

We would be out all day, but always had to allow at least half an hour to drive along the narrow approach road.  This is only about three miles but is a narrow road with passing places - and it seemed that we were for ever having to back to allow another car past.  The road runs over Ashness Bridge, from where one of the best known views in the Lake District is so often photographed.

Going on, one arrives at Surprise View, from where one looks roughly north across Derwentwater and south west into Borrowdale.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

In which we reach Watendlath

To get back to what I really should have posted yesterday - before I digressed, which is something I seem to do more and more easily as I drift silently - well, almost silently - into senility . . .

The secret village of Watendlath - which, if you paid attention yesterday, you will remember is neither secret not a village - lies at the end of a valley south of Keswick.  There is a road, but I came to the hamlet - just a farm and a couple of cottages back in 1961 - from the east, over the fells (which is what they call the hills in Cumbria).  I don't recall how many there were of us in the party but I do know we were accompanied by an instructor from the outward Bound centre on the shore off Ullswater.  We had come over Helvellyn, round Thirlmere and dropped down into Watendlath en route for Borrowdale.  This was in November so the view of the hamlet I had as we descended the fellside would have been rather less lush than in the picture below

I think the photo is probably ©  Martin and Jean Norgate: 2014, Portsmouth University

Even at the tender age of 19, I was much impressed by the beauty of the place.

We crossed the packhorse bridge and made our way up the track leading behind the trees in the right in the photo above.  I do remember that for part of the way we were accompanied by, or maybe we accompanied them, a woman with her two teenage daughters.  We had been without feminine company for at least two weeks by then, so despite the bromide with which our tea was habitually laced at the centre, we passed a pleasant half hour or so.

Photo: Grevel Lindop

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


For some reason completely obscure, the thought of secret places came into my mind.  To be a little more precise, secret villages.  That led me to remember Watendlath, although - truth to tell - Watendlath is neither secret nor is it a village.  It is just a hamlet, situated in the English Lake district a few miles south of Keswick.

I'm not sure why the area is called the Lake District.  No, that's not true: I do know why it is called the Lake District.  It is because there are quite a lot of lakes in the area, although they are not actually called lakes.  They are known as waters, such as Ullswater, Derwentwater and Coniston Water, or meres, like Windermere and Thirlmere, or thwaites, like Bassenthwaite.  Most are natural but there are at least two - Thirlmere and Hawes Water - that are man-made reservoirs made to supply water to Manchester.

But I digress.

I discovered Watendlath in October or November 1961.  Again, that's not exactly true.  I didn't discover Watendlath, I was led to the hamlet.  The bank by which I was employed supported the Outward Bound schools and regularly sent a handful of young employees on their courses.  I have no idea how or why I was picked out to attend but I duly set off on the train to Penrith where I and a handful of other young men were collected and driven to the Outward Bound centre on the shore of Ullswater.  The next month would involve no smoking, no alcohol, and bromide in the tea.  The first week consisted of cold showers first thing in the morning as it was considered too cold for us to take a dip in the lake, classroom lessons in knotting, first aid and - most importantly - map reading.  My experience in the Scouts meant that I already knew much of this and was soon dragooned into acting as an extra (unpaid) instructor.  Also on the schedule was circuit training on an outdoor course: press ups, pull ups, sit ups, and all sorts of other horrors were involved.  We gazed at the purple hills on the other side of the lake and wished with all our hearts that we could stride along the ridge rather than suffer another pull up.

Just as in the Scouts, we were organised into patrols, groups of six, before we were allowed out on our own.  Our first excursion was as a patrol with no instructor.  My patrol was to catch a bus to Patterdale, a village near the head of Ullswater, then hike to the top of Helvellyn (3,120 feet so we call it a mountain although some might think it little more than a pimple) and on down to Glenridding, the village at the head of the lake, making a sort of U shaped route.  I thought our path to the top of the mountain was below Striding Edge, seen in the picture below, but we certainly used that route on another occasion.

Another patrol was walking in the opposite direction and we met them in a snow storm just before we reached the summit.  "Just keep going," they told us.  "You can't miss the path."

We found what little shelter there was to get out of the wind and snow to eat our lunch - Kendal mint cake, dates and a bar of Cadbury's fruit and nut chocolate - before continuing along the path.  After a while, the snow stopped and we got below the cloud line.  There in front of us was the head of the lake.

But something was wrong.

The lake should have been to our left - but it was to our right.  According to the map, there were no trees around the head of the lake - but we could see in plain sight that the area around the head of the lake was heavily wooded.  The others didn't believe me when I told them that we had missed the path and were descending the wrong side of the mountain.  Being in the minority (5 to 1) I had little choice but to go along.  Sure enough, when we reached the bottom there was a sign indicating we had reached Thirlmere.

By now it was too late to go back over the top as it would be dark long before we reached Glenridding.  We found a bus stop, hoping we might catch a bus to Ambleside and from there another bus over the Kirkstone Pass to Glenridding.  There were no more buses that day, so we thumbed a lift in a lorry.  At Ambleside, we discovered that buses didn't run from there to Glenridding so we set out to walk the several miles involved.  Eventually, one of the Outward Bound instructors in a Land Rover found us.  We were so late that search parties had been sent out and the mountain rescue team was on standby.

And I've just realised that we still haven't reached Watendlath but I've run out of time so we'll continue the journey tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Wouldn't you just know it?

The bank holiday is over, the children's summer holiday is almost done and dusted, and today the weather clerk turned off the tap.

It was goodbye to this:

and hello to this:

Visibility was so much better that I could even see the Isle of Wight, more than 50 miles away.