John Owen Smith’s log for 2009

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28th December 2009

Had a nice surprise just before Christmas when a book arrived from America in the post unannounced. It was a complimentary copy of "Led Zeppelin, Shadows Taller Than Our Souls" from the publishers. A fascinating book which is more than just a book as it contains various pockets holding odd samples of programmes, etc and even a small CD with an interview on it.

Then I remembered that I'd contributed a photograph of Headley Grange some months ago and had forgotten about it. Hence the freebie. Its cover price is $50, so not a bad gift for giving one photo!

Today we went to see the new computer-generated film Avatar in 3D. Quite a spectacle (no pun intended!) and better than the reviews would have you believe. I recommend you try it, if only to see what film-makers can do these days. The story's quite nice too.

21st December 2009

The planned family invasion here over the weekend was cancelled due to snow. The replay will be tomorrow at Sarah's, weather permitting! (It was)

Dil was singing in the choir at the church candlelit carol service last night, so I went along in support. There were many candles, some perched in the most unlikely places, they took almost 2 hours to light – a team of 6, not so young, villagers climbing heights that would give health and safety a nightmare! Then they had to put them all out again afterwards!! The effect was very beautiful but despite the number of candles there was still not enough light to read the song words. Isn't it strange how, after 60-odd years of trying, you find you still don't know the words of even quite familiar carols after the first line.

And when you do get to see the words, as we did the other day when we sang at an old peoples' home, you realise that even the ones you thought you knew aren't the proper words. As an example, we did "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and I'd always assumed it went, "… to face, I'm afraid, the plans that we made walking in a winter wonderland" whereas it actually goes "to face UNAFRAID the plans that we made etc…", far more upbeat and less cynical! – still it all adds to the fun.

And talking of fun with words – we all know the variations on well-known verses, particularly at this time of year. Shepherds washing socks by night and God resting Jerry mental-men and such-like. Personally, I like to think of the page travelling in a Flintstones-like vehicle with rotating feet instead of wheels when I hear he went "in his master's stepsitrod" – tell me your favourites.

Next week it will all be over for another year. So a Merry Christmas to one and all and we hope that Santa brings you the gifts that you want.

14th December 2009

Yesterday I was happy to go to a book signing by one of the authors whom I'm helping to self-publish.

This is Elsie who is in her 90s and tells the story of how she worked for the Ockenden Venture for over 30 years. It's a lovely book, and here we are in the foyer of Wey Hill Methodist Church with Melanie, the Mayor of Haslemere.

After this Elsie was crowded with customers. Who says self-publishing doesn't work?

7th December 2009

The decorating of the downstairs loo is finished.
It's a bit black!
Here it is, though the photo doesn't show the full effect!
We spent the weekend on the Isle of Wight with a group of friends – in this house between Sandown and Shanklin.
The weather was kind and a good time was had by all.
I'd have taken more pictures, but my camera stopped working after this one!
However I had managed to snap this shot from the ferry as it was about to leave Portsmouth – Spice and Bananas about to mix!!

30th November 2009

Don't want to sound boring, but nothing much to report this week. I'm doing some editing of memoirs for an ex-Ambassador and his wife who want to publish them, but other than that life has continued on its normal course. I promise I'll think of something more interesting to say next week!

23rd November 2009

Still on the Workhouse Riots theme, five of us braved the rain to walk from Headley to Selborne today – exactly 179 years after the rioters had done the same in 1830 after they had sacked the Headley workhouse. We stopped for a lunch break at the Red Lion in Oakhanger, dried out our clothes in front of a log fire, and were gratified to find it had stopped raining for the second half of the walk. My camera got wet and stopped working! but here are some taken by Janet.

David, Neil, Janet & Dil outside the Red Lion, Oakhanger
– and in sunshine!!

Constructing a 3-D jigsaw puzzle at Oakhanger – for some reason it is a 'quiet' area for satellite communications and we have many large 'golf balls' like this one, seen here being built

Me in wet-weather gear by the Trumpeter's stone in Selborne: someone had left flowers in his memory

16th November 2009

Referencing back to Headley Grange again, I gave a talk last week on the 1830 Riot to the ladies of Haslemere Tangent Club meeting in the house just next door to the Grange – about as close as you can get. This week I'm giving the same talk to Ash U3A, and in the audience I'm expecting to find two great-great-granddaughters of the rioters. Funny how these things happen, but it adds a certain freshness to the talk.

Mid-week I had to travel to give a talk just outside Andover, and Dil came with me for company, and to do shopping in Tescos there while I lectured. The subject this time was 'Bringing Your Words to Book' in which I waffle on about my experiences in self-publishing. It's always interesting to see how this one goes, because it so depends on the interest shown by members of the audience in their own projects. This was a good one and I didn't get away until 9.30, by which time Dil had finished the shopping and discovered the café had closed.

Driving home in the tipping rain I developed a toothache, and it stayed with me for the next 48 hours or so. No fun. We attacked it with every pill in our armoury but it defied all attempts until two cans of Guinness on top of two paracetamols seemed to nail it finally on Saturday evening. I say toothache, but I'd just had a dental inspection which had shown nothing wrong – so I went down to the doctor today to see what he made of it – he thinks it's teeth, so I suppose it's back to the dentist again. Hey ho! Strikes me that if we were animals we'd get ourselves sorted by one practitioner.

9th November 2009

There we were driving back home from Mansfield and we decided to stop at Brackley for lunch as usual – we use the Crown, which I can recommend – when we found the main street closed to traffic and a large screen set up in the square. It was a celebration for Brawn GP, the local firm who had won the F1 championship this year. The car was there, but I gather from locals that Jason Button himself was elsewhere much to their disappointment. We were on the road again and heading south by the time the fun started.

Brackley, of course, means more than motor racing to Flora Thompson aficianados – it is the nearest town to her 'Lark Rise' Juniper Hill, and her father used to walk there to work each day. Even in those days Flora's mother used to tell them to 'keep to the greensward' when they walked along that road – these days it's the dual carriageway of the A43 and they'd be mad to try.

And speaking of Flora T, just the other week I discovered that the 'standard' photograph of her which she used for her own publicity and which we'd always assumed was taken in her 20s may have been taken when she was in her 40s. I'm told by Haslemere Museum that the Haslemere photographer whose name is on the mount didn't start operating until 1920, when Flora would have been 44. If true, she was remarkably well-preserved for her age. See the picture here.

2nd November 2009

How many times have you discovered that a blank day in your diary turns out to be anything but blank? Last Friday was such a day.

By a number of coincidences bordering on the bizarre, my cousin William dropped by out of the blue on his way between France and Norfolk – he just happened to see a sign to Headley while driving along the A3 and then by chance found probably the only person in the village who could tell him exactly where we were that night – and so we found him sitting in the pub when we arrived there from panto rehearsal, and we gave him a bed for the night.

At the same time I was offered a spare ticket to the Fleetwood Mac concert in London on Friday night, and so made my way unexpectedly to the old Empire Pool at Wembley to have my ears indelicately bashed for 3 hours – an experience I wouldn't have missed. The group of course have a special significance to us here in Headley, as it was here that they lived in a house called Benifold before departing these shores to find further fame and fortune in America. They were the first of several pop groups to have been associated with the village, largely through the influence of Headley Grange which was used as a recording studio in the 1970s. There are still those who remember them here, and some day I'd like to get around to compiling a book called 'Pop Goes Headley.' This year, next year …

Buckler's Hard

Fleetwood Mac in concert, London, 30th October 2009
L to R: John McVie (bass), Stevie Nicks (vocals), Mick Fleetwood (drums and hidden behind his cymbal), Lindsey Buckingham (lead guitar)

Talking of Headley Grange brings up its other claim to fame, that of being the old Headley Workhouse where a major riot happened on 23rd November 1830. This year we would like to mark the occasion by walking the route the rioters took when returning to Selborne after the attack. If you are interested, meet us outside Headley Village Hall at 10am on Monday 23rd November 2009. See details of the walk. We shall be doing the return leg (approx 7 miles) with a lunch break at Oakhanger. Best to contact me if you plan to come just in case circumstances such as weather prevail.

26th October 2009

Whenever my grandfather used to say to my grandmother in the 1950s, "Let's go for a little ride in the car," they always ended up in Littlehampton, and occasionally as a youngster I would go with them. So the place had fond memories for me, and when our friends asked us to look after their children for a day while the school gave their teachers what I still call a 'Baker day', we decided to take them there after a visit to Arundel Castle. Sadly, we forgot to take a camera with us, but a good time was had by all, and if you've never visited Arundel Castle we can thoroughly recommend it.

On Sunday, Dil and I indulged ourselves in a trip out on our own. Since it was such a nice day, we decided on the spur of the moment to do to Buckler's Hard which neither of us had visited before. Actually there's not much to do at Buckler's Hard, and we spent most of the time walking the 2 miles or so to Beaulieu for lunch and a bit of light shopping and then walking back. Another time it might have been more sensible to have done it the other way round, parking in Beaulieu and walking to the Hard. Also we might have been better prepared in the footware department had we realised we were in for such a walk, a little muddy in places. Ah well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and overall we enjoyed the day, particularly as we took the slow roads to get there and back passing through Selborne, Winchester and Romsey on the way.

Buckler's Hard

Buckler's Hard – in the 1700s they built large wooden warships on slipways to the river at the bottom of the village – difficult to believe now

The walk to Beaulieu begins …the boardwalk kept us off the mud in places, but still not really a walk for 'normal' shoes

We thought the dustbin lids on poles were for hens to roost on – but I think they were just to keep the netting from slipping down the poles. Not a bad idea though – we might use it.

Buckler's Hard

If you go down to the woods today … by the path to Beaulieu you'll see this bright pink painted 'sculpture' called 'fence' by Phyllida Barlow. Umm

New Forest ponies are a feature of Beaulieu and roam freely around the streets there - this one was obviously looking for the loo!

In Beaulieu there's a new 'learning garden', and one of the things we learnt was that apple trees could be trained to go along wires at a low level – we'd never thought of it before.

19th October 2009

Not too much to report this week. Winding down after living the life of René for so long. I still lapse into bits of the script from time to time. I often wonder how long it takes to unlearn it – I'm sure we could have done it again this weekend without having to revise lines, but next week, or the week after that? How long, dear lord, how long?

It's auditions for the panto this week. I think that what with Candleford and 'Allo 'Allo I've done my stint of line-learning for this year, and anyway I want to have the excuse to play the bass in the band. See if I've learnt anything from my music lessons!

Just two talks for me to give this week, but on Friday I'm chairing a talk in Headley Village Hall given by Paul Atterbury of Antiques Roadshow fame. It's said that his mother created Andy Pandy on TV based on him, but I don't think that's what we'll be hearing about. He's supposed to be talking on Arts & Crafts Houses and Gardens. [For a report on the talk, see the Headley Society website]

12th October 2009

'Allo 'Allo – it's over, done and dusted. For pics of the show see the Headley Theatre Club website.

This week I have to give four talks – two on Flora Thompson and two on the Swing Riots – I just hope I remember to take the right material to the right venues!

5th October 2009

Ah well, another year older!

For a birthday treat, Dil had arranged for a large group of friends to go up to The Globe in London to see Shakespeare performed in its natural habitat. A bit hard on the bottom, but enjoyable, and we were lucky with the weather. It was Love's Labour's Lost, which I have to confess wasn't a play that I knew – and I wasn't much wiser about the plot at the end of it. We came home and watched the video of Kenneth Branagh's musical version – somewhat different, but at least I now understand the basic plot, such as it was.

As to our own dramatic events, we did two performances of 'Allo 'Allo over the weekend and they went well. Two more to go this coming weekend, and they'realready sold out. We must be doing something right!

28th September 2009

Over the weekend we had a long rehearsal for 'Allo 'Allo combining props and scenery for the first time. I think it's coming together. We have two more shots at rehearsing before Friday when we open, but only one of those is with the scenery, and not everybody will be there. Ah well, that's 'ow it goes in war-torn France…

Vicky was busy taking photos of the cast and making them look sepia-tinted and grainy. Here's her first attempt at mine. Yes, that is a pitiful moustache inhabiting my upper lip – as René, I have to have one, and I preferred to grow my own rather than have something stuck to me with spirit gum. Perhaps with a bit of Dil's mascara on it, it may even be visible. The razor comes out on 11th October when we finish the run!!

Meanwhile, if you want to come and see the play you'll have to hurry. Tickets have already sold out for the two Saturday performances – only the Fridays left. See details.

22nd September 2009

Dil has properly retired now – it should have happened at the end of August but there were changes to the computer system going on at the time. So now we have more freedom to use the days as we wish – in theory! I still work from home, and there are things to be done for the next drama production, and friends pop round now they know we're free …

Still, there are plans to do more walking, more cycling, more (add energetic items to the list as you will) – and today we tried a new venture and went for a 'taster evening' with Rock Choir, but we don't think it's for us!

More anon.

14th September 2009

Sorry for the week's break – we went to Gower for a short holiday and were very lucky with the weather. Let the photos speak for themselves.

Our humble home for the week
– one up, one down

… a view of the coast just down the track from the cottage

…and the coast just round the corner

One of our first walks was to the end of the Worm's Head, seen here in the distance
– we had to wait for low tide …

… and scramble across this sort of terrain

A side view of the Worm's Head at high tide

Someone forgot the tide was turning!

Other things were revealed only at low tide

For some, tide and time mattered little

See the cover of OS Explorer 164 – you'll recognise this view over Rhossili beach

I missed him from my previous picture!

At the bottom, the cows seemed to enjoy grazing on sand!!

Another view of Rhossili beach from the sea – one of the wrecks in the foreground and the old rectory on the shore

I just liked the combination of colours in this view of the beach from Rhossili Down

Have you ever been merched, madam?

And, sir, have you ever been lonely?

Obviously the place for me!!

31st August 2009

I've decided to learn the electric bass properly, and so I'm spending real money and taking lessons. Trouble is, I'm finding out all the things I thought I knew about music but now realise I didn't. Scales is one thing; but diatonic intervals, tetrachords, and modes are something else entirely. My brain hurts, never mind my fingers!

24th August 2009

This weekend we visited the new Spa in Bath – the one that was delayed in opening because the tiles in the baths were the wrong quality. We bathed in water from the natural hot springs, or so we're told, like the Romans used to do. My only complaint was that the minimum time period was 2 hours which cost £22 each, and I think an hour is time enough – I was going a bit wrinkly by the end and I think at that price, even if I was local, I wouldn't be going back on a regular basis!

17th August 2009

Yesterday, Dil and I walked along the Chichester Ship Canal – not quite rivalling Manchester in size, a bit smaller and more bucolic!

Chichester and its cathedral viewed from near Goodwood races on the South Downs …

…and a view from the other side, by the canal near where Turner painted his picture

The terminus of the canal in Chichester

A cormorant or shag giving us the steely glare of a bird disturbed while busy about its business

And one spotted cow …

…deserves another!

10th August 2009

We held the much-heralded patio and kitchen-warming party on Saturday evening, and the weather was kind to us. For those who were there, here are some photos to remind you how it went – for those who weren't, here is what you missed! Thanks to Deb for the photos, which is why you don't see her in any of them.

Finley, coming up for a year old, stole the show – more of him below

Steve (second from right) had constructed this 2 metre-long garden table for us during the afternoon

David and Ingrid on the left, whose wedding in Denmark I had attended 45 years ago to the day!

John showing Zak and Zya how to play boules on rough ground

Finley keeping Zya company on the swing seat – tasty thumbs!

And as usual it all ended with music, to which Finley now seems addicted

As usual there was too much food, which will provide for our breakfast, lunch and supper over the next week!!!

3rd August 2009

August already, and weatherwise we feel as if we're still waiting for summer to begin. Planned barbecues have been moved indoors. At least there should be no water shortage this year!

This week we start rehearsals for 'Allo 'Allo in which I take the part of René. As it happens I'm currently editing a book about the real SOE agents who were sent to France in the War, and it makes for uncomfortable reading when related to the silliness of the play. There were not many happy endings among them when they disappered 'like phantoms into the night'.

27th July 2009

On Saturday we were at the Headley Hayloft evening, an event organised for charity with a 'Western' theme.

Dil looking sultry as a saloon girl…

Jo making a meal of Lee Marvin (or was it Hank?)

…and we danced the night away

20th June 2009

Yes, I do remember watching the first moon landing, 40 years ago today as the media are constantly reminding us. We were glued to this grainy image on the TV screen, and after the first flush of excitement was over it really had no more thrill than watching paint dry, yet still we watched.

American readers may not understand this, but over here we're somewhat more thrilled by the fact that today after 75 years England has at last managed to beat Australia in a Test cricket match at Lord's, the HQ of cricket. It took about as long as a trip to the moon!

13th July 2009

Yesterday a group of us walked along the Thames between Surbiton and Richmond. Here are some of the quaint and quirky things we saw—

There were a number of canal boats on the Thames, including this

…and a number of I'm-not-sure-whats!

And there was wild-life…

…of various kinds

And someone had a gnome to go to

And speaking of homes, is this one floating or not??

Can someone tell me what this is?

And remind me now, what's a towpath for?

6th July 2009

The mini-heatwave is over for the moment, but not before we used the new patio to good effect for a barbecue. Now we have a bit of much-needed rain, and perhaps eventually we'll lose the brown patch on our lawn where the tent stood for many weeks with the contents of our kitchen in it.

29th June 2009

The tooth survived and the show ended well. But, slaves to our trade, as one show dies another is born, and we audition for 'Allo 'Allo this Thursday.

Now, for those waiting with baited breath for pictures of our extended kitchen – wait no longer, here they are:—

View from the new back door into the old kitchen

View from the new back door to the old utility room, (through the door) now refurbished

View from the old kitchen into the extension and the new back door

View from the utility room into the old kitchen

And outside the new back door, the new patio under construction (now finished)

22nd June 2009

So the show's on the road (Candleford, that is), and the performances are going well. We might have hoped for larger audiences, but their quality has been good and at least we're in profit. Yesterday, on stage, I was biting into a meal of bread and cheese (oh yes, we use real food) and one of my front teeth broke! Like a trooper, I carried on (did I have an option?) and today the dentist built up a new tooth for me out of filling compound. I didn't know it was possible. Two more shows to go, at Bordon and Headley, next weekend. Let's hope the tooth survives it.

On the kitchen extension front, the last skip was taken away today, so we're definitely on the home straight now. We've fixed on 8th August for a kitchen/pation extension-warming party. Any regular readers feeling like they are part of the story are welcome to attend.

15th June 2009

There's only one message this week – come to the show! It's Candleford by Keith Dewhurst – we start on Friday

If you need further encouragement, have a look at the stalwart cast at the end of yesterday's first dress rehearsal. Yes, we're all still smiling!!

8th June 2009

We've been travelling again – by car down the length of France from Dieppe to Narbonne, then for a week on a barge on the Canal du Midi and another week of touring the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Here is a potpourri of shots…

A 'sleeping cat' pylon

A secure loo in Minerve

'And we won't let you out again until you behave'

Here's how you tell the time in Carcassonne

Anyone know what one of these is?

"Well, is it yours?"

Typical scene on the Canal du Midi

This is the village shop at Le Somail

A peaceful mooring for lunch

The old way across…

…and the new

A not-so-peaceful mooring at Port la Nouvelle

18th May 2009

We spent the weekend in Kent and I visited two places which were both strange in their own way.

This is Samphire Hoe where the spoil from the English end of the Channel Tunnel was dumped – but it has a much older road tunnel leading down to it, and also the twin railway tunnel for the line between Folkstone and Dover which the spoil tip now protects from the sea.

This is Dungeness, and a weirder place I have yet to see. Lighthouses, pub, wooden shacks, narrow-gauge railway – miles from anywhere and all jostling next to a nuclear power station. Probably worth a return visit when I have more time to take it all in.

11th May 2009

It's strange how some dates stay with you long after the event. I remember 10th May each year as the day when BOPS went live at Merton. That needs some explanation to the uninitiated – which I imagine is all of you unless you worked for Wiggins Teape in the 1970s.

Those were the days of punched cards and paper tape being fed into computers which churned out batches of invoices and statements for the business. And the operative word was batch. There were no computer screens on salesmen's desks before the 'on-line' revolution. And BOPS was our first (and largely successful) attempt at that revolution. It stood for Branch Order Processing System, and it allowed salesmen and women to check stock was available and allocate it there and then to a customer. And we coded the whole system in Assembler.

The reason it was successful was, in my opinion, because an enlightened manager in the user department allocated his best salesman to guide the project along with the IT department on a full time basis – for a period of several years. This salesman was able to advise us what would and wouldn't work in the real world, agree any compromises which we had to code in, and then 'sell' the project to the other salesmen who had to use it. Bingo. When I hear of large IT projects going wrong I'm sure it's because they haven't beent shown the same commitment by the users.

Anyway, on a very hot 10th May in 1975 the system went live in Merton branch – and promptly fell over because the equipment was over-heating. Some large tent-heaters were hired to blow cold air round the office, and we staggered on. Ironically, our technical success then allowed the company to regroup salesmen in the region and close the Merton branch – but that's another story.

Oh by the way, for those following our kitchen extension saga, we now have the washing machine back in operation. I knew you'd be pleased!

4th May 2009

May the forth be with you! It's Star Wars Day.

And we have a useable kitchen. Not finished yet, but useable. And it looks good. Still no washing machine, but it will come, in time, I'm sure – yes really.

We spent today, a Bank Holiday, mainly on our allotment, filling another large raised bed with earth and compost, strimming the grass paths and planting copious food plants which we hope won't get eaten, flooded or dessicated over the next few weeks. Having spent nearly 5 euros in Ireland for what amounted to not much more than one large red pepper, we definitely want to grow our own this year!

27th April 2009

We were in Ireland last week, hence no log then – but to make up for it, here are views of our visit.

We took a cottage in Ardmore, right next to the 12th century round tower and ruins of St Declan's Church. The tower, so they say, was built by monks to retreat to in times of invasion by Vikings – they climbed up a ladder and entered through the door halfway up the wall pulling the ladder up behind them. Personally I wouldn't have felt too safe there in case an intelligent Viking decided to shove something inflammable through the door after them! But the tower is in good shape after all those centuries – so maybe it worked or perhaps it never had to face an invasion.

This was how it we saw it …

View from West

View from South

View from East showing door

Close-up of door

Sketch showing how it was used

Stone carvings on St Declan's Church west wall

Jackdaws on tick patrol

They seemed to be trying to sell any old pile of stones as a house – even this lime kiln!

A drop of the whiskey from Jamesons, near Cork

Lose the monarch, but keep the post boxes. Green side up in Cobh!

Not quite the Jamesons, but perhaps as effective in its own way – also at Cobh

13th April 2009

What's this? A sunny Bank Holiday! We set ourselves up on a sunny hillside and waited for Oliver Cromwell to arrive, which he did on schedule around 11.15am on his way from Waterloo to Yeovil, to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the railway line from London to Portsmouth.

Those of you who have my book Walks from the Railways might recognise the view – it's taken from the same point as the picture on the front cover, but that time it was an electric train passing by.

11th April 2009

The house is in chaos due to building work. Dil escaped by going to London to see an ice show with Deb. I took the opportunity of some glorious weather to go for a long and memorable walk over Bramshott Common.

6th April 2009

It's the start of the new financial year, which means that thoughts will shortly turn to tax returns and the like. Why the strange date of 6th April? Well it used to start on 25th March, which is a regular 'quarter day' – but then in 1751 the British decided to come into line with the rest of Europe and adopt the Gregorian calendar rather than the Julian one, and the normal population 'lost' 11 days as a result. But the taxman decided he wasn't going to lose anything, and simply added 11 days on to the end of his year. So that's how it became 6th April, and so it has remained. Do you see any taxman of the future being the one to lose 11 days' income one year to redress the situation? Neither do I!

By the way, we now have roof, doors and windows fitted on the new kitchen extension, so we're weather-tight. All we need now is the electrics, the plastering, the flooring, the installation of units… It will end, one day, I'm told. Meanwhile we're eating microwave meals when kind friends haven't invited us out to eat.

30th March 2009

We visited my two daughters and their families over the weekend – first to Hastings, where Dil finished a pair of curtains for the front window with Emma while I went to the aquarium with Tobias and Rowan and watched the keeper play with his giant octopus (oh yes he did!); then after a night in Battle, we drove across Sussex to Handcross for lunch with Sarah, Rick and Ben.

Between the two places we visited Michelham Priory. We'd never heard of it before, but definitely worth the stop. The house is good, but the garden is better and full of surprises. Among other things, we talked to a blacksmith there about the various sounds to be obtained from striking an anvil – useful knowledge when we're about to do the play Candleford later this year involving a real anvil and hammer, and I'm to play one of the blacksmiths.

Would you let the fella out?

Perhaps this is what both these characters need!

Don't they feed their dogs?

23rd March 2009

Fifteen miles, and what d'you get? A stiff knee in my case.

On Sunday, five intrepid bodies walked round the entire boundary of the parish of Headley. Starting and finishing at the Robin Hood in Standford, it took us six hours, including a half hour lunch break at Frensham Great Pond. The weather couldn't have been better – in fact it's been a glorious week for weather.

A sad discovery was that one of the last remaining boundary stones seems to have been stolen. It's not as if it's old or valuable either – just a concrete cross which was placed flat on the ground in 1921 showing where the new Grayshott boundary diverged from the footpath to Headley.

Anybody prepared to own up and tell us where it's gone to? Please.

Now you see it …

… now you don't!

16th March 2009

Just a quickie, as regular readers will have noticed I'm already days late in posting this week.

Over the weekend we visited friends and went to Hardwick Hall (more glass than wall) in Derbyshire. Lovely weather, fascinating place, pity about the M1 roaring along in the valley below!

9th March 2009

For those of you following the saga of the kitchen extension, not a lot happened last week. This was to give the brickwork time to harden off before putting the roof on.. Unfortunately it also coincided with some heavy rain, so now we have a half inch deep swimming pool outside the back door. And as the cat flap opens directly on to it (see last pic on Feb 23rd), you can guess that they aren't too happy right now, and show it by finding other places to 'go.'

I say 'outside the back door,' but one thing that did happen last week was removal of same and the erection of a stud wall down the middle of the kitchen (see pics on right) to shield us from this week's work – the demolition of the outside wall. As you see, we still have a sink and a cooker in 'our' bit, for the moment.

In fact, they are arriving to start demolition work as I speak, so I think I'd better save this in case of power cuts – I know that the wall to be removed (on the left in the left picture) contains some electric cables. Wish us luck!

2nd March 2009

Time to ride another hobby-horse. What do you make of this?

It's from the spine of a paperback book which stares at me from the bookshelf every day, and every day I ask myself, what was the typesetter thinking about?

Can you read it? Easily? "Forth something-or-other"? And what is "Ofelena"?

For some reason modern typesetting seems to think that good, wholesome spaces between words are ugly and to be avoided. And the same applies when it comes to gaps between sentences. The default in Microsoft Word offers you just a single space character between sentences, and here on the internet it's almost obligatory.

I was always taught to leave two spaces between sentences when typing, and Dil swears by three. But apparently it doesn't look good on the page any more. Why?

Apart from anything else, I think this 'one space only' fad leads to ambiguity if you continue to use a full stop to denote abbreviation. How about: "He gave it to the Mrs. Smith who was standing nearby…" One sentence or two? Obviously one when you examine it, but you may have to stop and think. Of course, modern typesetting doesn't use full stops after abbreviations which is their way of getting over the problem. But I still prefer a bit of white space to denote visually the split between sentences. To me, it makes for easier reading. How about you?

23rd February 2009

The weather has turned Spring-like, and the builders are here!

We're having an extension put onto the kitchen – here's progress in the first week.

16th February 2009

What does a leading left-facing apostrophe mean to you? As a typesetter it's one of the banes of my life.

If you write about the '70s, what do you do with the leading apostrophe? You can can leave it looking like a downward dagger as I've just done here. But for proper typesetting it's supposed to be curly – as in ’70s. And curly like that in the left-hand direction.

There's the rub. If you use good old Microsoft Word, as most of my contributors do, it automatically puts the curl the wrong way – as in ‘70s – and I have to go through the document changing them all to be the right way round!

Actually there is a way to avoid the curl going wrong, if only people new about it. Immediately before typing the apostrophe, press the CTRL key and the apostrophe key simultaneously, then type the apostrophe key again. Bingo! Now all I have to do is remind people to use it.

9th February 2009

Why oh why does February have 28 days? How many times have you been caught getting your enrtries for Feb and March muddled in your head and in your diary simply because the same day numbers fall on the same day of the week in the two months? Why can't they (whoever they are) slip Feb another day from one of the longer months so that it never ever happens? Your answers please on a postcard, electronic or otherwise…

2nd February 2009

For those of you living in places like Canada and the northern States, 7 inches of snow may not seem worth writing about – but here in England it's a show-stopper. And of course for those of you sweltering in Australia at the moment, it's the stuff you can only dream about. We woke up to an eerie whiteness and quietness, with only our neighbour braving it out on his way to work in his Land Rover.

Being within walking distance of her work in the local surgery, Dil felt she had no excuse but to go in, and I accompanied her on foot with my camera for most of the way. It was surprising how many tracks has already criss-crossed the woods at the back of our house – presumably dog walkers.

This afternoon they forecast more snow. Life as we know it could come to a complete standstill!

A walk through the woods in the snow early this morning on our way to the village

26th January 2009

So the saltire and the tartans and the bagpipes and the haggis all came out over the weekend to celebrate the special Burns' Night. I was at one such event in our Village Hall, and it reinforced my feeling that the bagpipes is (or are?) not an instrument which should be played indoors in a confined space!

Some years ago I'd been to a ceilidh on the Isle of Jura, right next to the distillery of the fine single malt in fact, and saw to my amazement that the local population turned up with half bottles of Famous Grouse – and then they proceeded to mix it with lemonade, if I'm not mistaken. So not wanting to look an uneducated sassenach, this weekend I took along a bottle of blended (Black Label actually) and a lemonade, and found everyone around me was drinking French wine. So much for Robbie Burns!

The piper heads for the exit. What was that? Sorry, couldn't hear you speak!

The dreaded haggis about to be put out of its misery

We the English will get our own back on 25th April when we hold a Bard's Night on the nearest Saturday to St George's Day, with an Elizabethan banquet, madrigals, pipes of a more mellow tone and snippets from Shakespeare. Watch out for it.

19th January 2009

<high horse> Can I talk to you about outdated restrictive practices today? We were planning to put on a stage performance of 'Allo 'Allo in April, and were all ready to start rehearsals when we learnt that our licence to perform had been revoked. Why was this? Because some professional company is planning to do the show too, and they are able to object and stop amateurs performing at the same time. Should we be proud that they think a bunch of amateurs can take away their audience? Of course we won't – for one thing, the nearest they come to us is some 40-50 miles away. I really wish we could draw audiences from that distance – we have enough trouble getting them out of their houses from the village.

So what is this restriction all about? You tell me – please – because I really don't understand it. I am an author myself, and thankfully control the release of my own scripts. I'd be more than happy for as many companies as possible to be running my scripts at the same time – caveat emptor if they think their audiences will suffer, but I doubt it. It's all the more money to me, assuming they all pay their royalties for performing. Why should I want to restrict it? </high horse>

We finished our run of Dick Whittington, and didn't we do well? See the photos – and the Treasurer of the Theatre Club is happy because we also made a good profit.

12th January 2009

So the first weekend of panto is over, and it went well. Now the cast takes a well-earned rest for a few days before doing it all again next weekend.

I don't do further rehearsals once we get running – I tried a mid-term word rehearsal once, some years ago, but it wasn't a success. By that time people had learnt to take cues from their position on stage, or in some other way than from a verbal cue, and a word rehearsal just made them feel inadequate, which wasn't the idea!

5th January 2009

Well, it's the New Year and as usual it's straight into pantomime (oh yes it is!) – we had our first full dress rehearsal of Dick Whittington yesterday, and for the first time all the cast turned up (hooray!). The photographer from the local press took shots of those who had managed to get into costume by the time he arrived, and I took the opportunity to snap the same scene while we had the group together. So here's a sneak preview of what you might see in this week's Bordon Post …

Dil is playing Puss, as well as making most of the costumes for the rest of the cast, and she's observing our own cats to see how to behave. They seem particularly unimpressed with this interloper in the house!

If you want to come and see the show (and I'm sure you do now), look at the website for ticket details.

Continued …

You are very welcome to contact me about anything in the weblogs, or not in the weblogs – but be prepared for your words to appear on-line along with mine!