Current Log Page Log for 2006 Log for 2007 Log for 2008 Log for 2009 Log for 2010 Log for 2012 Log for 2013 Log for 2014 John Owen Smith Home Page Contact me
Merry Christmas to all our readers!!
We're trying to keep track of the number of 'Christmases' we're having this year. We had the Christmas supper with friends last week at home, and this weekend we were away in Corsham, Wiltshire where Dil's son lives, for the real Christmas and had two more present-swapping meals. Now we're home again, with another 'Christmas' to come when one of my daughters visits at the end of the week followed by Dil's birthday on New Year's Eve which always extends the Christmas spirit anyway. All this while keeping up with the pantomime rehearsals. I think we have a holiday planned for March!
|We went over to my sister's during the week for our first 'Christmas' of this year. Her daughter Sonia has a talent for sketching, as shown by this one (in the middle) made from two photos of us (left and right) on the website, taken when we were performing in (two separate) shows. It now hangs in pride of place on our kitchen wall. Thank you. Sonia!|
A group of us went up to the Albert Hall yesterday for the White Christmas show, and called in at the V&A Museum on the way. Not a museum any of us had visited much before, but I think we may go there again. The theatre section was particularly interesting, and the jewellry section is outstanding.
My 'Christmas List' posted on 21st November has come in for some comment and, I gather, some concern does he really want that? Well OK it was a bit tongue in cheek, but nothing on it would be useless. I suppose if I'd thought a bit harder I could have come up with more variety, and it's probably too late to add stuff now but for what it's worth: a strap for my solid-body bass guitar which doesn't cut into my shoulder like the current one; OS Explorer maps of anywhere I may be going next year (but you'd need to know what I've already got and where I may be going!); a Nicholson's No.7 guide to the River Thames and Southern wateryays (we're booked to go on them next October); a log splitter and something to hit it with; a 'horse' to cut firewood on (though I should really make my own from the timber around me!); a hoist to get me up to clear the gutters and wash the fascias (only joking, but they do need doing!); something to check and correct car tyre pressures easily (something which I never do) enough already? I think so.
We are now a catless house. Wilbo died in her sleep last Wedmesday night, just as her sister Izzy had done almost a year ago to the day how strange is that? They were both a good old age, had lived a full and happy life and are now interred side by side underneath a pear tree on our allotment.
The question immediately arose as to whether we should get another cat, particularly as we have been offered kittens needing a home locally. Dil was tempted, but I'm in favour of leaving it for a while. Watch this space to see who prevails!
The 'December House' mob occupied the National Trust property of Lytes Cary in Somerset this year. Here we all are, outside the grand front door, courtsey of Dave who set his camera up and then ran back to join us (far right)!
We've tried several houses in the past, but we all felt that this was the best yet. As well as the benefits of the house itself, there was good shopping nearby for the ladies, and two splendid local museums for the lads to visit. We may be back!
We ran the annual Xmas Fair in the village hall on Saturday advertised it better and got more customers than last year, which was gratifying but for some reason I didn't sell many books this time perhaps everyone in the village already has all my titles! Suppose I can't complain if so.
Now we're well into pantomime rehearsals it's my version of the Nutcracker. The house has been full of costumes of varying shapes, shades and sizes covering chairs and tables as Dil has been manufacturing for fairies and other pantomime beings, and poor Wilbo the cat, who is now both blind and deaf in her old age, has wondered what has happened suddenly to her past-remembered world.
To whom it may concern: I have been asked (coerced would be slightly too strong a word) to make a Christmas list this year. I'm also told that my list should contain what I want, not what I need. Well if I've needed something during the year I've usually bought it by now. Hmm. Now call me old-fashioned, but I've always thought it a bit cheeky to expect to be given presents, and the idea of making a list where you display your expectation in public has always seemed to me to be a step too far. But I'm told that everyone is doing it, and I'm being just plain awkward if I don't. So here goes .
First the no-no's. I have too many clothes. I can't open my sock drawer without pairs springing out onto the floor, and I have two shelves of T-shirts half of which never get worn. Why do I keep them? Because they don't actually have holes in them so it seems a sin to throw them away. If you want to buy me clothes then I think you should come and help me decide what goes out first to make room for them.
I like music, and it's nice to have a collection of CDs which I can dip into for reference when we're looking for particular tracks for shows, etc, but now the jewel cases are overflowing the shelves and, in all honesty, I don't spend so much of my leisure time listening to it. I spend more time trying to learn to play the stuff, since starting to pluck the electric bass at the tender age of 65. What I would really like is somebody to play along with, as the bass isn't really a solo instrument, but that's not the sort of present most people can give!
Similarly, because I spend so much of my time writing, I don't spend much leisure time reading. But I have more reference books than shelf space, and every year I stuff yet more into the remaining cracks between the shelf and the ceiling. One day it will all fall down. However here's a challenge give me, if you will, a book which you would like me to read; preferably one which you've enjoyed yourself so we can perhaps discuss it when we meet. I have to tell you though that so far every attempt to read an entire Dickens or Terry Pratchett novel has failed. Or a Harry Potter come to that. But I have read a Jane Austen or two make of that what you will.
What else can I add to the list? Office stuff. A box of Paper-Mate pencils is always welcome, you know, the yellow plastic jobs with the black rubber on the top can't have too many of those and I'm always losing them. Some paper clips it's strange how there are never any around when you want them. Some highlighter pens that don't dry up as soon as you open them. Ditto felt-tip pens. Coloured and white A4-size sheets of card to go through the laser printer always running out of them. Oh, and some genius to come and implement a filing system in my office which uses the shelf space economically. There are things I know I must have somewhere but can't find.
This isn't looking like a regular Christmas list, is it? I wish I could be more helpful.
A sample of single malt is always very acceptable, and the odd bottle of beer goes down a treat. And although it's fair to say we're not short of drinking vessels, a quirky mug will remind me of you every time it comes to hand.
If I think of anything else I'll do a 'stop press' but in the meantime, console yourself with the thought that I'm probably having just as hard a time thinking what to get you!
We came second in a Quiz evening on Saturday. Normally it's the position to aim for, as sometimes the winners have to organise the next one! Not sure about this one, but second by three points wasn't bad. And I still think that was a picture of Ella Fitzgerald and not Aretha Franklin!
I've just bought a new scanner (Epson V500) which among other things has an attachment allowing you to scan old 35mm negative films. I've a few of these hanging around, and I hadn't any idea what was on them so I'm spending odd moments scanning them, and finding shots of old holidays and old shows which I'd forgotten about. I'll maybe share some of them with you next week.
PS. Still no joy on the Kindle.
HELP! Anyone know what to do with a Kindle when the screen goes like this?
We didn't drop it or anything it just suddenly happened.
I mentioned the casting of the pantomime last week. Some of them are quite young, so we're having to rethink our rehearsal schedule so that we don't keep them up too late on schooldays. Those of us of a certain age are generally happy to go on rehearsing well into the evening, so long as we get to the pub before closing time!
Mind you, the last time I was in one of our locals I got very little change out of £10 for just a pint of beer and a glass of wine. I'm not going to bore you (oh alright, I am) by saying that when I started drinking in pubs a pint of mild beer cost 5p in today's money. Your're pricing yourself out of customers, mein hosts. My sister has been known to say that it doesn't matter if the price of petrol goes up, because she'll still only buy a fiver's worth; which obviously doesn't work if you have places to go. But by the same token, I can only afford so much per week in pubs and no more, so if the price goes up more I'll be going less often. Or taking it home from the supermarket. Publicans of rural Hampshire, you have been warned.
Today's conundrum: why is it that when you're trying to stuff a duvet into a new cover both the duvet and the cover seem to have more than four corners?! (If Dil's reading this, at least she'll know that I've made the bed with the fresh linen while she's been out at work. Brownie points!)
Our summers seem to be happening in Spring and Autumn this year. I wonder what Winter has in store for us.
We've had the auditions for the pantomime, and we've cast it just about so next week the rehearsing begins in dead earnest. Tickets will be on sale from the beginning of November. Not to be missed unless of course we're under 3 ft of snow by then!
Fawlty Towers was thought by many to be one of the best things Headley Theatre Club has done so all credit to Nick who directed it. See pictures.
Still trying to work out how I filled my allocated webspace so quickly I suspect I haven't been too clever in sizing the pictures I've posted in the past, so I'll need to do some research on that, and other things seem to take priority. In the meantime you'll have to do with mere words from the wordsmith.
We've just done our first weekend of Fawlty Towers on the stage here in Headley and it went rather well. No credit to me, as I'm only a bit-part player in this one, but it's nice to be part of a success. We were sold out for the two performances, and we're sold out again for this coming weekend.
After that, it's on with the pantomime. Dil and I are directing this year (again!) and it's going to be my Nutcracker. Read-through and Auditions are the week after next all welcome.
Mowing the lawn on my birthday in a heat-wave! Never had weather like this before.
Sorry the entries are a bit sparse at the moment. I'll make up for it in October when I'm a year older!
We've just got back from a very pleasant visit to Brittany. No pictures yet as I'm waiting to negotiate more website space with my supplier.
Don't know how it's been where you are, but here August has been fairly cool and by that I don't mean 'hip'. Now autumn stares us in the face will we get an Indian Summer? [The answer was YES, briefly!]
Yesterday I strode across Hindhead Common as Sir Robert Hunter with an audience of around 100 in my wake. I don't have any pictures yet, but they would be much the same as the ones from last year except for a larger audience and a slightly different cast. The weather was kind not too hot, not too cold and the showers held off until after the event.
It was strange to walk so close to the old A3 and have no traffic noise, now it's all going through the tunnel.
Next weekend I shall once again become Sir Robert Hunter, founder of The National Trust, and lead a massed audience for 2 miles around Hindhead Common on an historic quest. At intervals we shall come upon actors ready to bring the history of the area to life before your very eyes. There is no charge for joining in the fun (although a voluntary contribution to the Trust would be welcome at the end) and no limit to the number of people who can join us on the walk so come to the Trust's café by the old A3 at Hindhead at 2.30pm on Sunday 28th August. See further details here.
Ever since we moved into this house we've been fascinated by the antics of the grey squirrels in the tall pine trees at the bottom of the garden. They make improbable leaps from branch to branch and quack like ducks while they're doing it.
This week for the first time I found three immature babies lying in the garden I assume they fell from a nest in the trees. Sadly they were beyond help. At first I thought they were mice, but a check on Google gave me pictures just like this one it's a squirrel.
PS. I went through the A3 Hindhead Tunnel for the first time this week I was picking up a friend from Haslemere station and we decided to go through both ways just for the hell of it. It's longer and winds more than I'd expected.
We bought ourselves a new bed can't remember when we last did that! and glad to tell, it's comfortable too.
|Had an interesting meeting today with a lady who was one of a pair of twins born to a Headley woman in 1939. She and her twin sister were then adopted by different families, and have only recently found each other again see here for details. She has a picture of her mother Alice Wilkinson, née Coombes, standing (left in the photo, taken in Headley by the field where the Holme Junior School now stands) with her sister Nell and a man called Jack Cooper, but we don't know if he is her father or not. She's trying to find out who her real father actually was. Can any of my readers help? Contact me if so.|
The main local news last week was the opening of the A3 Hindhead Tunnel. We thought about using it on the first day just to see what it was like, but the queue was so long that we gave up! As of today, we've still to go through it.
We took a stroll along part of the Wey & Arun Canal yesterday from Loxwood towards the south it's been made navigable for a couple of miles and there are two or three tour boats operating. Hopefully one day the whole navigation will be opened. Meanwhile, here are some snaps:
The magnolia in our front garden has started to blossom
again this year, in July. I don't think I've ever seen this happen before.
I told Dil that it blossomed at the mention of her name, but I don't think she believed me!
On Saturday we joined the zillions watching the last Harry Potter film. Personally I haven't got caught up in the HP hype, though I live in a house where the episodes have been read and watched innumerable times over the years by three generations. So, now it's over, what will be the next Big Thing on the literary/cinematic horizon?
Back in April I showed you a couple of shots of me as a lad from the photos which my aunt had sent me. I'm nearing the end of putting her diary into book form now, and so, for your edification, here are some more from the past:
It's a family legend that my great grandfather, who lived in east London all his life and was at one time deputy mayor of East Ham and played sports of all kinds into his 80s, was a founder member of West Ham United football club. Certainly I was given some shares in the Club by my grandfather (his son), so there may be some truth in it. It needs researching. One of these days I'll maybe get around to it in the meantime, 'I'm forever blowing bubbles'.
Yesterday we did the 'walking treasure hunt' round Haslemere which had been postponed from last month because of rain. This time the weather was kinder and we ended the day indulging in a shirtsleeve barbecue. Despite having lived in the area since 1977, the route took us down paths we never knew existed. We also spotted some informative and some downright silly signs:
We went to a battle royal over the weekend well, Royalist anyway at a re-enactment of the Battle of Cheriton, 29 March 1644, which was a turning point in the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians were victorious and the Royalist cause was on the skids from then on.
PS: Happy Independence Day to those across the water!
We took advantage of a sunny spell to hold a 'Summer Supper' yesterday. Will we be back to 'wet Wimbledon weather' this coming week? (The answer was yes and no!)
20th June 2011
Over to Herne Bay yesterday and, by chance, saw the WW2 Memorial Flight of a Lancaster and two Spitfires fly past along the coast.
Here they are coming over the old church at Reculver from the direction of Margate.
Most of last week seems to have been taken with going up to Huddersfield and back mid-week for Ray's funeral. A number of us went up from Headley and it was an emotional affair, but we helped each other through it as a group we sang Caanan's Land, which we'd learnt specially, with gusto at the service, and several other favourite songs at the wake afterwards. Of course there was a wake, and with real ale! All in all we gave him a good send-off, but events like this remind you starkly of your own mortality.
Back to reality. Dil working as a locum Practice Manager all week - so much for 'retirement'!
Apologies to regular readers we've been away. Four of us drove to Italy and back. Here are some memorable moments
Sadly, while we were away our good friend Ray Bower died. We shall all miss him greatly.
It's funny how some dates stick in your mind and others don't. Tomorrow, 10th May, will always be remembered by me as the day BOPS went live. I wonder how many other people know what that means? It was the deadline for putting a computer system live that loomed ever closer as we got near to implementation and, like the word 'Calais' for Queen Mary in 1558, it is forever inscribed on my heart.
We had the referendum for a new voting system on Thursday last week, and nothing has changed. I don't like the concept of single-issue referendums (or even referenda!) as I'm not convinced that people vote about what's being asked. In this case the arguments against change seemed to centre largely on personalities of current-day politicians, which is hardly the issue when you're trying to make strategic decisions. I see that the Scots, flush from the victory of the SNP, are also talking of a referendum there for separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK. Intriguingly, it seems to me that half the Scots in the world live elsewhere anyway and so won't be affected!
Too many Bank Holidays all at once to cope with and with brilliant weather too!! Today we had nearly 50 people here for a Theatre Club barbecue. I'll catch up with real life next week.
Whew, wot a scorcher! Amazingly good weather over Easter. Almost unprecidented. But of course we're getting the gloom-mongers telling us there's not been enough rain and we'll suffer later Another weekend with two Bank Holidays coming up, so there's still a chance for the British weather show its spite. Perhaps it will all arrive on the day of the Royal Wedding on Friday.
MacHamlet was a great success. Have a look at the pics if you missed it.
I'm helping my aunt put her life story into print, and last week she sent me some family photos to scan, including some of me which I'd not seen before, taken in 1946 and 1948. I can still remember the jeep, but I don't remember the other outfit!
We held a dress rehearsal for MacHamlet yesterday. Four cast members were unavoidably missing, which is about par for the course, but it went well and we took a video of it which we'll all look at together on Wednesday, to see who's blocking whom on stage, etc.
I was busy doing talks last week three of them in all. Before one I was invited to lunch at Bosham Hoe, and for another I shared tea with 90 ladies in Godalming. Life can't be all bad!
On Saturday we went to Brighton for Dil to attend a two-hour tutorial for her OU course. It was a lovely sunny day and I spent the two hours sitting in the sun overlooking Brighton race course and attempting the Times crossword.
Sunday was largely spent in sorting out costumes and lighting for MacHamlet. Less than two weeks to opening night now. Do come to see it over Easter you know you want to!!
|Received an e-mail from a Canadian whose uncle took part in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe in August 1942. I had sent him copies of the propaganda leaflet the Germans dropped over Britain following the raid (front and back shown here). He tells me there are seven men still alive who took part in the operation as part of the Calgary Tank Regiment. He says: "Stan Edwards of 'Buttercup', Jack Whitley of 'Blossom', Bill Stewert of 'Bert', Ray Gilbert of 'Beefy', Jack Chapman of 'Backer', Roy Lincoln of 'Beefy' and Al Wagstaff of 'Calgary', all of them who lived through the nightmare of Dieppe and Stalag 8B, all had fond memories of Headley and stories of their own." I would dearly like to hear those stories. Yesterday, by coincidence, I led a walk which went right past the field in Headley where they were issued with the very tanks used in the raid.|
We visited friends at Mansfield Woodhouse over the weekend, and on our way up made our usual stop for a sip of coffee and a sandwich by the canal at Watford. Not the Watford as in Junction, you understand, but the much smaller Watford as in Gap. This is where southerners say the North begins. North of here, they say, castle rhymes with hassle, while to the south it rhymes with parcel.
Just out of sight through the bridge is the start of the Watford flight of 7 locks. We navigated them in a boat once and thought them impressive but since then we've done the Caen Flight near Devizes which rather puts them to shame with its 29 locks.
From Mansfield we visited Sudbury Hall near Uttoxeter where there is a Museum of Childhood which actually is, as they say, 'a delight for all ages with something for everyone' and in addition the Hall was also the setting for some of the D'Arcy residence shots in the BBC's 'wet shirt' version of Pride & Prejudice. Dream on, ladies!
PS. If I'm not too late to remind you take a copy of your census return before you post it off that way your friendly family historians can see it before the 100-year closure officially allows them to in 2111!
We are at the vernal equinox already. During the coming week, March 25 was Lady Day (ie. nine months before Christmas) and the first day of New Year from about 150AD until 1751 it was also one of the Quarter Days in England when rents became due. When the calendar changed from Julian to Gregorian in 1752 (losing 11 days) it became April 6th (New Style) the following year, which is why our present Tax Year starts on this inconvenient day!
A regular week nothing exceptional to report. Gave two talks, led a Walk to Health, had our second week of Italian lessons, did another walk for our new book of short walks. In between that lot, we started to decorate the front bedroom. I imagine a few people in Japan would prefer to have had an uneventful week like that!
We took a National Trust cottage for the weekend to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary an old lock-keeper's cottage by Buscot Lock on the upper reaches of the River Thames. I had passed that way many years ago on a narrow boat bound for the head of navigation, but it was new territory for Dil. I recall the river meandering sinuously through meadows towards Lechlade, and a walk along the banks this weekend confirmed my memories. Interesting turns to make in a longboat!
We visited the source of the Thames. No bubbling spring as you might expect, but three dry farmer's fields away from the first sign of moisture!
And keeping to an aquatic theme, we also took a look at the Thames & Severn Canal where it enters the Sapperton Tunnel at the eastern end, not far from the source of the Thames. The tunnel has collapsed inside, but there are plans for restoration and the canal is confidently in water at this point for a short distance at least!
Publication day for two new books, both of which are repackaging old texts: Flora Thompson: Beyond Candleford which contains my two playscripts Flora's Heatherley and Flora's Peverel along with additional historical notes; and A Headley Compendium which contains the six Headley Miscellanies previously published in booklet form.
Meanwhile we're working on yet another walks book mainly to keep ourselves fit in doing it! This time it's shorter walks of no longer than about an hour's duration and largely on level ground. It's what we like to do if we have an odd hour to spare in the middle of the day, so we think others might like it too.
I've just been looking to see where the proposed High Speed Rail line will go apparently in a 10km tunnel right underneath the road where I used to live in Chalfont St Giles! See map.
Rehearsals are now well under way for MacHamlet. As part of the plot, the Danes have to make a trophy to present to the Scots, and how better than with that famous Danish 'play well' product. So we are now busy constructing possible designs. Here are two made so far. If you would like to have a go, we have plenty of Lego for you to use!
Dil and I are starting a 5-week Italian course in March, ready for our holiday there in May. In preparation, we've been downloading words of well-known Italian songs and trying to make sense of them. Volare is particularly weird in the original, involving the singer painting his hands and face blue! We also realised that O sole mio wasn't a sad song referring to someone being alone as we'd thought, but a bright song about 'my sun'. I guess we can probably blame Elvis for that one.
Valentine's Day and what better present to buy Dil than a sexy Italian cookery book? Not quite sure where the sex comes in, but we've had two good recipes from it already! Oh, and I also bought her some Marmite chocolate. Those of you who have succumbed to a Smith breakfast of baked beans and Marmite on toast will know of our penchant for it, but I have to say our lips were smarting after having a nibble. Not sure if it will get finished!
Been busy typesetting the annual Headley Report for the parish council. I also collect the advertising to put in it, and always do one for myself. Last year's looked a bit ordinary I thought, so this year I've taken a photograph of some of my titles to inclusde in it. Unfortunately it will only be in monochrome in the Report, but here is the full-colour version for your delectation!
Have I mentioned QR codes before? Apparently it stands for 'Quick Response' and enables mobile phones to read a printed symbol and use the information stored in it. I've done one which has my website address on it all I need now is to find someone with a phone clever enough to read it!! Here it is:
One result of putting on the panto so early this year is that January seems to have gone on for ever! On Thursday we successfully cast our next play, MacHamlet; no mean feat as it needed a cast of 21 people in fact we got 24, who have all been slotted in. Rehearsals begin on the 10th Feb. We go up on Good Friday.
As you know I keep my eye open for articles on ebooks hoping that light may dawn one day as to what people really want and how we as authors and self-publishers can best provide it. Here's one which interested me. It makes the point that the source files for Print on Demand (POD) books are actually the same as for ebooks but they happen to get printed on paper. I don't think it's quite true as POD uses PDF format files and true ebooks almost certainly won't but it's a point to consider.
We took advantage of some lovely weather midweek and went for a walk from Frensham Great Pond to Frensham Little Pond and back. On the way we visited Pierrepont Farm which is now a Countryside Restoration Trust property.
While walking from there towards the Little Pond we thought we heard music, and rounding the corner saw a pop group doing a film shoot on the shore. We were told they call themselves Calais and we would see them on TV.
Going over the ridge between the ponds you can still see the result of last year's big fire by the scorched remains of trees and heather. Coming down to the Great Pond we spotted where someone had done some turf digging, presumably as a historical project rather than for rights of turbary.
The panto's over, it's time to call it a day etc. Three more good performances this last weekend, and audience numbers were better, but not enough to bring us up to previous years. Is it something we've done (or not done), or is it just the sign of hard times?
So now, dramatically speaking, it's on to MacHamlet which we will perform on our annual Bard's Night at the end of April in fact on St George's Day which, this year, is also Easter Saturday. We've given ourselves a week off the read-through and audition is next week with rehearsals starting on 10th Feb.
Meanwhile I'm scuttling around doing my annual job of finding advertisers for this year's Headley Report. There's still space if you're interested in being included!
The panto is on its way and we had three good, if varied, performances over the weekend. See pictures. If only the audience numbers had matched the performance! We had the lowest turnout for a first weekend since I started keeping records.
On Thursday we plan to show a rough cut video of last Saturday's matinée performance for the cast to see what they look like. We're using my Epson projector connected to a DVD player. One problem is the sound volume, which isn't great from the projector's small speaker. Nick has the bright idea of laying our radio mike next to it and feeding this through the village hall's sound amplification system let's hope it works. I won't be there I'm speaking in Odiham about the Riot that evening.
Into the New Year with Dil's birthday party in the Village Hall at which 17 of us played silly games and ate sensible food. Just after midnight we went outside and saw the sky filled with the little hot-air balloons that seem to be all the rage now. We sent up three ourselves wishing the recipient a Happy New Year but, perhaps wisely, not adding our address in case it set a house on fire when it came down!
Now it's all hands to the pantomime. We go up on Friday, weather and illness permitting. Wish us luck!