John Owen Smith’s log for 2012

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31st December 2012

Down to Herne Bay for for Dil's birthday and to see in the New Year. This is us on the beach enjoying the sun and invigorating sea breeze on New Year's Day. Dave was trying to light a fire. We didn't stay there very long!

The previous day we had gone shopping in Canterbury in very different weather – mild and wet. What it is to be British!

This time next year we intend to be on a cruise to the Canaries…

24th December 2012

We went up to London for our annual Carol Singalong at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, together with a visit to Hamley's toy store for kids of all ages! The weather was damp rather than festive, although Hamley's did have a snow blower outside to add a little atmosphere to their small section of Regent Street.

17th December 2012

As the regular ferry companies had stopped going from Portsmouth to Cherbourg in winter, Dil discovered a sneaky way of doing the trip in order to see our friends there before Christmas – she booked us on a Fred.Olsen mini-cruise to the French Xmas markets at Cherbourg and Rouen. Thus it was that we found ourselves enjoying a very good French lunch with our friends today. As for the Xmas markets, Dil thought that the ones she'd been to in Bath & Winchester were far better!

Arrival at Cherbourg

10th December 2012

This year's annual 'December House' weekend was to The Threshing Barn at Kingston Russell, midway between Dorchester and Bridport in Dorset. Ten of us were there for the weekend, and three of us stayed on a few days longer.

Our visit to Portland and Tout Quarry was particularly interesting. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me that day, but when Nick sends me some of the ones he took, I'll post them here.

Later Dil got a bootful of seawater on Chesil Beach, and we slid backwards in the car down an icy lane. Memories are made of this!

3rd December 2012

On Saturday morning I froze my toes up on Hindhead Common watching local schoolchildren put together their ideas for the design of the new stone sculpture there. It is part of the 'A3D' project commemorating the completion last year of the tunnel taking the London-Portsmouth (A3) road under the common. See their Tumblr site for more information and pictures.

26 November 2012

Last week I spent most of Tuesday in the Surrey History Centre at Woking photographing Mr Laverty's last book. We now have all his books on film, and hope to finish the work of transcribing them before I give my talk on him to The Headley Society in February.

19th November 2012

We spent the weekend in Headley Village Hall doing a "play in a day" for the BBC 'Children in Need' charity. In the end we took nearly £600. See here for details.

16th November 2012

I spent this morning with people making a BBC4 documentary about the history of heritage in this country. This group is covering the Victorian period, and in particular the founding of The National Trust. They had been told that I run a dramatic walk over Hindhead dressed as Sir Robert Hunter and wanted to film it. Sadly I couldn't get a cast together at such short notice (and just as well – see below), so they decided to film me on my own instead. And film me they did. First, getting into my "Sir Robert" outfit at home (lucky I wore clean underpants!), then pretending to walk out of my front door to go to Hindhead (we were of course going to drive there).

The original idea was to go up to Hindhead and shoot some nice views, but I had suggested we stop off at Waggoners Wells on the way, since it is dedicated to Sir Robert (and has the memorial stone to prove it) and also, I do dramatic walks round there too. Lucky we did, for after doing quite a bit of filming there, showing off the ponds and autumn leaves, we moved on to Hindhead only to find it fog-bound. So, with me still dressed as Sir Robert, we gave our custom to the café there, and parted.

I believe the series is on some time in the spring. I'll let you know when I know.

12th November 2012

A regular week – I gave a talk at Grayshott Archives, did some Pilates, a session of bass practice, a quiz (our table came third out of eleven) two panto rehearsals and painted a bathroom for Deb. Dil did more work then she'd expected at the surgery, but it's money (we're calling it our 'Victoria' fund – explain later).

My daughter Sarah just sent me a Youtube clip of her playing jazz clarinet, which I thought I'd share with you. She's also on Soundcloud. Nice.

My ISP is 'migrating my e-mail to a new platform' on Wednesday. If things go quiet, you'll know I got on the wrong train!!

We're also thinking of changing our e-mail program at the same time from 'clunky' old Turnpike to newer-fashioned The Bat. Anyone out there have any comments on The Bat? It was recommended by one of the contributors to PC-Pro. [Actually I don't think Turnpike is so bad, and seems to have features that The Bat doesn't, but our ISP (Demon) has stopped supporting it.]

5th November 2012

It was a Woking week for me – on Thursday to give a talk on the Riot to the URC there, and then on to the Surrey History Centre to negotiate how we may copy the last of Laverty's notebooks. Then back on Saturday to man my stall selling books at the WSFHS Fair in the Leisure Centre there (see photo on right). Dil took the opportunity to hop on a train at Woking station to visit Deb in Surbiton and do some Xmas shopping (we'll draw a veil over the fact that her first train was going the wrong way!). Altogether I took nearly a hundred pounds – which was about the same sum that Dil says she spent!

29th October 2012

We feel like we've taken part in 'Carry on up the Wey'! We hired the good ship Hydestile from Guildford Boats for 12 days of peaceful cruising, but the waters were anything but peaceful due to heavy rains in previous days. As a result we were stuck on a canalised stretch of the Wey between Pyrford and Weybridge for several days, with flood warnings preventing us going onto the Thames as planned and also cutting off our retreat back to Guildford for a while (see pic below). The propeller shaft also leaked and we had to call the man out from Guildford to re-grease it. On the plus side, we spent a lot of time by probably the best pub on the river (The Anchor at Pyrford lock) and a marina where we could both take on water and pump out effluent simultaneously. We and the White family who were with us for a while also managed to hone up on basic canalling skills such as locking with ropes, reversing and 3-point turns.

We saw quite a bit of The Anchor …

…due to this.

But we got in some locking practice …

…with a little help from our friends.

Passing members of the Byfleet Boat Club at work

What goes in must eventually come out!

Snoozing swan, only moved when the lock opened

Last mooring, at Dapdune Wharf, Guildford

26th October 2012

The screen on Dil's mobile phone has started to look like this …

Anybody know how to fix it?

15th October 2012

Yes, we did it! Nudity on the stage at Headley!! Our production of Calendar Girls was a great success. See the photos of the play. See the calendar!

8th October 2012

Just back from a wonderful long weekend, secretly organised by Dil to celebrate my 70th birthday. Billed in my diary as a Magical Mystery Tour, so that I didn't book anything else in, I was whisked away from home on Friday morning and deposited a few hours later on a canal boat at Bathampton. Next day we chugged our way to Bath and walked round the town, then, having changed into our finery for the evening, a taxi took us to a wine bar where around two dozen of my friends and family had gathered – and we ate, drank and played fine music till midnight. Next day, with the boat back in Bathampton, we had lunch at the Millstream and then gave those who wished for it a lesson in barging on the canal. The pictures below relate mainly to the barging – I didn't have my camera ready for any of the rest of the time; but no doubt snaps of it will appear of various people's Facebook pages. Watch their space!

The weather was perfect for reflections

Some of those who came barging

Going for lunch, aunt Deb leading

The birthday boy

And your quiz question:
What is this?

1st October 2012

The final weekend of 'Allo 'Allo went very well – and the next day I suddenly found myself directing Headley's Calendar Girls due to illness in the cast. So, a busy weekend all-in-all, but a productive one.

Not content with that, we also started looking at possible dramatic ideas for next year – including a rerun of our touring play Broomsquire. Devils for punishment, or what?

24th September 2012

I was supposed to act out the Sailor's Murder on Hindhead with a group of schoolchildren this morning, but there was a severe weather warning and we went into school instead. I hope they learnt as much, but it wasn't so much fun!

I have performed in the first two nights of 'Allo 'Allo at Bordon, and it went well. Two more performances next weekend and it is 'all over bar the shouting.'

17th September 2012

On Saturday we were at the Village Fete, and blessed once again with wonderful weather. I sat at my stall selling books, fronted by the Headley Theatre Club's 'come on' stall for their forthcoming production of Calendar Girls. I think it's fair to say that they got slightly more custom than I did!

On Sunday I spent most of the day in rehearsal for the production of 'Allo 'Allo which is going up at The Phoenix in Bordon on Friday. I am once again René. It will be a good show, but I must say I rather preferred Saturday to Sunday this weekend!

10th September 2012

On Friday we went to the Paralympics in London – glorious weather (almost too hot!) and an inspiring day.

Dil & Deb on the Jubilee Line platform at Waterloo – where the safety doors make a good mirror!

The 'thing' which we didn't get to climb

The view from our seats in the stadium, looking straight down the home straight

And we saw a British gold medal,
in the ladies sitting discus

These are the little electronic light festoons by each seat which give the magical swirling displays at night

We also watched a 7-a-side football match: Russia beat Brazil 3-1

Through the Park run several waterways
- this is the River Lea

Here's one thing to do with an old phone box …

and here's another!

Dil took a picture of me taking a picture of Deb

The Royal Barge was moored, to what looked like giant crayons …

and was weirdly reflected from tiles on a wall opposite.

3rd September 2012

A quiet week. Dil is making blue Santa Claus outfits (don't ask!) and I am continuing the transcriptions of Laverty, for which I believe there is now light at the end of the tunnel - or is it just another set of transcriptions coming in the opposite direction?

28th August 2012

Today is August Bank Holiday, and the last public holiday we in England get before Christmas. How many other countries go that long without a holiday?
I think we could do with a break round about the end of October. But what should we call it? All Saints? Haloween? Guy Fawkes? Perhaps just October Bank Holiday – but let's have one anyway. Anybody listening?

20th August 2012

We popped up to London to see Taming of the Shrew at The Globe on Friday – we were up in the gods and the view was "restricted" (which meant we could see almost as much of backstage as of the stage itself, which was interesting) but at least we weren't standing.

My daughter Sarah plays a mean jazz saxophone and is up for hire if you're in the area of Sussex. This is her Facebook site. And her card:

Listen to her in a more classical moment on clarinet.

You can also catch up with her (and probably me too) on Sun 16th Sept at the Beer Festival at The Hamilton Arms, Stedham

13th August 2012

So the Olympics is finally over! In a fortnight the Paralympics begins – we are going up to London to see it on one of the days, which will be interesting.

We're looking after my daughter Sarah's dog Bella for a few days. She's a black labrador, which takes me back to the days of my own labrador ownership, long since ended. She's very loving and obedient but – the wet whiskers in your ear first thing in the morning, followed by the mandatory walk whatever the weather – I don't think I'm converted back to having one again.

One of the walks we did with the dog over the weekend was along the track of the old A3 at Hindhead. This is what it looks like now.

Old A3 at Hindhead

6th August 2012

The whole country seems to be immersed in the Olympic Games at the moment – whether it wants to be or not! Our TV is perpetually tuned in to it.

30th July 2012

Our hot summer weather lasted almost exactly a week – until the Olympics began. Maybe it will start again when they're over.

Did I tell you that I'm playing René again in another rendition of 'Allo 'Allo? So, three years after learning the lines once, I'm trying to remember them again – and again growing one of those nasty furry things on my upper lip. We perform over the last two weekends of September at The Phoenix in Bordon. "Those of you who have been paying attention will know that this is my café …"

23rd July 2012

Summer weather finally began this week! It's been a long wait, since about April. We had a barbecue yesterday to celebrate.

16th July 2012

To our utter relief, the "60s show" was indeed 'alright on the night'. In fact the audiences loved it on both nights. But what a palaver in putting it on! We both felt quite drained yesterday, but life's just about getting back to normal today. I'll post pics on the HTC website when we get them.

9th July 2012

Nearly every waking (and sleeping!) moment being taken up with getting the "60s show" up and running this coming weekend. It will be alright on the night.

2nd July 2012

Yesterday we went to 'Lark Rise' (aka Juniper Hill) for lunch in Flora Thompson's old house. There were 12 of us, all involved with research on Flora in one way or another. It was a stimulating meeting in which quite a bit of useful information was shared. Our thanks to our hosts, who were happy to share their historic residence with us.

One of the people there was Mick Jones, a musician and playwright whose production of 'All Quiet on the Western Front' is being performed at Cropredy next month. The play includes music (of course), including the song which we perform a lot here and call 'The Hampshire Song'. By coincidence we had just received a recording on Youtube of our group singing a (very) imprompu version in our house – our thanks to Skip Hoffman for that.

25th June 2012

Halfway to Christmas! Let's hope for better weather when we get there!!

Any helpful BT telephone wiring experts reading this? Our phones stopped ringing in while we were away last week – they rang out OK, but not in. We contacted BT who (eventually) told us to unscrew the faceplate of our Master Socket (a NTE5 type) and plug into the internal socket there – which we did, and it solved the problem. But we can't leave it like that, all unscrewed and naked, so I'm not sure what to do next. Ideas welcome. [Seems it was the phone that was faulty all the time. It's 4 years old – Binatone, is that regarded as an acceptable lifespan these days?]

18th June 2012

Over the weekend we've been involved in the Conan Doyle events at Hindhead and Grayshott. Dil ended up sitting next to Gyles Brandreth at the 'Baker Street lunch' in the Fox & Pelican yesterday, and in his concluding speech he referred to her as my 'child bride' – so she's definitely a fan of his now!

Today I constructed a tea chest bass (see right) for use in the 60s Evening in July. Takes me back to my schooldays when I played a similar instrument, with Ian Dury on bongos. It doesn't have quite the sonic range of my electric bass (about G to C is all I get), so I may have to improvise on stage. We've also borrowed a washboard and bought six kazoos - so there will be a massed kazoo and skiffle band in Headley. Be warned.

11th June 2012

We've been visiting Northumberland, where I'm glad to say the sun shone while Hampshire was swimming in the rain.

The Bath House at Howick, with Dunstanburgh Castle looming like a battleship in the distance

The 'battleship' at closer quarters, looking north from Craster…

…and from Embleton Bay on the other side, looking nothing like a battleship

…nor when viewed from the hutted 'village' on the dunes by Newton

The geology of the coast between Craster and Howick is said to be very interesting

And in places you could fancy you're by the Med – if it wasn't for the cold nor'easterly

What did the cormorant
say to the seagull?

How about this for a holiday let?
'Lookout Cottage' at Newton – outside loo and shared coastguard radio mast

We also visited Alnwick – perhaps not the most friendly welcome at the long-term car park!

Before Alnwick was bypassed, all the traffic to and from Scotland had to squeeze through this narrow archway. Today they were getting ready to receive the Olympic Torch

Through the arch the street
broadens out considerably

Hop on a bus! But from Alnwick to Putney is a long hop

4th June 2012

On 12th May 1836, the spire of Headley's church burnt down. Today, just over 176 years later, we may have been tempting providence by lighting a Jubilee Beacon on top of the remaining tower. As I type, it's still alight (see photo right, by John Wilson). I'll let you know if there's a story to tell later!

28th May 2012

We went to France for a few days in Périgord and a few days in Vendée. Here are some memorable moments:—

A working water mill near Brantôme

A friendly lizard popped out of a pipe
to say 'Bonjour'

Cyrano de Bergerac in Bergerac, though history says he wasn't

Not sure I'd like to live next to this idea in Bergerac!

This was seen in Brantôme –
do you think these Baths still operate?

Could be an uncomfortable journey!

The troglodyte city by the river Vezere – well worth a visit

A loo for long-legged people
– which Dil isn't

ONE has lost one's bearings!

The stream through our village had a name remeniscent of a plastic doll!

Seen at a Motorway service area – for
a meeting at the fountain of knowledge?

Shop at Les Sables d'Olonne dedicated to the round-the-world yacht race

Striking coins for Richard,
Coeur de Lion at a
medieval fair

Obviously fond of their Rugby
in the Vendée

Me, tucking into a dish of Moules …

… followed by a Café Gourmand

14th May 2012

I spent most of the weekend stewarding at an exhibition of Headley's History in the Church Centre. It was organised by Sue Allden, whose family has been in the parish for centuries, and it was very successful. The snap-shot here of the documents laid out in the hall really doesn't do it justice.

Behind the camera was another room in which I had the Laverty Papers on microfilm and spent my time constructively doing more transcribing. We also had maps and scrapbooks from the Archives there, and an audio tape of village voices talking about their wartime experiences

And of course there was the opportunity for people to talk together and swap stories – which in its own way was as intertesting as the exhibition itself.

7th May 2012

We've had Ruth, Skip & Julia Hoffman over to visit us from the States for a few days, and yesterday they joined me on my monthly 6-mile Walk for Health. Here's a picture of all the walkers at Huntingford Bridge.

It's billed as the annual 'bluebell' walk, but some years we've been too early and some years we've been too late for them – this year, however, it was just right and we saw a good display of them as we walked throught the woods.

30th April 2012

Postal rates skyrocketed today! Not only did the basic rates go up, but they also removed 100g, 250g & 500g rates for packets, all to be charged at 750g now!!

Dil has been busy over many weeks, nay months, making quilts for friends & relations, and has decided to keep a photographic record – very nice they are too – here are some of them (so OK, the one on the right is a rucksack not a quilt – it's a new line):

For my contribution this week, here's my selection of books on Flora Thompson which I display during my talks.

In this instance, they are standing on top of the glass cabinet holding the semi-permanent display I set up in the Allen Gallery in Alton this month to go with their exhibition of wood engravings for the Folio Society edition of Lark Rise to Candleford.

23rd April 2012

It's St George's Day. I'm not super-patriotic about England actually, but we do seem to be the sum of the forgotten parts that are left over after everyone else on these Isles has celebrated their own Celtic bits!

We do our best to celebrate Englishness at this time of year by putting on a play with English connections. As I mentioned below, this year it was a rendition of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales along with a medieval banquet in the Village Hall. Great fun was had by all! Have a look.

16th April 2012

We've been putting together a show based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and yesterday was the Dress Rehearsal. See pics.
Yours truly is playing a strutting cock!
It didn't go badly on stage, though there's still some concern about how best to serve the medieval banquet that will go with it.
The really good news is that we've been 'sold out' for the last week – the first time any of us can remember that happening!

9th April 2012

As it happens, today's Easter Monday this year – and a wet one too. Just as they've announced a hose-pipe ban here in southern England!

I bought myself a Digital Photo Frame (a Kitvision 7-inch since you ask) in order show a rolling set of images to give a bit of interest to my displays – and I went to set it up in the Allen Gallery in Alton, where I'm complementing their exhibition of illustrations from the latest publication of Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford. However I hit a snag – it needs a power cable, and we couldn't find a way to feed it into the cabinet where my exhibits were on display without compromising security. So it's back in its box waiting for another occasion.

2nd April 2012

Nothing to 'write home about' but nonetheless seem to have been quite busy since coming back from holiday.

Spring has sprung, so let's make sure we enjoy the freshest season of the year, and don't suddenly find it's gone and we missed it!

26th March 2012

To see and hear my daughter Sarah playing the clarinet nicely see Youtube

We've been away to Wales, near to Fishguard. The weather was kind and the accommodation we chose was superb. Here are some of the highlights:

This was our cottage

These were some of our neighbours

This was a map at the
entrance to the local valley

And this was me walking down the lane
in the evening – long John!

We visited St David's, of course.

And a woollen mill …

…which they are hoping to restore to water-power.

The incoming Rosslare ferry
passes Strumble Head

We were near the site of the 'last French invasion of Britain' – and there is a tapestry in Fishguard Town Hall to describe it. Who needs Bayeux?

…but who or what these metal sculptures in the middle of a field were
we never found out!

12th March 2012

Things dramatic: I've finished writing the script for next year's pantomime (Aladdin since you ask!) and I'm learning my lines for our stab at Canterbury Tales in April – I'm an old Cock in one tale and the Reeve in another.

Things textual: I've just about finished getting my aunt's memoirs into shape for publishing; and I'm assisting in publishing a couple of novels for friends.

Things historical: I'm gradually gathering a team of transcribers to tackle Mr Laverty's papers – all 3,000-odd pages of them. One day there will be light at the end of the tunnel!

1st March 2012

Dil became a grandmother today – the baby missed having a birthday only once in every four years by waiting a day, to make an appearance on St David's Day. Her name is Tallulah. Congratulations to Steve & Leeks!

27th February 2012

I spent Sunday tramping round Canterbury while Dil and Sarah went shopping. Should have worn my proper walking shoes – at the end of the day my feet were killing me! Here are some of the photos that I took. I'm told there is also a cathedral in town, but I circled the walls and never got to it!

By the Marlowe Theatre

Play-maze just inside the city wall

Alternative to the cathedral?


20th February 2012

Dil sent me 12 red roses! :-)

13th February 2012

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day – do your best, chaps!

6th February 2012

In the past few days I've taken nearly 3,000 photos – eat your heart out David Bailey! – But let me explain.

The Headley Society has long wished to make a transcription of the contents of notebooks written by a late rector of this parish, Wallis Hay Laverty who was rector from 1872 to 1928. In these books he has a few words to say about each of his parishioners, some of which are not altogether complimentary! Finally, after much heart-searching by the church and record office authorities, we have been allowed to purchase microfilm copies of all but the most recent of these books.

So now the lengthy job of transcription begins. In order to make it quicker, I decided to try taking photos of each screen so that I could distribute image files to anyone who had a computer, rather than all queue up to use the one microfilm reader. To the right is one such page. It may still take a year or three from now to complete the project, but at least we're on our way! Have a look at the website to see how we're progressing.

30th January 2012

Yesterday I said to Dil: 'This is a day you only get once every four years!' You see, I'm a month out already. Is it really only just over a month since Christmas? It seems like forever.

Just finished writing the first draft of next year's pantomime: it's Aladdin. I always find the best time to write pantos is just after running one – oh yes it is! The right (or write) juices seem to be flowing. It's already decided that Tina will direct this one – quite like old times, when I never would direct the first production of one of my own scripts. I've become more confident since, but it will still be interesting to see what someone else makes of it.

I've been asked to speak for just 8 minutes on Flora Thompson on 1st July. My normal talk is 45 minutes, so it will be an exercise in reduction – hopefully not Reductio ad absurdum! For once I must write out what I have to say and time it, rather than just rabbitting on until I get to the end of my story. Good education, but less fun. I wonder if I can do it without hesitation, repetition or deviation?

23rd January 2012

The panto is over for this year – and it went well. Sighs of relief all round! Well, there was the small matter of the same scene repeated in both acts on Friday night, but we'll gloss over that – the audience didn't even notice, which shows the notable ability of our cast to cover up for each other!

As Director, I was given a gift at the end and, seeing it was the Nutcracker, what more appropriate than – a Nutcracker? Not just that, but a Drosselmeyer Nutcracker! Here it is on the right, and it really works. Thank you cast, for that and for the performances. It was a happy show. See here for pictures.

16th January 2012

Forgive the missing week. Blame the panto – we were 'full on' at the time. Happily my nervousness of 2nd Jan wasn't justified – it didn't crack my nuts, and we've just had a really good weekend of performances. Three more performances to come this weekend, and I'm feeling far happier about it.

We had Angus take a set of cast photos – here's mine on the right. Black hat and black shirt against a black background – hmm – but at least you can see my face. (And remind me, I must do something about that cracked, discoloured front tooth!)

2nd January 2012

We were straight back to pantomime rehearsals on 27th Dec, as soon as Christmas was over. I'm sure the show will be 'alright on the night' (we go up on Friday 13th!) but at the moment I'm more nervous about it than I was this time last year. Not sure why. Watch this space to see how well it goes.

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!