John Owen Smith’s log for 2013

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21st December 2013 – 2nd January 2014

We're back from the cruise! Would we do it again? Probably not – it's not really our style, or at least the Cunard version isn't. We found it too formal for our taste.
The weather didn't allow us to put into La Coruna, but here are some pics from the places we did visit: Lanzarote, Teneriffe, Madeira & Lisbon.

View from our balcony during
the rough weather at the start.

Me taking a 'selfie'
on the balcony.

Lanzarote: this is not a slag heap,
but a volcano

Our guide showing us a stone
from – a volcano

Another brooding volcano.
Lanzarote is full of them!

A tourist attraction near a tunnel made by – a volcano

While we were in port
they had a diver …

…down under the ship
– don't know why.

Tenerife: We hit the town instead of
looking at more volcanos!

A postman's nightmare: they'd renumbered the houses
and left the old numbers there!

One of the tastiest tuna meals I've ever had.

They'd wrapped their trees up
– for Christmas?

Madeira: We took an open-top bus tour rather than take to the sky!

Saw the second-highest sea cliff
in the world (or so they say)

And below it, the fishing port
where Churchill painted

We resisted the tempation
to hop off the bus here!

One of the sledges from Monte, outside a café

Bye-bye Madeira!

Hello Lisbon! The weather wasn't too good, but the old trams were.

They say the entry to Lisbon by ship is worth seeing – but it was dark both ways!


16th December 2013

Dil and I stayed at Lytes Cary (now christened 'Lights Scary' by our group due to electrical problems in the dining room) for most of the week – the original 14 (see below) had diminished to the 'magnificent 7' by the time we finally left on Thursday. Now we're concentrating on: Dil being in a production of Flint St Nativity next week; both of us being in the pantomime which goes up on 10th Jan; and in between the two, getting ready to go on a cruise on the Queen Victoria to the Atlantic islands. See where we are. Room 8075. Pics when we get back!


9th December 2013

Back at Lytes Cary for our annual 'December House' gathering. We were blessed with wonderful, mild weather. Walks and shopping were the order of the day, and music and merriment the order of the evenings.

See our photo of two years ago! This year's one was taken by me (in bright red shirt) – I ran back in the 12 seconds my camera allowed!


2nd December 2013

I was up at Hindhead on Wednesday morning to meet people from BBC Countryfile who want to film next week. Unfortunately it was a foggy day, so they couldn't see the views, but let's hope for better weather when they come to film – if they come to film. I've heard nothing from them since, but I'm growing the beard again in case I have to appear as Sir Robert Hunter. [In the event, I wasn't needed to be filmed and the beard was swiftly removed again!]

Meanwhile Christmas has begun at Headley Village Hall – I ran the annual Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday, and Dil masterminded the annual Yuletide in Headley show yesterday. Both were successful in their different ways.


25th November 2013

Spent some time this week adding photos from old shows to the Headley Theatre Club website. If you know some cast names that have been missed, do let me know.


18th November 2013

Met people from the Buriton Heritage Bank in our archive room and exchanged notes on getting info about what happened in our respective villages during WW2 – main difference is that we did it 20 years ago when there were many more people alive to remember.

Talked to the good ladies of Boxgrove WI in the St Blaise Centre, by the ruins of the Priory which I'd never visited before.

Visited the refurbished Deer's Hut at Grigg's Green near Liphook for supper – very nice, but I don't think we'll be going back any time soon to pay those prices!

Nearly set the chimney on fire at Deb's birthday party – we had put candles in the fireplace, and one fell over and lit the wood there – a wax-fuelled fire ensued!

Wen to see 'Music, Ammore & Macaroni' at The Phoenix last night. Three Italians who sang, played and cooked on stage. Dil won a raffle to go on stage and eat a pasta meal they'd prepared, but passed it on to me!! It was very tasty. And we still got home in time for our own supper.


11th November 2013

The talk went well – the beard is off – Sir Robert Hunter's year has officially ended!


4th November 2013

October seemed a really long month for some reason. Now November beckons, with Dil involved in organising the village Christmas Show and in rehearsals for Flint St Nativity at The Phoenix – as well as both of us being in the pantomime.

I still have my talk as Sir Robert Hunter to do this Wednesday (then the beard gets shaved off!) and a book on Headley Mill to compose. For the latter, I at least have the painting that I commissioned for the front cover (see right) – now I just need to do the book.

Headley Mill by Wendy Bennett, 2013


28th Oct 2013

We went for a weekend 'glamping' in North Devon.

This is the tent which we 'glamped' in

This was the 'kennel' which we slept in

View from above – ours was the tent on the right
– distant view of Combe Martin and the sea

Steve & Leeks go rowing on glampsite the pond …

… & Leeks finds a problem in having long hair!

We came home a day early to beat the 'hurricane' predicted for today.
The tent was well secured, but …

22nd October 2013

The second weekend's performances of Fawlty Towers went very well too. See the photos and a review.

My daughter Sarah has just sent me a Youtube link to one of her clarinet performances – nice! If you want to book her to play at your event (weddings, etc) see http://members.lastminutemusicians.com/mischief.html Satisfaction guaranteed!


14th October 2013

The first weekend's performances of Fawlty Towers went very well. One more weekend to go!


7th October 2013

"I've never been in a winning team," said I as we settled down to a Quiz Evening on Saturday. Now I can say it in truth no longer. Dear reader, we won that quiz, and have a magnificent silver cup to cherish and share (between 7 of us!) for a year.

Our team name was 'Witnits'. Aficionados of Fawlty Towers may be able to figure out why.


30th September 2013

Just back from a week in Northumberland.

Bringing in the evening tourists
at Beadnell.

Alnwick Food Market in near-tropical weather, in September!

The main cascade at Alnwick Gardens.

Deb getting right inside
a water feature.

The tree house restaurant
at Alnwick Gardens.

Something I'd not seen before –
tiny lights embedded in grouting.

Cragside, near Rothbury.

View from a high window
at Cragside.

Dunstanburgh Castle from the West.

Dunstanburgh Castle from the South.

And best of all, the castle viewed from the pub in Craster!

The pele tower at Preston,
about to peal noon!

Lindisfarne (Holy Island) castle,
and upturned boats used as sheds

Gertrude Jekyll's garden at Lindisfarne.

Remains of Lindisfarne Priory.

The rotating gate that catches handbags!

I'd wanted to visit Duddo Stones ever since my daughter took this wonderful photo of them some years ago.

This year we de did. Here are the stones close up…

…weird or what?

Finally, we visited the working water mill at Heatherslaw.
If only Headley Mill could become a similar showcase!


16th September 2013

We've been on an 8-nation tour of Europe by car. Here are some highlights (and lowlights!)

We started in Belgium, visiting the site of the Battle of Waterloo.

Despite the name, there were no loos, and most people seemed to perform behind the trucks!

Luxembourg city, built on
either side of a ravine…

…and magic happens

…ahem!

This was a painted wall in Aachen about to be demolished, or so it seemed.

Trier, another pleasant old German town…

…but best of all (according to the ladies), it has a C&A!

…and they do nice drain covers.

Valkenburg, Holland. How many coffee shops do you need in a street?

Dutch transport.

Colmar seems Franco-German

More nice drain covers in Freiburg.

In the Black Forest, you can get
little cuckoo clocks…

…and big cuckoo clocks!

…and psychedelic cows too!!

Men in Freiburg can enjoy
hitting the swinging pink pea when they wee!

In Freiburg they have also
saint sundials

…and small boats in the street!

We escaped to Italy
via lake Maggiore

More nice drain covers in
a town called Bra!

Alba, a town which has a perpetual odour of chocolate in the air –
due to the Ferrero factory!

View of the Alps from Cocconato –
a hilltop town in Piedmont
which you must visit!

Also, do visit our favourite restaurant –
at Santanay in Burgundy…

and get an aerial view of the town
from the nearby 3-crosses hill.

Here are the 3 crosses.

The biggest steam hammer in the world
is at Le Creusot.

There are the dimensions.
(not at Le Creuset…)

Here is the business end.
(…it doesn't make pans!)

Visions of Tournus
sur Saone…

Sponsoring early evening drama on ITV3?

Nick, with not even
a pink pea to aim at!

More water! – the Canal du Centre
connects the Saone to the Loire

A fleeting view of Chartres cathedral
from a speeding car!

The 'petit train' terminus by the Somme
at St Valéry on a grey day

Ever wondered what's 'under the boardwalk down by the sea'?

Merlimont-Plage, where I
first camped in France in the 1950s!

Is this a giraffe made of Bakelite?

And what on earth is this?

Fancy a pole dance?

Be alert in Le Touquet!

And for fans of 'Allo 'Allo,
yes, Nouvion actually exists!


26th August 2013

Went to see 'As You Like It' open-air at Petworth House. This is the play that George Bernard Shaw stumbled upon, being played by amateurs in a garden in Hindhead around 1899, and wrote such a devastating 1,700-word letter of criticism to the local paper. I've always wanted to see it played open-air ever since!

I have to say I thought it was good – but I still wonder what the ghost of GBS might have made of it.


19th August 2013

Spent a sunny day in Ramsgate over the weekend. I'd not noticed the Pulhamite stone before – but once noticed, it seemed to be everywhere.

On the way back, passing Manston Airport, we noticed the Red Arrows warming their planes up, so we got ourselves onto a grassy knoll to watch them take off, making white smoke as they did so. Sadly, although I took about a dozen shots, my camera only caught the fuzzy image of one plane – not worth reproducing here!

The stone between these arches in Ramsgate is not real stone, but Pulhamite – and so is the walkway on the right


12th August 2013

Yesterday, I led a group from the Octavia Hill Society over Hindhead Common. They had come by coach from Wisbech to commemorate the centenary of the death of Sir Robert Hunter (co-founder of The National Trust) on his 'home patch'.

The views from Gibbet Hill were magnificent, with the towers of London clearly visible on the horizon. After that, we went down to St Bartholomew's Church in Haslemere to meet the rector and plant a rose tree in his memory. Sir Robert was buried there in the churchyard in November 1913, but nobody is quite sure where – perhaps by November we can find out!


5th August 2013

Typical week: one Pilates session, one bass-playing session, one long walk, three meetings and a rehearsal evening.
In-between times, I'm transcribing Headley marriages 1851-1901. As of today, 10 more years to go!


29th July 2013

The sun is still with us on occasions, but the long, dry spell ended last week. Let's hope we have more to come next month.

I set up my annual stall (right) at the Rural Life Centre yesterday for their Rustic Sunday. The pink bowl on the right of the picture is for demonstrating paper-making. Visitor numbers were down this year – I only sold 5 books and nobody wanted a paper-making demo!


22nd July 2013

The magnificent weather continues – along with another Brit winning the Tour de France (that's two in a row) and England demolishing the Aussies in the second Test. It's becoming a summer to remember!

I've been playing with the idea of developing eBooks (that is, proper Kindle-type eBooks; not PDFs) from my backlist, and downloaded a free program called calibre as an experiment. It seems to work well – I now have a version of Heatherley which runs properly on a Kindle – but I'm not sure where I go from here, in other words how to sell them. I could sacrifice myself to the dread dragon called Amazon, but I'm not keen on the idea. So watch this space.


15th July 2013

Still lovely weather! I had to speak for my lunch at a Probus near Christchurch on Tuesday – Dil came along and spent a few sunny hours at the seaside.

We held auditions for Fawlty Towers this week – due to be performed in October. You may order tickets now!

On Saturday it was the Headley Theatre Club's Summer Ball – my daughter Sarah played in the band, and a very good time was had by all.

Then on Sunday it was Steve & Mel's turn to host the supper club, and they introduced us to miracle berries. Quite amazing!


8th July 2013

All quiet this week, in an interregnum between finishing one show and starting rehearsals for the next – so nothing to do but enjoy some lovely weather!


1st July 2013

I spent much of the week collecting and collating information needed to compile the book on Headley Mill which I've said I'll publish next year. Headley's was the last watermill in Hampshire to grind corn for its living until the business ceased a few years ago. It's still in working condition, however, and it would be good to see it operating again, even if only as a heritage site.

Over the weekend I compered the final of the Headley Factor, which is a local singing competition. During the interval I was encouraged to join Marion and Keri on stage (see right) to lead some community singing. I think we can safely say that we weren't quite in the same league as the winners of the competition!


24th June 2013

The weather on Hindhead yesterday was good enough, and we ended the tour of The Broomsquire on a high. We've had positive feedback from audiences throughout, and the cast have enjoyed it too. Job done!

So now I've no excuses – I'd better get on with some other projects which I'd been fending off until the run was over.


17th June 2013

The first three performances of The Broomsquire went extremely well. See the pictures so far. Still three more venues to cover next weekend, including an open-air performance on Hindhead Common on Sunday afternoon. We're praying for fine weather then!


10th June 2013

So what have I been doing in the last fortnight? (except for forgetting to update this log last week!)

We compered a Lions' charity evening in Whitehill, which was a bit 'ad hoc' but did the intended business of raising money. We visited Petworth and Petworth House & Park, which although virtually on our doorstep we had not done before. I spoke about Flora Thompson at the Weald & Downland Museum in Singleton. And we went to Haslemere Museum to hear Phyllida Lloyd, who directed both stage & screen versions of Mama Mia! – it was a good evening.

Also we rehearsed The Broomsquire several times, including outdoors on one occasion. See pictures of the cast. At the end of this week we go 'live' at Haslemere Museum and begin the local tour of the show. Wish us luck or, even better, come and see us.


27th May 2013

Sunshine for two weekends running! Mind you, the weather in-between has been a bit dire, but let's be thanklful for small mercies.

Some of the cast of Broomsquire walked from Hindhead to Thursley on Saturday, to see the terrain the story is set in; and Luke the Broomsquire managed to lob a small piece of ironstone to lodge on top of Thor's Stone (see right) – not easy, as it was surrounded by a bog.

Then on Sunday, in astoundingly good weather, I led another Dramatic Walk, this time round Waggoners Wells see the results.

And today, being a Bank Holiday, I shared a bookstall at South Harting Festival, and surprisingly sold 12 books I say surprisingly because it's way outside my 'local' area for selling local history books.

Thor's Stone on Thursley Common

South Harting in festival yesterday


20 May 2013

Despite dire weather forecasts, the sun shone on our Dramatic Walk at Hindhead yesterday. We had about two dozen followers not as many as in other years, but this year there were other attractions going on across the road by the café. Angus followed us around with his trusty camera see the results.


13th May 2013

Sorry if you missed me last week we were away in and around Dovedale. Had a couple of beautiful days weatherwise, which we spent walking. Other not-so-beautiful days were spent visiting towns and other places of interest in that part of Derbyshire and Staffs.

Our cottage (right) was next to a pub in a place called Hope. Couldn't be better!

And the lanes were lined with daffodils

We were just up the valley from Milldale – this shot taken when it wasn't swarming with visitors!

Is this man walking to the left,
or running to the right?
We never did find out.

On our walk up Dovedale, Stu leads the way across stepping stones.

The path out of the valley was steeper than some liked!

But it was nice to look back on …

… and the higher we got the nicer it looked!

This is Ilam Rock,
down the valley.

There were a lot of stone walls,
and gaps through them to embarrass the portly walker!

But what was this all about?
A tipsy mason?

And I never did work out
what this was.

We visited Thor's Cave, both outside …

… and inside …

… and further inside.

The view of Manifold Valley
from the cave entrance.

The 260 steps we could have climbed, but we found the cunning level route from Wetton.

A convenient shelter when Leek was leaking!

They love their library in Leek.

Water power …

… for the flint mill at nearby Cheddleton – on the banks of the Caldon Canal …

… which ends ends at Frogall Basin.

Couldn't resist visiting Flash
– but sadly we didn't find the Flash Bottom
which the OS map had promised us!

Cheese-presses at the cheese shop
in Hartington

And finally, a friendly pheasant who jumped up on a wall as I passed – obviously knew I hadn't got a gun on me.


29th April 2013

Headley Mill was until recently the only water mill in Hampshire able still to mill a bag of flour. Sadly the business has now ceased, although it is still in the ownership of the Ellis family. Next year will be the centenary of the family's ownership of the mill, and I have agreed to work with Richard Ellis on a new book detailing the mill's history for publication at the centenary. Thanks to the Bishops of Winchester and their 'pipe rolls' the history can be traced back to the 1200s, so it should be an interesting project.

To the right is the mill wheel, still in fully working order.


22nd April 2013

Tomorrow is St George's Day, and also Shakespeare's Day (anniversary of his death and, some say, of his birth), but we got in early with our weekend homage to the Bard. Bard Again! (see cast pic below) went very well, and we re-educated yet more audiences in the subtleties of Shakespeare (not!)

Now we're straight into rehearsals for The Broomsquire. Truly there is no peace for the wicked!!

PS. By the way, don't shout, but Spring seems to have arrived at last.


14th April 2013

Today was the first decent day of the year, weather wise, so what did we do? Spent it indoors rehearsaing for Bard Again! Actually, during the interval we got (most of) the cast out onto the adjacent village green & into the sunshine for a photo-shoot. The result is to the right. I'm kneeling in the middle of the front row next to yellow Ollie.

We open on Friday come and enjoy the prospect of a medieval feast amid a polo match in Venice!


8th April 2013

It was Bath time this weekend. We stayed at Poppy Cottage in Corsham along with Nick & Erika, and went to see Noises Off at the theatre in Bath on the Saturday evening (for Nick's birthday present). It was an excellent performance, although a bit worrying for someone currently directing a show coming up for its dress rehearsal!

On Sunday we had lunch with Steve, Leeks & Tallulah in the George at Bathampton, and afterwards went for a short walk along the canal (right). Sunny, but the air was chilly. We still feel as if we're waiting for Spring to arrive!


1st April 2013

So, we've arrived in April, and there's still no sign on Spring in the air. They say it's been the coldest March since records began. Dil and I both have lingering remnants of coughs and the other day I coughed so hard that I pulled a muscle in my back, so now I'm hobbling too!

A few nice, warm days wouldn't come amiss any chance?


25th March 2013

This week I have nothing to offer you but coughs, sweat and smears! Dil and I both caught the wheezy, coughing, chesty bug that's been going round and were pretty much hors de combat for three days each, though not quite simultaneously. I'm still coughing as I type this. The only good thing about it is that we had no engagements over the weekend that couldn't be cancelled, and it gave us a superb excuse not to go out in the cold weather we've all been having. "Oh to get to April, would that Spring be here!"


18th March 2013

We threw the first of a series of dinner dates on Saturday. The idea is that different people host an eating event each month, be it a lunch, a picnic, a barbecue, or whatever depending on the season, the weather, the size of their accommodation and their culinary confidence.

Ours was Italian in theme and we now know that we can fit 15 people round a long table in our conservatory just.


11th March 2013

Sorry I wasn't here to blog last week we went to Guernsey. To make up for it, here is a montage of memories from the island.

St Peter Port when we arrived on the ferry from Portsmouth on a grey March afternoon

A chance to maintain the Sark & Herm
ferry boats at low tide!

We thought this was a miniature galleon at first, but it's just a fishing boat.

The island coast has many slipways, some bifurcated.

Yes, it was chilly when we took
our first cliff walk …

… but later in the week it was sunny
and almost warm!

The cliff path passes many
military memories …

… some more prominent than others.

A German tower on top of a British tower & spring flowers!

When we first saw this we thought it was
a toy tank but it's a concealed gun.

This was its big brother,
recently re-installed.

Older and later defences often merged,
as here …

… and here, where a German observation post
is camouflaged by existing brickwork.

The Shell Shrine in a German bunker see link for story.

Here is Fort Grey,
by day, in Rocquaine Bay …

… and here's the same sight, alight
by night from our hotel window.

The famous Little Chapel decorated entirely with mosaic pieces …

… inside and out. Do visit
it's quite incredible.

Think Guernsey, think cows
but we didn't see many on our visit.

Found one! Tethered to its circle of grass.
In a field opposite the Little Chapel.

The entrance to one of the ancient
'passage tombs' on the island.

This is the inside
of another.

The 'fairy ring' which of course is nothing of the sort.

Now here's an idea we could well take
home to Hampshire!

The mail is Royal Blue
in Guernsey.

This intrigued us a dog fence made of little white flags. Any clues?

Now, I don't want to get picky, but do they really only have one fisherman on the island?

There is nobody riding the horse,
so I suppose that's alright then.

This is Lihou Island. At low tide you can walk out to it …

… except that when we got there, you couldn't see it for fog! So we didn't.

So that's Guernsey really. Would we go again? Probably not. There's only so much you can do on an island of that size, especially out of season. Next time we'll find somewhere bigger to go to.
PS: Just heard they've had 10cm of snow in Guernsey today so perhaps we didn't do so badly going when we did!


25th February 2013

A day in London. Primarily because Deb had promised to take Dil out to "tea at the Ritz" for Mothers Day last year, and had finally got round to organising it! Dil had reciprocated by booking us seats to see The Mousetrap in the evening, performance number 25,114! We are not supposed to snitch on who dunnit but I can tell you it wasn't the butler. In between times we visited: Foyles (where Jo was pleased to see 4 copies of Heatherley on their shelves); and the British Museum, which had not lost its charm.

By the way BT, we still have no phone since the Friday before last. Not even seen a BT man looking interested. Not good. Could do better.


18th February 2013

Our phone is on the blink, again (see 25th June last year). It cut out some time on Friday afternoon. This time nothing comes in or goes out, although the broadband is still working go figure. We're waiting for BT to contact us, on our mobile.

Meanwhile, I'm mulling over how to present my talk in November on Sir Robert Hunter, founder of the National Trust. It's due on 6th November, the 100th anniversary of his death, but by that time two National Trust directors will have come to Haslemere to give their own talks about him. Playing to my strengths, I'm edging towards making it a dramatic monologue, presenting myself as Hunter (we are of an age!) in costume and introducing other local characters who I know a bit more about. Early days I'll keep you informed of progress.


11th February 2013

"Veined with the gold of late flowering gorse … soft misty rain … small slender birches … heather-clad hills"
Flora Thompson, Heatherley

There are two types of sculpture
being prepared for Hindhead:

On the left is part of one of the wooden blocks being carved in local schools
it's the one I had a hand in,
its theme being literature.

On the right is an altogether colder scene
at Hindhead itself.

Jon Edgar at work in situ on the stone. Can you see what it is yet?

A pair of stereo images photographed by Charles Warner if you look at them with unfocussed eyes you should see a 3D effect.


4th February 2013

No, I haven't fallen off a cliff just a bit too busy to make an entry this week! I'm immersed in typesetting the annual Headley Report, which is a week behind schedule. Will get back to you when the rush is over.


28th January 2013

Up to Hindhead on Saturday for the last opportunity for the schoolkids to have their input into the stone sculpture which Jon Edgar is creating there. Right: the group, with me centre-back.
Just think – in 5 months time we put a play on here. Hope the weather's warmer!


21st January 2013

Snow threatend to put a stop to the second weekend of the pantomime Aladdin, but in the end we got the cast there – a shame that audience numbers were down though; they missed a good show.

Right: the Village Hall before the Saturday matinée


14th January 2013

The plan worked. We now have a beautiful wooden floor thanks to Steve, and we also had a successful first weekend with the pantomime.

Steve and the new floor

Under the A3 bridge in Liphook lurks a local 'Banksy'
This is some of his work.

7th January 2013

The year began with a delivery of floor boards! We have given up the unequal struggle of trying to keep the lounge carpet looking half decent, and decided to replace it with new floorboards and rugs. The plan is for Dil's son Steve to do the job for us while we're performing in the village pantomime (oh yes we are!). This year it's Aladdin – first night is this Friday, 11th Jan – come numerous to see the Emperor and Empress of China in action.


Continued …


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