John Owen Smith’s log for 2015

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28th December 2015

On Boxing Day our computer failed – that is, it wouldn't boot up and asked us to load the original set-up disk and press 'P' to sort things out. Since we don't have the original set-up disk, this was difficult. We went to bed thinking dark thoughts about how to pursue our various activities without the computer, and more particularly without the data and programs that were on it. In the morning it fired up again without any problem, but it set us thinking – and we have now bought a new computer with the latest operating system which we intend to change to, just as soon as we can find the time! At the moment it's still in its box.

21st December 2015

Back from a weekend in Corsham. Weather unseasonably mild. We watched the youngsters skating on melting ice in Bath. Dil lost her mobile phone on a bus. And when we got home we found a large hamper had been delivered to us, but with no sender's name – so 'thank you' to whoever sent it to us, and we hope we can thank you for it properly some time! [It was my sister – thank you, Di]

14th December 2015

It's been a hectic weekend: freshly back from the Isle of Wight, we organised entertainment for the Headley Society's Yuletide Feast on Friday; and we organised the Yuletide Concert for the village on Saturday (see photos) – and today I had a tooth pulled out, the one that I broke eating a French muffin in Paris earlier in the year. I'm sitting with a wadge of cotton wool in my mouth as I type!

7th December 2015

It's the week of our 'December House' when we and a group of friends go away to spend a few days in a big house. This year it was at Mottistone on the Isle of Wight. The weather was generally kind to us, though it was blowing a gale on the day we went fossil-hunting on the beach at Sandown. See below

One way to get to the Isle of Wight – but we took the conventional car ferry.

The house we stayed in.

Louis trying to push over the long stone of Mottistone.

Daffodils out in December!

Fossil-hunting at Sandown…

Is this a dinosaur footprint?

Is this Scott of the Antarctic returning? No, it's Dave Horne riding a sandstorm.

But it's good to get back
for a beer!

30th November 2015

In the run-up to Christmas my eyes glaze over at the number of different events which appear in the diary. Then, one by one, we tick them off to give a clearer view of the future. This weekend it was the annual Christmas Fair in the village hall, which went well despite a new stall-holder not appearing until after we had reallocated his table – I managed to find him a space in the foyer. The weather was kind: sunny and wind-free, so no excuse for the punters to stay away, other than the usual plethora of other events happening on the same day. Some stall-holders did better than usual, and some did less well – I sold 8 books, which is more than I normal do on this local occasion; most people here have usually already got my books.

23rd November 2015

So, the big social event of the year has been and come and gone successfully, by which I mean of course Deb's 40th. We packed the village hall and the Little White Blue band got everyone on the floor (dancing, that is) with my Sarah on reeds. The following morning our house was bursting full for breakfast before guests finally dispersed to the four corners of the globe. I'm sure there will be many photos of various qualities on Facebook – but sadly I don't have any to show here yet.

16th November 2015

Today we had a nuisance call from BT asking us if we'd like them to stop nuisance calls!

9th November 2015

Since it costs nothing to do, I decided to pull my three 'MacHamlet' plays together into a single book (The MacHamlet Trilogy) and publish it on CreateSpace (CS). Later I did the same for The Broomsquire. These are the first books that I've published not using a UK printer. Sad days really, but the CS option is so much more flexible. Come on, Antony Rowe Ltd, get your act together!

2nd November 2015

Season of mists and flu jabs!

25th October 2015

A quiet week. The panto is cast and rehearsals have begun. The car went in for its annual MoT with no problems. The clocks have gone back, and we are starting to have log fires in the evening. Oh, and as a Wet Ham fan, it's nice to see them sitting near the top of the table for once!

19th October 2015

The second weekend of Noises Off went even better than the first, and all concerned are congratulating themselves on a job well done. On Sunday came to job of dismantling the set and finding space to store everything. Nick and I made some executive decisions and did two runs to the Bordon tip!

Tonight it's the auditions for the Pantomime (oh yes it is!) so no peace for the wicked. This year it's my Robin Hood script again (for its third outing) this time being directed by Rod. I'm in the role or Producer, and also down to play bass in the 3-piece band. Keep tuned to this channel for progress reports.

12th October 2015

The play is on! Although neither Dil nor I are strictly speaking involved in Noises Off, we have been aware of its birth pains – and so it's good to report that the first weekend went brilliantly well!

On the right is the cast photo sent to the Press before the show. See here for other photos of the production.

5th October 2015

Another year older! On Saturday we picked up our American friends Ruth & Skip from the Rowbarge Inn at Woolhampton where they had been brought by Gillian & David Lindsay – making it a meeting of Flora Thompson researchers (see photo).

Back home, we invited the world round that evening for my birthday party!

28th September 2015

The trouble with going on holiday is the backlog of work awaiting when you get back. A week later and I've just about caught up!

21st September 2015

Just back from a fortnight's touring in Scotland.

Here we have selected a picture from each day.

Day 1: We spent the night in a shepherd's hut, just south of Berwick.

Day 2: The Falkirk Wheel in action.

Day 3: Moving barrels
at Tomatin distillery.

Day 4: The locks on the Caledonian Canal
at Fort Augustus.

Day 5: Portree on Skye.

Day 6: View of Macleod's Tables
from our hotel window in Dunvegan.

Day 7: Over the seas from Skye to Mallaig.

Day 8: The Harry Potter special
at Fort William.

Day 9: The Great Polish map of Scotland at Eddlestone. Looking up the east coast.

Day 10: A sample of the famous street-knitting
in Selkirk.

Day 11: Sheep on the Yorkshire Moors
near Malham.

Day 12: At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Back home, the cats were glad to see us!

31st August 2015

We held a very successful Here's Headley event on Saturday, and the weather was kind to us. Over 40 local organisations set their stalls up in and around the Village Hall and Green for people to see what goes on in the locality, and the feedback was very positive. It had been nine years since we held a similar event, but there is now pressure to make it a more regular occurrence.

24th August 2015

We managed to hold a supper party on Saturday with hors d'ouvres in the garden, but good weather has generally been in short supply this month, and the forecast for this coming week is for more rain. At least there won't be a hosepipe ban!

17th August 2015

Attended the annual 'Meet the Authors' fest at Selsey along with some of the authors I help to publish. This is our stall, where I seem to be directing traffic!

Went for a pacemaker check later in the week and got the 'all-clear' for a year. No 'events' recorded this time, despite the cliff-walking last week, so they seem to have got the settings right for my lifestyle now.

10th August 2015

Back from a short visit to friends in Normandy – both the weather and the company were good.

This is where we were
– on the road to the 'end of the world'

Here is the lighthouse at dusk.

A view from
one of the local cliff walks.

View of the lighthouse and Goury
from the south

View of the lighthouse and Semaphore
from the east

And a view of Alderney in the distance.

Traditional 'hole in a stone'
for a farm gatepost

Traditional piece of string across an
open gate to signify ownership

And a not-so-traditional
local "Verrerie d'art"

27th July 2015

I'm doing quite a bit of typesetting for various local authors at the moment – rather like London buses, I get none for ages and then three turn up together! I'm trying not to confuse their books in my mind.

Had an indoor stall at the local open-air museum yesterday – the rain kept the crowds away rather, and I sold just 2 books, but I made a number of useful contacts for possible future publishing ventures.

We're thinking about the holiday we've planned for September, touring Scotland, and hoping the weather will improve by then. Very much that it won't be like this picture which Google Map captured in June 2011, of someone waiting for a bus on Skye!

20th July 2015

Hectic days! We've just finished putting the Summer Show on, and it was judged a success – but it seemed to be hanging on by its finger tips at one time. See photos here when we get them.

On Sunday we went with Deb to a jazz festival in Hampton Hill – a good antidote!

6th July 2015

Happy birthday pacemaker! Yes, it was a year ago that I was in the Royal Surrey Hospital having a pacemaker fitted. This weekend (in celebration?) I did two 6-mile walks. Only my calves are complaining.

28th June 2015

Over the weekend we went half a mile up to road to the newly-opened 'natural burial' site for a jazz concert! The music was good, but attendance was poor. Perhaps we're not ready for such events in such places yet – or maybe it was just badly advertised.

Back at the house, the gardening continued – and as a result I've got more insect bites about my person that I can ever remember. Perhaps I should wear some sort of biosuit next time!

15th June 2015

We seem to have done about 5-years worth of gardening in a week! We've completely overhauled the pond system (constructed in 1999), and with Nick's help have constructed a wood-store out of pallets.

How to make a wood store for next to nothing.
Eight pallets fixed together with screws…

…a dab of paint, a second-hand
corrugated tin roof and, bingo!

And turning the other way, this is the garden looking smart after a week of heavy work.

Our two rescue cats, Smartie and Mars, are making themselves at home and entertaining the neighbours as they go around together.

Here they are by the food bowls in the kitchen
looking hopeful…

…trying to get out of the cat-flap
at the same time…

…and finally making it out into the garden.

8th June 2015

As I write, we have summer weather. Long may it last!

25th May 2015

Four days on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal:—

It all began at Llanfoist,
near Abergavenny…

…in the narrowboat "Harrier"

This is a view of the inside
(from galley to lounge)

And here we are at
our first night's mooring.

Good views from the canal which was
high up on a hillside above the River Usk.

…including this 'Table Top' hill.

And here we are at
another peaceful mooring.

One of the benches carved
with details of the canal.

Some of the bridges were
a little wonky…

…and the one tunnel was
a bit of a challenge. Ouch!

That was my head connecting
with the tunnel roof.

Dil operated the locks…

…following instructions…

…in two languages!

There was wildlife. Here are
Mr & Mrs Duck & family…

…and there were several…

…bold herons to meet on the way.

And we found these friendly ponies…

…as we walked to a pub by the Usk.

a great

15th May 2015

Pictures of our 4-day visit to Paris:—

We were staying not far from Notre-Dame…

…where some men were pondering their best way down from the roof!

Sarah & Dil pondering the artwork & books on their way back to base.

Two who couldn't afford a limo
for their wedding.

We visited the Père Lachaise cemetery…

…where some had perpetual concessions!

Some had their own
Stairway to Heaven.

Look up Michel Petrucciani
to discover quite a story!

We managed to take a shot of Chopin's tomb without a crowd in front.

Ditto with Jim Morrison, who had his own armed female police guard!

Here's looking at you, baby
– forever!

However, the map of the cemetery was a bit confusing. Here's Dave trying to figure it out.

The Eifel Tower was everywhere! Sometimes it appeared growing
out of buildings…

…and sometimes in more idyllic settings.

Close up to the biggest Meccano
set in the world!

And it's all down to him.

Our girls found the gallopers
on the carousel…

…and this one got the bird!

But we all admired the view
across the Seine in perfect weather,
and with the Foxglove Trees in blossom.

Not sure what little Willie
& his mum thought of it!

Dil & Sarah in hiding.

This looks like a painful landing
for the horse!

One of many copies of the
Statue of Liberty in town.

We went to Galeries Lafayette just to take a photo
of the dome – no Euros were spent there!

A long view from the Tuileries
up the Champs Elysées.

This chap looks unhappy at
being carved into a bridge!

Sarah calls this her 'textbook' street scene – all the traditional types of French shops together in a row.

And it's 'au revoir' as we head for the Eurostar terminal in the Gare du Nord.

May 4th, 2015

Star Wars day, and a Bank Holiday too!

We went for a walk along the Thames at Kingston in lovely Spring weather, and on the way back through Hampton Court's Home Park we spotted this swan on its nest, oblivious to all. Unlike the Canada Geese who were raucous in making sure we all knew that Spring was in the air!

27th April 2015

We performed MacHamlet Goes West! to more than 100 paying customers over the weekend.

The show went well and was enjoyed by all (or so I'm led to believe), and Headley Theatre Club made a good profit too.

Here is the cast pictured outside Headley Village Hall at a Dress Rehearsal.

20th April 2015

Can anyone explain Twitter to me?

13th April 2015

We went for a walk on Saturday (11th April) to check out a footpath which someone had told us was blocked on a route in one of my books (turns out it wasn't blocked, just had warning notices about very pregnant sheep!). Dil said she couldn't remember doing the walk when we were researching the book, so when we got home I looked it up. Turns out it had been on 11th April 2007; eight years ago to the very day!

PS. Can someone tell the manufacturers of plastic milk bottles that they are impossible to open when the caps are made of the less rigid plastic they now use?

6th April 2015

It was Easter weekend, and the weather was fine if not quite balmy.

31st March 2015

The way we were! Out of the blue, I received from Jenny a batch of photos from a show that I was in at Crawley in 1975. It was at a social evening for the Concordia choral group there.

The pic on the right will do to give a flavour of it all. Some sort of spoof on Cinderella, I think.

23rd March 2015

We've just spend a week in a windmill. It was 6 storeys high, so if you forgot to bring something downstairs, it was a long haul back to find it! But best of all, it was at Braunston, which as all canal buffs know is the crossroads of the English canal system. The weather was kind, if a little chilly at times.

This is the old mill, next to the church in Braunston village.

And here are the hire boats waiting for the season to begin on the canal below.

We can recommend the Admiral Nelson where we ate twice, the second time when Kirstie Allsopp was visiting on a recce with a TV crew.

But the Gongoozler's Rest, famed in canal circles, also does a brilliant brunch.

Braunston is a good place to see classic canal bridges…
This is where the old Oxford Canal used to go (now a marina)

And this pair are where the Grand Union Canal now meets the Oxford Canal.

This is a 'turnover' bridge which allowed the horse to change sides of the canal without unhitching from the boat it was towing.

Braunston is also a good place to see medieval 'ridge & furrow' fields.

16th March 2015

I was rooting around on the internet the other day and unexpectedly came across a photo on my old primary shcool's website which had me in it! It must have been taken around 1952/3. I'm second from left on the bottom row.

I wonder what's happened to the others? Jimmy Mills, Donald Thompson, Denis Clack, Martyn ('Buster') Hurst - where are you now? We all went to different secondary schools and lost touch.

9th March 2015

Having been without cats for a few years now, we decided to give a home to two from the local Cat's Protection – two jet-black 2-year-old brothers. Of course, as soon as we got them home they decided to find the most obscure places to hide. Have you tried locating a jet-black cat in one of the many dark corners that exist in a house? Eventually we found them in the washing machine! Reminded us of the joke mug we had in the cupboard. Now we make sure to shut the washing machine door after use.

2nd March 2015

Spent part of the weekend helping to construct a Wendy house to celebrate a 3-year-old's birthday.

I think she liked it!

23rd March 2015

Not content with having a play in rehearsal for April, we're also researching for the Summer Show in July, which is to be a compilation of popular TV and Radio snippets and sketches. Much time has been spent already looking through Youtube output, and no doubt more hours will be thus spent in the future.

On Friday I went to my first beer festival – no, really, my first! Disconcertingly, it was held in the College where my daughters used to go. And I found a good use for the collapsable plastic pint beer mug which Louis had given me for Christmas. It really works!

16th February 2015

We've cast the next play, so straight into rehearsals for MacHamlet Goes West!

9th February 2015

We've just been for a week on a canal boat – and got stuck in the ice near Market Harborough. Dil put in a request to Classic FM and they played us a sea shanty!
The photos below tell some of the story.

There was a touch of snow on the ground when we picked the boat up.

Working the Watford flight was a bit chilly – assisted by the lock-keeper and his dog.

For once being in the tunnels was warmer and drier than being outside!

But by the time we'd got to Foxton there was ice on the cut – at least inch thick.

Here's Stu using a 10-foot barge pole to break it up in the lock chamber.

Is this success?

There were a lot of lock chambers to negotiate!

But we got to the bottom – and took delivery of a new mattress!!

We finally made it to Market Harborough, which is at the end of this particular arm of the canal.

The basin was full, so we moored a little way short of it.

Then next day we tried to get back the way we'd come - but now the ice was thicker …

… and this was as far as we got, taken from bridge No.14.

26th January 2015

What's happening to amateur pantomime these days? Having boasted of good audience figures last week, it was disappointing to find that – for the very first time – figures for the second weekend of a pantomime were lower than those for the first. It wasn't the quality of the show, which was very good, and we can't blame the weather.

While we are getting full houses for our other shows during the year, the last time we had a full house for a pantomime was in 2009. But we will keep on with them, I'm sure, because they are a good training ground for our young and less experienced members, and we enjoy doing them – and they still make a profit.

See pictures of the show.

19th January 2015

The pantomime Ali Baba got off to a good start this weekend – we had three enthusiastic houses, and the audience numbers were the best since 2005.
Let's hope for more next weekend.

12th January 2015

I've decided to put all my books for sale on CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Not only do they let you put your files up on their site (and amend them at any time) for free, but also print books more cheaply than my current source in the UK, and provide a free link to marketing them on Amazon worldwide, and a link to selling electronic versions of them for Kindle if appropriate. The only down-side I've found so far, is that they refuse to put a title on spines of books with fewer than 100 pages: this affects 4 titles out of my entire backlist.

Sadly, it may mean the end of my relationship with my current UK printer, Antony Rowe, and they charge me to put titles on their system, and charge again annually to keep them there – also they don't have the link with Amazon for marketing. I've used them happily for nearly 20 years and I'll be sorry to part company, but I've just been sent a bill of £360 simply to keep my titles with them for the next year, and it's too much.

5th January 2015

Nothing like being made an ass of at the start of the year!
Here I am, director of the pantomime, being used as a model for Delilah the donkey's costume.

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!