John Owen Smith’s log for 2016

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26th December 2016

Home today from Christmas spent in Corsham. I took my camera with me, but since everyone (except me!) seems to be taking pictures on their the mobile phones and uploading straight to Facebook these days, it didn't get used.

19th December 2016

I managed to get both daughters and Rick and all 3 grandsons together!
Here we are outside the Victory Inn at Staplefield after lunch yesterday.

12th December 2016

'Twas the night of the annual Christmas Concert on Saturday. See pictures.

5th December 2016

Our 'December House' this year was at Chiddingstone Hoath in Kent. Some images for your delectation…

View of the Tudor Wing of Hoath House
where we stayed.

Our bit was built in 1533, and it showed in places, as in threading your way to your bed!

There were some good walks,
and the weather was kind.

Here are the lads at an
Ashdown Forest viewpoint.

A good pub was in walking distance…

in which we tried to ring the wildebeest

some more successfully than others.

Louis displaying his woodcraft skills.

Some of us visited Hever Castle nearby

with its yew maze

its harmless statues

and the new England football coach!

28th November 2016

It was the Theatre Club treasure hunt yesterday, taking us down lanes we'd never seen before with a stop in Farnham for hot chocolate. Despite all this, our team of 4 won! Our thanks to Jamie & Zoe for an interesting route.

21st November 2016

Spent an hour at Chiddingfold School on Tuesday showing the children how to make paper – a wonderfully messy experience!

14th November 2016

So, once again we learn that telling lies to gain victory works! First in our EU Referendum, and now with Trump's win in the USA.
And no repercussions from this mis-selling.
What a message to give to our children!!

7th November 2016

We're well into rehearsals for our January show now, but unlike in other years it's not going to be a pantomime. Instead I've dramatised Dickens' book 'A Christmas Carol' and retitled it Bah Humbug!

31st October 2016

The clocks have gone back. The evenings come too soon. Why can't we be on the same time as the French and the Spanish?

25th October 2016

Just back from a few days in Spain. We took a Brittany Ferries package from Portsmouth to Santander on the ferry with car, and 5 nights in a hotel at Santillana del Mar. The weather was kind to us. Here are some photos.

View from our room
over the courtyard
at the
rear of the hotel.

View of the street outside the hotel.
The whole town is cobbled and (technically) cars are only allowed in to load and unload.

The old wash place is still
in the middle of the street.

Just occasionally some
refurbishment is needed!

Balonies like this are a feature
here in Cantabria

Not quite sure what
all this is about!

They do like their cider
in this part of the world…

…and I had to learn how to
dispense it in the local restaurant.

We had some lovely weather
to visit the local beaches.
Here is a hermitage built into a cliff…

…with weather-beaten sign.

I had to poke my small camera through a grille in the door
to get this shot of the interior
– looks a bit spartan!

Monument to a fisherman.

This is the entrance to the Altamira cave containing the famous cave paintings – but you can't go in now.
Instead there's a faithful reproduction which we did visit.

This is caveman Jo
in a different cave!
There are caves all over
the place around here.

Another feature of the area is the pampas grass which seems to grow everywhere.

This lizard seems to be interested in a snail – but he soon scuttled off.

We caught this guy unloading his rubbish by the Ebro reservoir,
in full view of us having a picnic!

A display of T-shirts – I now have the one which says 'Te de jo' on it – anyone know what it means?

Sculptures on the quayside
at Santander.

This one seems to be of Ghandi
with Africa behind him – clever.
And to the right is the MS Pont-Aven arriving to take us home…

17th October 2016

No moans this week! We've just finished a very successful run of The Vicar of Dibley on stage. I played Frank Pickle, and grew a moustache for the part. On Saturday night, after the last show, I got the razor out and shaved it off. Bliss!!

See HTC website for pictures.

10th October 2016

I hope the Brexiteers are happy now that the Pound has fallen to near parity with the Euro! Certainly makes it more expensive for us to 'exit' on holiday, but that's a trifle compared to the effect the UK's decision to leave is likely to have on the rest of Europe.
With thoughts turning to the season of Remembrance, I shall be wearing an EU flag in my lapel in support of the living, breathing Memorial to wars past which the EU represents. It's not perfect, it's still work in progress, but it's better than War. And it needs our support. Please.

3rd October 2016

A mild and pleasant day for my birthday, marred only by the fact that our emails have stopped working today, again! [It then took 3 days to get service restored, and in that period all arriving mails were lost to the ether. Thanks a bunch, Vodafone/Demon and, for fumbling the ball between you!]

26th September 2016

Had an interesting and enjoyable weekend visit to Woodstock, to talk about self-publishing. While there we visited Blenheim Palace, as you do.

Market St, Woodstock.

Bridge over the lake in the park.
So far so normal.

But why a gold-painted car
sunk in an ornamental pond?

And why a statue pointing face-down?
Your answers please…

19th September 2016

I could keep banging on about woeful technology, but I won't bore you this week.

The highlight of our week was the Village Fete on Saturday. Here's my stall on the village green alongside the Theatre Club's. The weather could have been better, but could have been a whole lot worse, and I think we were satisfied with the number of customers we attracted. And we sold out of tickets for our autumn show 3 weeks before we go up, so we must be doing something right!

12th September 2016

Another woeful tale of technology. Tried to order a bus pass on-line: transaction not accepted, because there is another male 'Smith' with the same birth date already on the system. Fancy that! – more than one male Smith in Hampshire with the same birth date – what a surprise! Apparently the system doesn't take account of address or NI number when making the check. So I have to send my details to them by post. Well – I suppose it keeps a postman or two in employment.

5th September 2016

Oh joy! Had a message from my ISP (now owned by Vodafone) on Wednesday to say it's stopping running an email service, and I have to migrate to elsewhere. Tried that, and my website became unavailable for 24hrs. Nobody admitting to knowing why. And apparently I've not migrated properly anyway, so that's still to come. Don't you just love technology?

29th August 2016

Had the pleasure of doing a barbecue in the garden last night with weather warm enough to sit out till the wee hours in comfort, even though the day itself had been mizzly.

22nd Aug 2016

Managed to get the Parish Mag for September off to the new printers on schedule.

Went to the annual 'Meet the Authors' day at Selsey with Jean & Eve – the A27 jammed with people going to the Witterings beaches – sold 1 book and gave away another, but may have picked up some useful typesetting work in the future.

15th August 2016

This weekend we went on the trail of my gt-grandmother, Polly Smith, who was a lace-worker in Nottingham. The old lace-making quarter of the town now seems to be becoming an artisans' quarter – quite different, I'm sure, from the times when she lived there in the 1880s & 90s.

The illustrated side of 15 Stoney Street, which was the Black Horse pub in 1892 when my gt-grandmother reluctantly ran it. She was a staunch Methodist!

Further illustative works on a wall in
Woolpack Lane, just round the corner.

And just round the next corner is Jesse Boot's first shop
erected in 1883 – but now no longer a cash chemist's.

Next day we visited the Chesterfield Canal
– this bit is being re-constructed.
Hope they move the car before they let the water in!

Just a mile or so away is the Barrow Hill engine shed, which is well worth a visit
if you're a railway buff.

And finally we called in at Cresswell Crags
where some of our earliest ancestors lived in caves.
Maybe they were mine too!

8th August 2016

Just spent a weekend on the Isle of Wight at a vintage caravan site near Ryde, with Deb, Steve, Leeks and Tallulah. Dil and I slept in 'Roger' (virtually a bed on wheels) – I hope he enjoyed it!

One of our big 'airstream' caravans
with tiny white 'Roger' to the right.

A view of one side of the site
– the teepee was an intruder!

I set my camera to take this group picture
while we were looking at another Birdie!

Bembridge windmill…

…where we had a picnic lunch…

then went to the 'fossil beach'
on a far better day than last December

1st August 2016

This always seems a pivotal time of the year – we've just finished performing a major show, and our main holiday of the year is a distant May memory while others are just starting theirs. So now looking forward, we've begun rehearsing for the October show (two scenes from The Vicar of Dibley in which I have a minor role), and I've written a script (Bah Humbug!) for us to perform in January – and I feel I have no remaining excuses to stop me from getting on with a book project which has been a long time in the pipeline (Characters of Headley's Past). So, after a coffee, I'll begin … and knowing I have to report back to you on progress weekly should spur me on.

18th July 2016

Summer has arrived at last! The weather was so good over the weekend that we were unexpectedly able to perform one of our shows outdoors, on Saturday afternoon in Haslemere Museum's garden.

Now our run of Lark Rise has finished, and we can look back on a very successful tour. Well done to all. See here for photos of the show.

11th July 2016

Lark Rise is on the road and running! We've now done 4 successful shows, with 3 more to come next weekend.

4th July 2016

We had the first Dress Rehearsal for Lark Rise yesterday. Almost a catastrophe, as I'd forgotten to book the village hall and it was in use for a ballet exam! – but fortunately we were able to perform outside on the Village Green, and it went well. See the cast photo on the right.

Our first live performance is this coming Friday at Liss.

27th June 2016

What do I think about the result of the EU Referendum last week? I feel ashamed. Ashamed for my country.

At a time of increased crisis in the middle-east and with Russia beating the military drum again, the thing Europe needs most of all is stability. And instead of getting stuck in with our European partners to help sort things out, this country decides to turn away and gaze at its navel. Appalling.

All I can say to my continental friends is: forgive us, we know not what we do!

PS. England knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland tonight, so we're getting used to being a 3rd rate force in Europe already!

20th June 2016

I spent half an hour in the dentist's chair this morning having my teeth cleaned – and she says I have to go back in 3 months time for another session. I suppose it's necessary, and not just a way for a private practice to make money?!

13th June 2016

Well, we chose the right day for the village to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday: the Saturday rather than the Sunday – the weather held for us, the next day would have been a bit wet. I was compering in the tent with the Union Jack on it – the Theatre Club had their picnic table (just in view) next to it.

6th June 2016

Up to Northumberland for a long weekend to celebrate my aunt's 100th birthday. Glorious weather after the first day.

On the way up we stopped to look at 'Northumberlandia'
– a reclining lady made out of an old slag-heap.
Here you can see the profile of her face.

…and here is the lady we really went to see
– Peggy cutting her 100th birthday cake!

This is the cushion that Dil made for her,
showing Dunstanburgh Castle

We had tea at Howick Hall,
once the home of Earl Grey's family

…where the garens are superb.
Here be blue poppies …

…and here a meadow full of tulips of all colours.

On the way home we stopped a night at the 'Rose & Crown' in Thurstonland –
here's the landlord cleaning the mats the next morning!

And what's a trip without stopping by a canal for a picnic?
Here's lock 25 on the Oxford canal at Cropredy.

28th May 2016

Sorry about the gap in reports, but we've been away in France. Drove down to near St Raphael on the Cote d'Azur with Jill & Louis, had 7 nights in a 'mobile home' and drove back again. Lovely weather all the time we were there – it broke the day we left! Below are some photos from the trip.

This was our half-way stop in both directions,
at St Romain near Beaune – very pleasant

…and rather rural.

This was our 'mobile home' in the Esterel
above Agay – and when the wind blew
a Force 9 it felt quite mobile!

…and this was the view
in the other direction

This was the swimming pool –
we never did the see the big
yellow bucket do anything!

Down at Agay they had a fete
with fifes and drums –
no muskets!

Restricted choice of tipple here!

We hadn't realised there'd been another
D-Day in the south of France –
here was the memorial at Agay

We visited Grasse,
for the perfumeries

…and we walked in the Esterel
with views over the sea

…and Louis and I went 'off piste'
for a while

Cork oaks all around us –
do they still use corks?

This was the site of the dam which burst in 1959, flooding Fréjus

The size of the man shows
the size of the relief hole

We also visited the ruins of the
nearby Roman aqueducts

Meanwhile, in Fréjus today, they've
taken to decorating their bollards

On the way home, we caught this fisherman at it,
at the Reservoir de Grosbois

And we couldn't pass through Burgundy
without visiting Asterix on his pedestal –
well, Vercingetorix actually

9th May 2016

We were pleased to play host to Gérard & Elisabeth from Corné over the weekend, part of the Headley Twinning programme. The weather was superb – we of course told them that England is always like this! – and a good time was had by all.

2nd May 2016

Bank holiday weekend. Yesterday (Sunday) was bright and sunny and I happily led the monthly 'Walk for Health' along the bluebell trail. (see pic)

Today is dull and wet. Can't have everything!

25th April 2016

We put on a successful "Bard's Night" in the Village Hall over the weekend. This is our English response to the ever-present Scottish "Burns Nights" which have spread south. Ours is now an annual event, on or around St George's Day (23rd April) – and this year, of course, was special in also being the 400th anniversary of Skakespeare's death. Have a look at the website to see pictures from the show.

13th April 2016

Just back from a long weekend in Paris. The apartment we'd originally booked on the left bank had heating problems, so we were 'upgraded' to a 7th floor luxury apartment near Montmartre with views over Paris. Not bad! Here are a dozen pics from our stay.

View from our window

The little theatre in the nearby square

Seen by Notre Dame…

…speaking of which,
is it really leaning to the left?

Wondering what to buy in Montmartre

A well-loved woman!

St Denis getting ahead of himself

A man emerging from a wall

Opening time
for booksellers on the left bank

A reaper living dangerously
in the Musée d'Orsay!
(but he kept his hat on!)

A mini-Eifel Tower in an arcade…

…and the real thing, all shimmering
for 5 minutes on the hour each night


4th April 2016

March did what the old wives say: came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. I did two long walks this week in what was fairly ideal walking weather. May it last!

28th March 2016

We spent the Easter weekend at home – wet and stormy weather on Sat and Sun – 14 round for supper on Sunday evening.

21st March 2016

I went to the dentist to get my new tooth fitted – the one that came out in a French muffin last year, remember? The reason I wanted it was because I was conscious of lisping through the gap when I said my f''s and th's, not for any cosmetic purpose. But when I tried it with its plastic plate, I found my speech was even worse. I also realised that, over time, I'd pretty well managed to compensate for the gap when talking. So I don't think I'll be using the new tooth, and it's probably £400 wasted. C'est la vie!

14th March 2016

We managed to get a bit of gardening done over the weekend – has Spring finally sprung?

7th March 2016

We went to Frome for the weekend to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Nice little town, but cramped accommodation. Beware Room No.4!

We booked in at the Arcangel in Frome

where fresh water runs in the streets

We had to stoop to get into our room, but

inside was a tin bath for our tin anniversary!

Is this only in Frome?

We visited nearby Stourhead

with its grotto

and bicycle!

29th February 2016

Today's that extra day that we get given every four years or so. If you're monthly salaried, you work it for nothing; if you're paid by the hour you're OK.

15th February 2016

We had some strong winds last week, and although the tall pines at the bottom or our garden were swaying they seemed safe enough. Then next morning I looked into the back garden and saw a bit of branch lying on the garden. A bit of branch? When I went down to get a better look at it, it was a bit bigger than I thought, but luckily had missed hitting anything of importance. Here it is (right) where it ended up, perched on the edge of the pond. A few deft saw strokes later and it was firewood!

8th February 2016

For first time that I can remember, Headley Theatre Club hasn't got a major production in rehearsal. We're doing a 'Bard's Night' in April, but that's mainly a medieval feast with bits and pieces of entertainment (songs, sketches, etc) thrown in – with a nod to Shakespeare and the 400th anniversary of his death. However, we're still meeting, probably twice-weekly, to rehearse these bits, do a bit of housekeeping to our properties in the village hall, and start rehearsing music for 'Lark Rise' in the summer. Never let the grass grow under your feet!

1st February 2016

If you ever wanted to see me in a kilt, you've just missed your opportunity! Dil and I were called to chair the local Burns Night in the village hall on Saturday, and she made sure (via Amazon) that I had the appropriate garb. Sorry, I have no photos of the event.

Meanwhile, on the computer front, we completed our cut-over of data to from the XP to the Windows 10 machine and all seems reasonably well so far. Just a few programs left on the old machine which won't run on the new, so it's probably with us for a while yet.

25th January 2016

The panto's over… It went well, all in all. Audience numbers were slightly up on last year, and we've received many complimentary comments.

On the Thursday between performances, we showed a DVD of the first Saturday night's performance to members of the cast, which we always find to be a useful exercise. Here's our lounge set up as a cinema for the occasion!

18th January 2016

The first weekend of the panto is over, and would you believe that the audience numbers over the three performances were exactly the same as last year! See pictures.

11th January 2016

It's a year since I decided to put all my books for sale on CreateSpace, and so far it's been a success. I've received just over £600 from them during 2015. But I have to balance that against a similar drop in sales through Gardners POD – it seems that people ordering through Amazon used to receive the books from Gardners, but now receive them from CreateSpace. So am I winning? If not financially, then certainly from a organisational point of view, working with CreateSpace is easier – they deposit money in my bank account each month without the hassle of cross-invoicing which Garners insist on, and I can update my books on CreateSpace for free wheareas it costs money to do it through the Gardners route.

4th January 2016

New Year and new computer – a Lenovo 'all-in-one' loaded with Windows 10. Already I've discovered that some of my old XP sofware will load onto it, and some won't, so right now we're operating with two computers. I wonder how many weeks will pass before I can report that we're fully moved over?

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!