John Owen Smith’s log for 2017

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Christmas Day, 2017

A Happy Christmas to all my readers!

On the Wednesday before Christmas we went to the Ritz for tea, taking 5-year-old Tallulah with us. It was very successful, and I'm told there are pictures somewhere on Facebook.

The Christmas period itself has been an almost continual succession of local friends gathering in our house to eat, drink, and be merry playing silly games – just how it should be!
Happy days, and long may they last!!

18th December 2017

It's been a busy couple of weeks, and both Dil and I have been feeling a bit under the weather with coughs and sniffles. Somehow we managed to keep our voices sufficiently to organise and perform in the annual Xmas Concert; and yesterday I read the first lesson in church for the candlelit carol service. I hope the Methodist minister of my grandfather came out in me! I was told it went down well, and I almost got applause!!

7th December 2017

Back from a week in the 'December House' at Mottistone on the Isle of Wight. There were thirteen of us and a good time had by all, although Dil and I returned with chesty coughs. Here are some memories:

Walking down the track to the coast from Mottistone.

The cliff's none too stable!

Trying to find fossils with Dave.

Back from a walk up to
the Standing Stone..

Ruth & Mel try to get the size of
Tennyson's Monument.

But Tennyson obviously wanted no trouble!

In the house there was this photo of the view in Wartime …

So it was nice to get the same view today in peacetime.

27th November 2017

I gave two talks in a week on the subject of 'Canadians in Headley during WW2', one to the local Scouts, the other to a local history group in Frensham. Strange, because it's not one of my most called-for talks.
Organised the annual Christmas fair in the village hall on the last Saturday in November, which went well. The weather was kind to us – it was a crisp sunny day.

13th November 2017

Did some work on more episodes of Jobsworth, my 'radio' plays that we perform on stage.

6th November 2017

One of those weeks where nothing exceptional happened. I decided to write some parody lyrics for Beatles songs.

30th October 2017

The clocks went back over the weekend, and pantomime rehearsals have begun. Two harbingers of winter. The panto this year is Humpty Dumpty, which I wrote in the 1990s and we last performed back in Jan 1995.

16th October 2017

Back from a successful cruise round the Baltic on the good ship Balmoral. Here are some photos to give a flavour:—

First port of call Copenhagen
and, of course, the mermaid.

But what's this about – sleeping dogs?

And not too sure about this!.

At least the guards at the Royal Palace
knew the decent thing to do.

You have to visit the Lego shop!

And the pretty harbour side.

There's always somewhere to park your bike.

And the wildlife is cute..

Next stop Tallinn.
Here's Fat Margaret's tower.

There are many towers in Tallinn.

And churches.

And a view of our ship from the viewpoint.

This is the town hall.

This marks the 'long leg' path to the top.

But there are places to rest
– if you don't mind sharing!

And possibly the best pub in the Baltic!

And so to St Petersburg.
But what's this – a London bus?

The 'Venice of the North'
has many canals.

And many palaces.

But don't ask about Health & Safety'!

This is the cruiser Aurora where
the Red Revolution started.

This is how Cyril says 'STOP'.

"Stop photographing Russian policemen"
– but we don't understand.

Let's hope Jamie does when he opens his restaurant!

To Riga in the rain.
This was the view from our cabin.

We had a trip on an old tram …

… and a seat at the front.
Here we're following a newer model.

If they say 'Meet at the Laima clock',
here it is.

We saw the centre of the old town …

… and heard the tale
of the tail of the black cat.

Then on to Warnemünde.
Here's the 'Teepot' and the lighthouse.
See the 'sun' on a pole between the two?

Each planet has its pole at the right relative
distance from the 'sun'. Here's Venus.

Here's the car ferry
just missing a sailing boat!

The 'old river' with cafés.

A decorative loo.

And a wheelchair ready for the floods!

Finally, through the Kiel Canal.
Here are the 4 locks at the eastern end.

Here's the pointy-end of Balmoral,
moored at Warnemünde …

… and the roundy-end of Balmoral,
moored at Tallinn.

Dil playing deck quoits,
at which she was far better than Jo!

2nd October 2017

Sir Robert Hunter walked again over the weekend! I led a swarm of people (and dogs) around Hindhead Common to meet my trusty actors in a variety of locations. Once more we murdered the unfortunate sailor, and once more Sir Arthur Conan Doyle foresaw the future rise in popularity of the automobile. The rain kept off – and now my beard is off too, as I only grow it when I have to 'be' Sir Robert!

25th September 2017

A quiet week – although I have been to talk to two local schools in the past fortnight about local history. A forest of hands wanting to ask questions kept me occupied for the whole period both times, so any 'prepared talk' that I might have had never happened. Probably better that way.

18th September 2017

We ran a "Here's Headley" event on Saturday which went well. Over 30 organisations in the Village Hall showing what they do.

11th September 2017

Yesterday seemed to be a Heritage Day all over the country – we paid two visits, one to Bordon for an exibition in the army barracks which will be demolished this year, and one to Undershaw at Hindhead to hear a talk on Sherlock Holmes and have a tour of the building, led by the architect who was in charge of the renovation of the house of Conan Doyle and the extension for the Stepping Stones school.

Prince Philip Barracks in Bordon.
To be demolished this year leaving just the centre section with the clock tower.

4th September 2017

We went over to Hastings on Friday (via the 'long man' at Wilmington) to see Rufus in a play (he was 'Dick' in David Copperfield), and stayed the night to see Sarah & Emma as mermaids on Bexhill beach on Saturday – they helped to beat the Guinness Book of Records for the number of mermaids on a beach, by 25! Luckily the weather was fine.

The 'long man' of Wilmington

Mermaids preparing to go
on the beach at Bexhill

28th August 2017

A hot, sunny August Bank Holidayweekend! The best weather here for 50 years, we're told. We made best use of it with garden parties.

21st August 2017

Went to Chawton House yesterday where they were having a Plant Fair, and were lucky enough to arrive just as the gardener was leading a tour of the gardens, which was fascinating. Chatted to him afterwards, and he showed us the well house where he had restored the pumping mechanism.

Home via Farringdon church, where we stopped to take another photo of Sarah Holdaway's grave (see here for further details). We were lucky with the weather, as it poured with rain soon after we got home.

Chawton House from the Lime Avenue

The grave of Sarah Holdaway (later Newman) in Farringdon churchyard

14th August 2017

Had a very wet trip to Selsey and back on Wednesday for the annual "Meet the Authors" gathering. As usual, I wasn't there so much as an author; more as an authority on self-publishing.

Check-up on the pacemaker went OK on Friday – battery life of 'at least another 5 years'!

7th August 2017

We've been away in Cornwall for a week. Here are some pictures:—

"Wellie dogs" sniffing a lamp post
in Redruth

The area is full of old mines,
as this statue commemorates

Here's one of them …

… which still has the pumping engine inside

We spent some time around Gweek creek …

How do you get these big boats up the creek? With a paddle?

There's a Seal sanctuary there
which contains – penguins!

The Whites in their nearby camp

We used the 'Park & Float' to get into Falmouth – here's the ferry's flag!

Visited Glendurgan gardens;
here's the maze

They had interesting stonework
round their drains

At the bottom of the gardens you get to
the hamlet of Durgan by the sea

The lanes were lined with montbretia

The car park at Kynance Cove
had its bovine hazards!

While the Cove itself
was full of Emmets!

We left swiftly to find a more peaceful pub
– the 'Lamorna Wink'

We visited St Michael's Mount –
managed to walk across …

… but we didn't join the intrepid
wading back after the tide turned …

… prefering the £2 boat service.

The rock gardens are magnificent

View down the terraces to the sea

And a view up the cliffs

We also visited the Minack Theatre,
impressive even in the mist.

But the prize must surely go to Truro for pointing out the function of this pile of concrete!

24th July 2017

The Riot is over, and it was good! See photos. Now we're straight into rehearsals for Hi-De-Hi, our autumn show. Well, I say WE, but in fact Dil and I will be away for the show so we can't be in it – but we've said we'll help with rehearsals if needed.

17th July 2017

I've just published a cookery book – well, not exactly MY cookery book. It's a copy of the recipe book written in 1907 by the daughter of the then Rector of Headley. Click on the cover picture to read more about the book.

10th July 2017

Dil and I up to the Shelswell History Festival, between Fringford and Cottisford, on Saturday and stayed the night at Buckingham before returning for the first Dress Rehearsal of Riot!
At Shelswell, I was one of the panel of "Flora Thompson experts" (see right) answering questions at the end of Martin Greenwood's talk, which went well.
The Dress of Riot! (see cast far right) also went well – so well, in fact, that we were given the next Tuesday rehearsal off.
Time will tell if that was wise!

The "panel of Flora Thompson experts" at Shelswell History Festival – L to R: Carol Knight (gt-niece of John Thompson); Judith Harvey (current owner of Lark Rise Cottage); Martin Greenwood (local historian at Fringford); Christine Bloxham (author of The World of Flora Thompson); John Owen Smith (local historian at Grayshott); and Gillian Lindsay (author of Flora Thompson The Story of the 'Lark Rise' Writer)

The cast of Riot! 2017
outside Headley Village Hall
at the first Dress Rehearsal

3rd July 2017

Having looked at the Headley workhouse last weekend (see below), a few of us visited Selborne this weekend, and met the man who now lives in part of the old workhouse there. He thinks he may have information 'in the loft' which might interest us.

Yesterday, in glorious weather, we had the annual Headley Theatre Club barbecue in Neil and Janet's garden. I led a walk round Ludshott Common beforehand, when we tried but failed to find the boundary stone where the parishes of Headley, Grayshott and Bramshott meet. Maybe better luck next time, assuming it actually exists!

26th June 2017

We took the cast of Riot to see the old Headley workhouse (aka Headley Grange) on Sunday, and were given a guided tour by the owner which included a visit to the cellars where the workhouse master had kept his wine in 1830, according to our script.

And of course, though nothing to do with our riot, and nothing like it would have been in 1830, we had to have a look at the stairway made famous by Led Zeppelin 140 years later.

The cast outside the rear gates

The 'Stairway to Heaven'

19th June 2017

I seem to have recovered most things on the computer, thank goodness, although I still keep finding odds and ends which I'd processed during the fatal few days between back-up and crash which need to be done again. But I can't remember how I managed to share files between my three computers, and so far all my efforts to do this have failed. Grrr!

Oh, and we had a general election in the middle of all this, didn't we? What a fiasco that was!

Last weekend we went over to Kent for our friend Sarah's 60th. Dil made three cakes for the occasion, and on one of them we put 60 candles. Don't try this a home! The heat of them set fire to the cake decorations, and after a hurried photo (which I don't yet have) three of us quickly blew it out.

5th June 2017

Got back from holiday to find the computer wasn't working. Screwed by a Microsoft update while we were away, or so I'm told. Took it up the road for a rebuild, and of course lost all my data since the last security copy – and not only that, but all the local adjustments we'd made to various programs over the months – rather frustrating, and kept me occupied through to the end of the week and beyond.

When I've got things on an even keel, I'll post some pics of the holiday! (which went well)

22nd May 2017

I gave two talks in one day on Wednesday, both on the subject of Flora Thompson, one in Guildford and one in Alresford. It was the day after the 70th anniversary of her death, although the people who had booked be weren't aware of that.

15th May 2017

After the world-wide cyber attack which affected the NHS among others, they're asking people going to hospital today to be patient.

8th May 2017

We've been away on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Had a good time, and came back looking bronzed, though as much from the wind as the sun. And also I fell in, which may have given me an extra muddy look! Here are some photos, retrieved after a dunking of the camera in the canal.

We picked the boat up at Silsden.

Inside, the good ship 'Drum Beat'
was spacious …

… but outside, she was a big broad
beast to fit into the locks

Stu and Deb
getting their priorities right!

Looking down the 'Bingley 5'
with Damart's in the distance

The loneliness of …

… the helmsman in the lock.

Warm thoughts at the bottom!

Dil doing her bit on the balance beam.

Stu checking he isn't on the cill.

Me taking it all too seriously.

Masons making their mark
on the lock walls.

There were many swing bridges …

… which gave us a sense of power
as we stopped the traffic!


An unusual double-arch bridge
at East Marton

We stopped at Saltaire,
next to Titus Salt's mill.

The 'Tour de Yorkshire' was due through the next day – yellow bicycles everywhere.

Took a ride up the hill on the cable railway.

We met the Pennine Way and made it into Lancashire (just) before turning back.

Some of the wildlife was
indifferent to us …

… and some was downright aggressive!

We had a problem when the ignition key broke!

And it was interesting steering a broad boat through the water festival at Skipton.

24th April 2107

"Now We Are 65" went very well - see the pictures

17th April 2017

On Tuesday I had a visit from Randy Brown of Detroit, over here on a whisrle-stop tour of British pop group sites. Here he saw the outside of Headley Grange, and of Benifold. The weather was kind to us, and we shared a couple of drinks in the Holly Bush garden.

On Sunday (Easter) Dil, Deb and I walked across Ludshott Common to Applegarth (45 minutes) for lunch, and back again. A pleasant stroll.

Today (Easter Monday) during the afternoon we had the first Dress Rehearsal of "Now We Are 65" – it didn't go too badly, and we're looking forward to douing the show this weekend coming.

10th April 2017

Another sunny weekend, and the first BBQ of the season! at the Whites'

On Thursday I went to give an afternoon talk to a WI in the New Forest, and turning off the main A31 encountered a flock of sheep unattended in the middle of the road, then a couple of ponies, followed by some donkeys before I finally and safely reached Bramshaw village hall. Very bucolic.

The next evening we went to hear Nigel fronting a band (May Contain Nuts) at Fernhurst – a contrast to the sheep, etc, far too loud!

3rd April 2017

Went to the Hampshire Record Office on Saturday for a forum on Archives – well organised and well attended, though the venue there (in their cinema) is a bit cramped for such a gathering. I've offered to speak next time.

Lovely sunny weather on Sunday for the monthly walk. Let's hope it's the sign of things to come!

27th March 2017

We went to see the stage version of "An American in Paris" over the weekend. Fast and furious, but what interested me most was the way they changed the scenery by moving flats and other items around on casters. Ideas we can perhaps use on our rather smaller stage in the village!

20th March 2017

We went to a French conversation session at a local pub this evening. It was free (apart from the drinks!) and while Dil sat it out, Jo got involved in conversations with people who had homes in France and learned about problems with termites and hornets in the Dordogne. The sessions are every fortnight – let's see if we're drawn back.

14th March 2017

Sent a new book to be printed. Characters of Headley's Past has been 17 years in the making, but finally done!

7th March 2017

We went to stay in Steyning for the weekend, and visited Brighton by bus. A bit wet & windy, but we had a relaxing time.

'Saxon Cottage' where we stayed:
a cozy little NT (nest for two) property.

The bus from Steyning to Brighton:
we rode up front on the top deck.

The new i360 experience
(we didn't)

The pier & pebble beach:
not the best day to show it!

20th February 2017

Over to Suffolk for sister Di's 70th this weekend. While we were there we visited Sutton Hoo, first time for many a year – now owned by the NT with an interesting interpretation display.
Home to find diswasher not working, and boiler not working! Luckily the weather is mild – a new dishwasher is arriving on Thursday, and a man is coming to see about the boiler on Friday. [Finally fixed on 2nd March!]

13th February 2017

Over £200 work done on my teeth last week (ouch!) and more to come tomorrow. Let's hope that's the end of it.

6th February 2017

A relatively quiet week. We're working on the programme for Headley Theatre Club's 65 year (sapphire) anniversary celebrations in April. The show has a working title “Now We Are 65”.

30th January 2017

Dil and I were once again persuaded to preside over Headley Twinning Association's Burns Night. Once again I wore the kilt (clan Amazon!) and this time we did snap a picture of me, looking rather severe, at home before we left for the village hall. [It also shows Dil's new lounge curtains in the background!]

The next day (yesterday) we went up to Ronnie Scott's Club in London to hear Simon Callow declaiming Shakespeare to the jazz backing of Jacquie Dankworth's ensemble. Well worth the trip, even on a wet day. She sings just like her mum Cleo Laine – possibly better.

PS. Must clean the camera lens!!

23rd January 2017

Three more good performances of Bah Humbug! over this weekend – see here for full set of pictures. The audience particularly liked our use of an 'angelic quartet' to move the story along – they also liked the fact that the show was shorter than normal! From start to end it was less than 2 hours. A lesson to be learned perhaps.

16th January 2017

Crossed fingers worked, and we put on three good performances of Bah Humbug! over the weekend. The photo on the right shows me in the band along with Jo 'Fingers' Levy on piano and Nick Webb on guitar. I also acted as prompt, but none was needed.
Well done to everyone.

9th January 2017

Rehearsals for Bah Humbug! are proceeding, but various of the cast keep disappearing due to some short-term bug going round. Yesterday we had a dress rehearsal which went well, with only a few absentees. Fingers crossed for the coming weekend!

Today the new Rangemaster oven was delivered to the Village Hall – very smart, and installed with no problems despite fears from the committee that the contractors might not be able to get the old one out. Now we await refurbishment of the rest of the kitchen, due to start at the end of the month.

2nd January 2017

Phew! We survived 2016 when so many others didn't.

Continued …

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