John Owen Smith’s log for 2021

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27th December 2021

Christmas went well, with good food, drink, and company – along with several board games. Some of us stretched our legs on Christmas Eve to visit the Theatre Club's young rowan tree just round the corner (see three generations of the Bower brigade there, right), and on the Day itself we walked down to the Holly Bush in the village for a free midday drink. Other than that, we generally stayed snug indoors in either of Nos. 12 or 19.
We're now waiting to see if Boris will let us put on the pantomime next month or whether it will be panpanicked off. Fingers crossed! [In fact we postponed it until March]

20th December 2021

Back from a weekend in a log cabin in the Forest of Dean. Weather dry and mild – no sun, but we enjoyed ourselves walking in the misty woods and shopping in Monmouth.

Our cabin had a tree house
accessed by a walkway

Deb and Tallulah fear
their fate with the boar! …

… but survived to post their cards
in the Victorian postbox
at Monmouth …

… overlooked by none other than
Charles Rolls, of Rolls-Royce fame

13th December 2021

Two more 'clicks' towards Christmas: this weekend we successfully ran the annual Christmas Concert in the Village hall (see photos of me and Dil doing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside', and most of the company on stage at the end). We hadn't been able to do it last year due to Covid restrictions, and we thought the same might happen this year too – but we managed to sneak it in – although audience numbers were down due to fears of 'omicron'.
Then yesterday we also managed to have the annual pub lunch with my daughters and their families inside a pub – last year we had half a meeting outdoors!

29th November 2021

We held the 'annual' Christmas Fair in the Village Hall this weekend, which were unable to do last year due to 'you-know-what'.
Speaking of which, there's a new 'omicron' variant around now which is threatening to cancel Christmas again – let's hope not.

22nd November 2021

Dil and I are both triple-vaccinated now.
Some wag on the radio said that the names of Santa's reindeer should now be changed to: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Booster, Moderna, Pfiezer, Astra and Zeneca.

15th November 2021

We had a couple of days in Kent with the Hornes, and visited Ramsgate and Canterbury. Here are some snaps:

The 'smack boys' church
in a hole in the wall

A sloop (not 'John-B')

isn't it?

The 'Medway Queen' paddle steamer
which helped at Dunkirk,
now being renovated at Ramsgate

Our lunch stop
for proper fish & chips
by the harbour

A rare Edward VIII
post box

Steps with ceramic tile risers
à la Pugin …

… and nearby —
not many 'clucks' to Xmas!

Not real stone —
it's Pulhamite.
Ramsgate's famous for it.

Van Gogh was 'ear!
in Ramsgate

Next day we were in Canterbury:
Dil, Sarah, Dave on the bridge
by Westgate

A French welcome —.
especially for those from
Nord/Pas de Calais!

Punts on the Great Stour —
and a ducking stool!

Geoff, telling tales!

View over Canterbury
from Pin Hill

Our lunch stop at Tiny Tim's

8th November 2021

I've been asked to send a copy of my pantomime 'Robin Hood' to a gentleman in Sweden for translation into Swedish. Can't wait to see what they make of it!

1st November 2021

Pantomime rehearsals are going well, and as yet no sign of any Covid problems (touch wood!).
I had my 'booster' Covid jab last week, and no ill effects. Let's hope it staves off trouble.

Last night, being Halloween, the Theatre Club organised a 'spooky' evening in the village hall.
I was master of ceremonies (see right), and a good time was had by all.

Early this morning I shifted the car off the drive ready for a delivery of firewood later today, and the windscreen was iced up – first frost of the season.

18th October 2021

Spent most of the week catching up on ourselves after a fortnight's holiday!
On Thursday we managed to cast this year's pantomime (Sleeping Beauty) – first rehearsal tomorrow.

11th October 2021

We've just got back from a grand two-week 2,000-mile road trip taking in Orkney & Shetland. Here are some photos.

Me, plotting the journey ahead

For old time's sake, we visited
the beach at Embleton with Dunstanburgh Castle

We also revisited the Great Map
of Scotland, near Peebles
(see 2015) now with water round it

One of general Wade's bridges
between Inverness and Ullapool

Our hotel in Ullapool
– not as majestic as it looks!

We did about 120 miles of the '500' route, and found several useful info boards

A typical road round the
north-west of Scotland

We never discovered
what the question was!

We found plenty of these
on the narrow roads

Smoo Cave near Durness

Dunnet Head,
the top of GB!

The ferry to Orkney
coming in to dock

Lighthouse on Stroma
taken from the ferry

Causeway to South Ronaldsay
on Orkney

Italian Chapel on Orkney

Inside the Italian Chapel,
which had been a Nissen hut

Inside the Italian Chapel –
walls of painted cardboard

The Gloup on Deerness

Causeway to the Brough of Birsay

Strata at Yesnaby

Standing sheep by
standing stones

Stone at Steness
(not Easter Island!)

Ring of Brodgar

Ring of Brodgar

Stromness on Orkney –
we unwisely drove through!

Jarlshof Prehistoric &
Norse Settlement on Shetland

Info on the tombola
at St Ninian's Isle

Of course, I had to go across
hoping the tide wouldn't turn

They film episodes of TV drama
'Shetland' in Lerwick …

… and the 'star' on the
street to prove it!

But it gave someone
the hump!

A street in Lerwick – we
didn't drive down this one!

Poor old Mavis!!

A friendly native
of the Shetlands

Our hotel from across
the water …

and close up, from the garden.

Eshaness lighthouse

The coast at Eshaness …

A creek cutting deeplly
into th cliffs …

and strange rocks in the sea.

The postbox in Sandness
where we posted our cards

What you expect to find
at the north of Shetland?

A damp stop in Stirling
on our way home

and a final reminder:
Dil's friend in Lerwick!

20th September 2021

Yesterday I organised a "Here's Headley" event on the village green. We do it once evry two years, usually inside the village hall, but because of fears of Covid restrictions we decided to have it outside this year.
The sun shone – in fact it was a bit too warm at times! – and the 24 stallholders all seemed very happy at the end of the day.
On the right is a photo I took of the 'shopping avenue' that Zak and I had marked out, with stalls on each side.
The question now is – will we move back inside the hall next time? – or is outside always better? The consensus seems to be to go outside again – but I wonder if they'd have thought that if it had bucketed down with rain this time!

13th September 2021

Here we are, at it again! After a Covid-gap of two years we were back doing our Dramatic Walk over Hindhead Common yesterday.
This seems to have become an annual event (pandemics permitting) to coincide with the Haslemere Walking Weekend.
The cast consisted of the 'usual suspects' who mostly remembered their lines and positions though, as usual, there was a certain amount of re-jigging of parts due to people's availability on the day.
The weather was kind, and we were followed round by an estimated 30-40 people, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy it – as did we!

6th September 2021

It was nice to get out walking in the sun again yesterday. There were 11 of us (plus a dog) for an expedition along the banks of the local River Wey. Here's the group (except for me!) – survivors posed on the sluice bridge at Passfield, having just hacked their way through nettles and thorns along a 'permissive path'.
At the end of the walk, most of us retired to the garden of the Holly Bush in Headley for a drink or two. Happy days!

30th August 2021

We visited Devizes this weekend to see the Red Bandits on stage at the Fulltone Festival.
Here they are (right) at the sound check.
They are an excellent band with a lively repertoire, proving that ukuleles aren't just toys.
See a previous performance on YouTube (and yes, that is a bass ukulele!). Do book them if you can.

23rd August 2021

Dil has decided to paint the wooden chairs in the conservatory black.
Here they are (plus some stools) lined up on the lawn waiting for the paint to dry.
Luckily it was a fine day!!

16th August 2021

Saw a touring production of 'As You Like It' by the 'Open Bar' group in the garden at the Fox & Pelican, Grayshott yesterday – and we did like it, very much.
Unlike George Bernard Shaw, who in 1899 saw an open-air production of the same play nearby and wrote an amusing, but critical, report of it to the local press entitled "As You Don't Like It", which began: "May I as a dramatic critic of some experience, be allowed to volunteer a pronouncement on the late open-air performance of "As You Like It" in Sir Frederick Pollock's woods on Hindhead?", and then proceeded in 1,740 words to tell the director where he went wrong.
I'm glad GBS never turned up at any of my shows!!

9th August 2021

Things are opening up. I gave a live talk to a WI this week – a hall full of ladies of a certain age, not a mask in sight, and no mention of the 'C' word. Also we went to our first live gig since the start of the pandemic – a few masks in the audience, but not many, and we all mingled pretty much shoulder to shoulder at the bar. The main act was Jez Lowe, who I can thoroughly recommend – though it freaks me out watching him play his instuments left-handed!

2nd August 2021

Hearing the National Anthem playing as we won another gold at the Tokyo Olympics, just for a bit of fun I thought I'd find out if we could ever have physically, in the words of the anthem, sent her "Victorious, Happy and Glorious" – and it turns out we could, at a stretch of imagination!

HMS Victorious

HMS Happy

HMS Glorious

26th July 2021

First week of 'Freedom', and the only real difference is that I'm now doing my Pilates properly in the Village Hall rather then by Zoom!

19th July 2021

Today is supposed to be the real 'Freedom Day' when all Covid-related restrictions are lifted – but very few people believe it's the end of it, and masks in shops still seem to be the order of the day.
Yesterday we had a picnic in Pru's garden (see photo) for all those 'folksters' who would have been in the summer show this weekend, if we'd been allowed to put it on. The weather was gorgeous – and frankly it would have been a tad hot on stage.

12th July 2021

At the end on June we took a road trip to the Lake District – here are some photos:—

Sculpture on seafront
at Morecombe

The Boot Inn, at Boot!
We were in Room 7

Stepping stones
over the River Esk

I did like the clarity
of their signposts

Scree at the edge of Wast Water
– on a previous holiday we'd
walked along the top!

The path to Stanley Ghyll Force
currently closed after restoration of the path went wrong!

The National Trust steam gondola
on Coniston Water

Terminus of the 'Ratty Line'
at Boot

21st June 2021

This was supposed to have been 'Freedom Day' when all remaining Covid restrictions were lifted – but it was not to be. Patience!
To add insult to injury, the day has been grey and wet – I've often noticed in the past that Midsummer's Day isn't generally blessed with good weather. Double whammy!!
And we've just heard that our planned cruise to the Norwegian fjords in October has been cancelled. Triple whammy!!!

14th June 2021

So – it's official that the promised end of lock-down on 21st June has been postponed for at least 4 weeks.
That puts paid to any ideas we had about putting on a show in mid-July. It will now be rescheduled for September.
Fingers crossed that things will be better by then.
Meanwhile – it's been a good year for the peonies in our garden.

31st May 2021

A sunny Bank Holiday! That's one for the record books. Mind you, I think we've deserved it after such a wet and cheerless May. Let's hope that summer's truly arrived.

25th May 2021

We can now visit friends indoors, or have them come here, so long as there are no more than 6 of us or two families together.

17th May 2021

We spent a few days in a B&B at Rye Foreign, and at last got some use out of our annual NT subscription by visiting both Sissinghurst and Scotney Castle. We also met up with Dave & Sarah Horne and with Emma and Stevie for an outdoor lunch together at Winchelsea. Fortunately the sun shone at all the right times!
Spike Milligan's tombstone was just across the road from the pub in Winchelsea, so we all went over to pay our respects. Perhaps fittingly, the 'What 3 Words' location for his grave is: 'packet.laugh.notes'.

General view of tower and
gardens at Sissinghurst

Dil by the pot in the arbour
at Sissinghurst

Holiday house
at Sissinghurst

Lucky black cat
on road sign

General view of
Scotney Castle

Dil outside the ice house
at Scotney

Spike Milligan's grave
at Winchelsea

Lunch at the New Inn, Winchelsea

10th May 2021

More 'liberation moments' – lunch in the courtyard of The George in Petersfield, in the garden of The Crown at Arford, and The Links at Liphook – all a bit on the chilly side. Do they add 'death by exposure' to the list of Covid-related problems?

Yesterday we checked that the contents of the Theatre Club sheds next to the village hall had survived a year without costumes going mouldy or any other calamities ocurring – all seems well. At the moment we're hoping to put on a production in mid-July called "Here We Are Again". Fingers crossed!

26th April 2021

We drove to Southsea on Tuesday and had fish & chips on the beach in the sun. And on Thursday we took a picnic and sat on the Downs overlooking Chichester. I wonder if we would have bothered to do these things if life had been 'normal'? But we're feeling the need to make the most of our 'liberation' at the moment!

19th April 2021

We had our first 'post-lockdown-this-year' meal in a pub garden on Sunday. The sun was out and so were the people, even though the air was on the chilly side. I sat with a blanket over my knees!

12th April 2021

From today we're allowed to use pub gardens, but the weather forecast isn't exactly encouraging. A light dusting of snow this morning!

5th April 2021

After a few bursts of spring-like weather, we're now told there may be snow on the way. Oh, to be in England now that April's here!

29th March 2021

Today we were allowed to have 6 people meet in a garden – so we fired up the fire pit, got out the chairs and blankets and invited four friends to join us for the evening. It was a bit chilly, but it was freedom!!
Meanwhile, my daughter Sarah sent me a link to an old Youtube clip that she'd just come across, of her playing jazz clarinet. Have a listen – I think you might enjoy it as much as I did.

22nd March 2021

Every year around this time, I think about clearing the accumulated fallen leaves out of the ponds in our garden. It used to be the case that I'd either do it before the frogs had spawned, or wait for the tadpoles to develop into frogs and do it later in the year. I remember one year a grass snake appeared and hoovered up all the tadpoles, but the frogs were back the following year.
However, over the past few years I've noticed no frogspawn at all in any of my garden ponds. The frogs seems to have just disappeared, and I think that's rather sad.

15th March 2021

Yesterday I upped my calorie count from 300 to 400 – that is, the figure on our static bike showing the number of calories used in a ride. It wasn't pre-planned, but I had Alexa playing Status Quo tracks and I just got carried away. I didn't feel too over-wrought afterwards, so perhaps it'll be my new goal.
They also say that some mental activity while pedalling improves the generation of endomorphins, or something, so as well as playing music to keep me going, I also look at the shelf of random books in front of me (see picture) and as I pedal along I try to remember what's in them. I suppose they show a broad range of my interests. What do you think of that?

8th March 2021

I've been putting video recordings of some of the old Headley Theatre Club performances up onto YouTube (see list). It's a long process, and the quality of the original recordings isn't always brilliant – but it helps to pass the time!
I'm also trying to remember to do half an hour or so saxophone practice each day – yesterday I had a Zoom 'consultation' with daughter Sarah (see her playing) and we came to the conclusion that my current instrument, which had just come back from being repaired, wasn't playing well so it'll have to go back for a check. Luckily, I still have Deb's old sax which plays tolerably well, so practice will continue.

1st March 2021

Spring is sprung! Let's hope for some good weather and a chance to get out more.
Last week I dusted off the dulcimer which had been lurking on top of a chest of drawers in the back bedroom. Neither of us had touched it since we bought it on a whim some years ago. As encouragement, Dil ordered a book of Beatles songs that could be played on the instrument – and on Saturday I performed "I Feel Fine" at the on-line folk club. But I don't find it a very satisfying instrument – effectively three strings tuned to two notes, and all the interesting frets missing so you can only play 'pentatonic' tunes. I think it may well go back on the chest of drawers. Sorry. [And thanks to Chris for moving our freezer out – see last week.]

22nd February 2021

This week it was the saga of the freezer. Our big American-style one had stopped freezing and we decided to replace it with a smaller one, which was duly delivered by Currys on Saturday. We'd also paid for them to remove the old one – but the men took one look at it and said it would have to have the doors removed first, and as we hadn't paid for that they couldn't take it! We can't remember seeing that mentioned on the Currys website. After they'd gone we removed the doors, but too late. It's now standing in the middle of the kitchen (see pic) waiting for us to find another way of getting rid of it.

15th February 2021

Every day I try to remember to do 30 minutes on our exercise bike, or more precisely keep pedalling until the 'calories' counter rolls round to the magic figure of 300.
I'm quite enjoying it. I get our "Alexa with a screen"' to play music to the right rhythm, and watch the words to familiar pop songs scroll by on the screen – and realise that I obviously never listened to the lyrics first time round. Now that I see them in front of me, some make more sense than my dreamed-up versions, but some make far, far less sense – what were they on, these writers? (But since most of the music is from the 1960s & 70s, I thuink we might know the answer to that!!)

8th February 2021

Not much to report this week, other than that we are alive and well. The weather has turned cold with a touch of snow on the ground and bitter winds – so no great incentive to go out and break lock-down rules!

1st February 2021

I had my first Covid-19 jab on Wednesday, with no ill effects. It was the Oxford variety. Not sure when I get the second one – there seems to be some uncertainty politically whether to prioritise second jabs over a wider distribution of first jabs or not.

25th January 2021

I suppose the big news internationally was that they finally got rid of President Trump in the US of A last week. Or at least, they hope they did!
Over here, we still have to soldier on for a few more years under the motley crew we elected in last year. Well, I didn't but the collective 'we' did, bless them!

18th January 2021

One aspect of this continuing pandemic is that local societies have less to say about what they're doing, and as a result I've been given far less copy than normal for February's Parish Magazine. As a result I had to do some creative writing to fill the gaps and make up the page count. Finally finished at 10.30pm last night. You can see it under 'Parish Magazine' on the Headley Village website.

11th January 2021

The first Zooming of Headley History went well last Thursday evening. We had over 50 screens logged in, and estimated that nearly 90 people watched it from as far afield as Huddersfield and Herne Bay.
Sadly we forgot to press 'Record' on the night(!), so next day I did it all again, just to myself, and the recording of that is now on Youtube.

The other event of the week was managing to get to the dentist, during lock-down, to have a filling replaced. The staff were dressed like storm-troopers, but we all survived the event.

4th January 2021

The start of another year – hopefully better than the last! On the positive side, we've all learnt how to Zoom to good effect, and had no excuse not to do all those things that were waiting for us to get a 'round tuit'.

Last week we held a Games Evening on Zoom with 5 households spread out between Yorkshire and Kent contributing – we wouldn't have thought of doing that this time last year. Also, it's prompted me to develop some presentations on local history to run on Zoom instead of bringing people out on a wet, dark winter's evening to sit in a hall and listen. The first is this coming Thursday – let's see how it goes.

Continued …

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