Captain Peacock

In the British sit-com Are You Being Served? the rather stuffy floor walker, Captain Peacock, purported to being something of a military hero. Though his military history was never really explained. If anything it was somewhat spurious and, at times, entirely fictitious…except in Captain Peacock’s mind I guess.

I was reminded of the character made famous by Frank Thornton when I happened across a real Captain Peacock today at work…though, I hasten to add, I was reminded by name only. The real Captain George Peacock was about as far from the Grace Brothers floor walker as it’s possible to be.

George was born in Devon in 1805. He was the son of a naval man turned merchant shipowner and his wife who I assume was a stay at home Victorian wife and mother. Following a brief stint in school, George’s dad decided he should make his son an apprentice so, at the age of 13, George was taken to sea.

His early years were taken up with serving aboard a number of his father’s ships in Brazil and the Med before commanding a ship of his own. Then, in 1828, aged 23, he decided to leave behind the private world of merchants and nepotism and, instead, joined the Royal Navy. Interestingly he joined as a second master so either his previous work aboard his dad’s ships was taken into account or else he knew someone.

Cynicism aside, it seems that George was a brilliant officer who quickly sped through the ranks. It wasn’t long before he had been promoted to Acting Master of HMS Magnificent (1806).

HMS Magnificent (1806) by Gilbert (artist); C. Hunt (engraver); Ackermann & Co (publishers) - NMM collection, ref PAH9217, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8052832
HMS Magnificent (1806) by Gilbert (artist); C. Hunt (engraver); Ackermann & Co (publishers) – NMM collection, ref PAH9217, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8052832

Perhaps he’s aboard it above, steering the beautiful ship through a gale. Probably not because he went aboard in 1831 and the engraving was from 1812…still, I’m sure it wasn’t all plain sailing for our intrepid Peacock.

He moved from ship to ship while doing a bit of surveying. He was responsible, in a large part, for the surveying of the location for the Panama Canal and the Corinth Canal in Greece. In fact, he was awarded the Royal Order of the Redeemer from King Otho of Greece for his work on the latter.

Then came the First Opium War. George was really up for it. He’d become a bit bored with the surveying and decided that killing a bunch of poppy mad Chinese traders was where he wanted to be. The Navy, however, completely disagreed and refused to send him. Perhaps they figured he was better off surveying than killing.

We’ll probably never know but it really pissed George off and he wrote in 1840 that it was because of a “…want of influential political friends.” So, essentially, nepotism saved his life for me to write about. If he’d gone to China he may never have returned and then never invented the masses of things he invented including anti-fouling paint for iron ships.

He handed in his commission in 1840 and took a job as Marine Superintendent for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. He worked for them for the next six years during which time he led the first steamship expedition to navigate the Magellan Straits.

Clearly bored, in 1848 he took a job at Southampton Docks firstly as Dock Master then quickly as Superintendent. It was during his stint here that, along with a mate, he invented and tested his anti-fouling paint. In one famous quote he said that a couple of his so treated ships returned after “…TEN to FOURTEEN MONTHS with PERFECTLY CLEAN BOTTOMS!

His inventive bent was legendary. When he was 17 he invented and fitted a screw propeller to the longboat of his father’s brig Fanny. While this might not sound that amazing, the first screw propeller steamship was the SS Archimedes of 1840 and George was 17 in 1822. He was very much a forward thinking chap.

Mind you, he didn’t foresee the bikini. Instead, in 1828, he invented his Nautilus Bathing Dress which he claimed was for “swimming with decorum.” The top half of it was inflatable and he always had one under his pillow. Just in case he suddenly felt the need for some decorum swimming, I guess. He even posed for photographs wearing it. Sadly I haven’t been able to find any copies of that.

In 1858 he felt like he should end his days being in the Navy and he applied to the Admiralty to be reinstated. They didn’t see it quite the same way as George and refused his re-entry. So, instead, in 1860 he commanded an unsuccessful expedition to look for nitrates in the Sahara…as you do. This expedition was under the patronage of Napoleon III so it may have been to slight the Admiralty for their attitude.

I have only just scraped the surface of George’s incredible life. His inventions and writing and surveying are too numerous to elucidate here in a blog post. He really needs a book. He was a bit of a polymath though principally in seafaring. I also reckon he was a bit of a lad.

Anyway, Captain George Peacock died at the home of his only daughter in 1883 (his wife and sons had all shuffled off their mortal coils years before him) and he was buried in the family vault in Devon.

George and his medals
George and his medals

So, here’s to Captain George Peacock a dude among men.

Crap & keep

Not a lot happened today. It was mostly housework.

I did manage to throw out Mirinda’s Weird Box of Receipts. This box contained lots of little, fading bits of paper Mirinda was certain she’d need. I sealed the box and dated it back in 2006. The seal had remained unbroken. Before that it had traveled with us from house to house unopened and undisturbed.

I figured if it hasn’t been opened in a decade, it would probably stay that way for the rest of our lives and, therefore, be no good whatsoever to man, beast or social historian. For one thing, given the Fade Rate, the paper will all be blank before too long and only good for old school analog shopping lists.

I sorted the rest of the stuff between crap and keep then we headed for the park. (And, for the record, I’ve put everything back because we don’t have an install date yet and I don’t want to live surrounded by it all for an unspecified number of weeks.)

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Surprisingly, we didn’t see any dogs today which is very unusual. And the park was so beautiful and green. Mind you I reckon the hay fever brigade would have been suffering.

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Mirinda came home and we had lovely omelettes for dinner with the big doors wide open. It won’t be long before we’re eating outside.

Finished floor

The guys turned up this morning and finished up the lounge room floor. It was all about the skirting board and filling little holes so they were finished by lunchtime.

I’m really happy with the result…though I did have to sand down the threshold a bit.

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The next stage of the Library Formation will be Claude with the shelving and cupboards. Hopefully that will be soon.

After the guys had gone, I took the girls to the park for their usual run. Not long after starting our walk I accidentally threw Emma’s ball into an acre of nettles and brambles.

We searched for a bit but gave up rather than incur vegetational wrath. I was going to keep going without a ball but Emma looked so forlorn that I decided to go home, get a new ball and start again.

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Happy Emma searching for the new ball

The day wasn’t as sunny as it has been but there wasn’t any likelihood of rain. This meant there were a lot of other people out with their dogs as well.

Freya seems to be back to her social best. I think she was upset about us going to France and has taken a while to forgive us. The result of this is her sticking to my side and not running up and saying hello to every one. But, as I say, she seemed to have forgiven me.

Today she made a new friend. The dog was too far away to tell what model it was but it was about her size. The pair of them had a jolly play, making the other dog’s owner laugh with delight.

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Freya pulling a face at being picked up

Today in the garden, I tackled the Former Residence of Xun Ma which had become a grassland meadow. By the end of the day I could actually see the plants.

Today in the extension, I started putting stuff back into the lounge, giving me back some of the lovely space. I’ve really grown quite adverse to clutter.

More floor

The floor guys turned up just after 7:30 this morning. On the other hand, poor Mirinda had to leave at 6:40. She had an early meeting in London.

While everyone else got to work, I headed into the garden where today’s unexpected event occurred. A bird pooped on my head.

Normally I wear a hat in the garden at all times. This is generally to keep the sun and my hair out of my eyes. For reasons known only to the god of bird poo, today I ventured out without one.

I was standing, in the open, looking at something garden-ish when I felt something hit my head. Being inherently stupid, my first reaction was to put my hand on my head. All I felt was a disgusting mess.

I didn’t see the bird but judging from the scalp coverage it attained, I’d suggest it was either very big or had diarrhea…possibly both. Regardless of size, it was obviously a good shot.

I know the Chinese regard it as good luck but all I could think about was giving my hand and head a damn fine scrubbing.

Unexpected dropping aside, I spent most of the day in the garden. I planted this year’s sweet peas in the Crazy Bed, the biddens in the Hot Border and removed almost all the dandelion harvest in Carmen’s Sweet Escape.

I also found a small but annoying outbreak of my garden nemesis – bind weed! It had started to wind around the new honeysuckle climber on the arch from Carmen’s Sweet Escape to the grass. I put an end to its insidious ways.

Of course, we went for our usual walk in the park where we met a dog that looked the spitting image of Freya. Quite bizarre given the other dog was a Jack Russell poodle cross.

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Very green

By the end of the day, the floor was down and the only thing left for tomorrow was the skirting board.

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There was a problem with the threshold but, hopefully this can be fixed before Mirinda comes home.

Library floor

Today, the Floorcraft guys set to work. They started with a sort of empty room – the boxes in the photo below, are full of the new floor.

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Almost empty

Then, after much clawing and squealing, the boards were removed so that just before lunch there was nothing to walk on.

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Bearings

Finally, by the end of the day, the insulation was down and they’d started taping it up.

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Will keep it warm

While they were busy in the house, Mirinda was making her way to Milton Keynes to be interviewed by Sarah as part of the students’ residential and I worked in the garden.

The other day when I planted the snapdragons I didn’t realise there was more than one plant in each pot. I spent a little while separating them out and replanting them today. I then weeded the Candy Bed which should give the geraniums a bit more room to grow. And, of course, I mowed the grass.

The grass has become a bit patchy. I don’t know why. When Chris laid the turf it all seemed fine but, gradually, bald spots have appeared here and there. So, last weekend I bought some grass seed and then today, after mowing, I poked the grass all over with a fork then sprinkled the seed over it. Hopefully this should make things better. It’s supposed to be super fast and bird resistant.

Then, a lovely surprise, Mirinda came home. The original plan was for her to go from Milton Keynes back to the flat because she has an early meeting tomorrow. However, after working out she’d only be getting up about 20 minutes earlier by coming home, she took the preferred option.

Room to move

The big job today was to completely empty the lounge room in preparation for the floor guys who are due tomorrow morning. By the time I’d finished, the extension was full of stuff. How on earth it all fitted into the lounge is anyone’s guess.

Before I put my shoulder to the wheel I went shopping and Mirinda Skyped…and that was it, really.

I finished clearing the room just in time to start dinner (roast pork with green butter) while Mirinda took the girls to Thursley. She said it was beautiful.

Motorways and gardens

So, after a breakfast of coffee, croissants and pain au chocolate, we hit the road for home. Of course it rained on and off all the way.

We had the cricket on the radio and listened as England started demolishing Sri Lanka for the second time in as many days. Then it rained at Headingley and play was stopped for the next three hours.

Nicktor dropped me off and headed for his place while I went in and had a coffee and a bit of a sit down. Not for long, though, because today was the Odiham Open Gardens Day.

Ignoring the rain, we headed up to Odiham, intending to see at least two gardens.

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As it turned out, we saw quite a few them. From the big one with the fish riding a bicycle sculpture to the lovely little low maintenance courtyard garden.

Because of the rain, I didn’t get a lot of photographs though I did manage this rather nice tamarisk

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Afterwards we headed back home and then over to Haslemere for delicious takeaway Chinese from the Good Earth. Afterwards Freya had her first bones ever!

It wasn’t long before I was showing the early signs of falling asleep due to lack of same since Thursday morning. Though not before finding out that England bowled out Sri Lanka to win the first test by an innings and 88 runs. The thing is, if the umpires hadn’t stopped play for light on Friday, it could have been wrapped up while we watched.

Shoddy & Mungo

In Dewsbury, just outside Huddersfield, there’s a massive factory building (which is now flats) with big white letters proclaiming Shoddy & Mungo Manufacturers. I pointed it out to Neil and Sleazy, asking if they’d buy anything from them. Neil said he’d definitely not buy a Shoddy bike.

That was on the way home from the cricket. The second day of the first test between England and Sri Lanka at Headingley. And what an amazing day of cricket it was.

Day one had seen most of the England batsman failing to make a start but a heroic stand by Hales and some wonderful recovery batting by Bairstow made things look a little less than bleak. Headingley is Bairstow’s home ground and he really wanted to score a century so Day two held the possibility of a wonderful cricketing reward.

For us, waking up in Colin and Frances’ lovely home, the promise of a cooked breakfast had us downstairs, crowding the kitchen where Colin was getting everything ready for Steve. Steve was to be our chef while Colin only normally walks into the kitchen to get to the room opposite. Fortunately Colin had Frances to point him in the right direction. Well, before she headed off to work.

After a substantial breakfast our ever growing group (in size as well as number) headed up to the station to catch the first of many trains for the day.

Rather than joining the throng entering the ground, we had our first beer at a pub oddly called Skyrack. While here, I had a call from the plumber, Jem, saying he’d come round to the house to fix the radiator in the lounge today. Fortunately Mirinda was there, working from home. He told me to enjoy the cricket and the beer and not to think about him working hard all day.

Talking of beer…we managed to find the Black Sheep beer tent as soon as we entered the ground!

Sleazy and his red jacket
Sleazy and his red jacket

This is quite a rarity. Usually the beer at test matches is a bit weak and bordering on tasteless. Black Sheep ale is one of the best and makes the day just a little bit brighter. In order to make it as bright as possible, we drank it all day.

Eventually we took our seats…and what brilliant seats! A few steps up and straight across. Perfectly placed to watch the cricket and the antics of the costumed brigade in the block next to us. This year the Headingley people have sequestered the people who wear costumes into one block in order to keep control better. Apparently it’s the people who dress up that cause the most trouble. The best thing about that is you can see everything happening rather than have to search the stands for the most interesting action when the game starts to wain.

Not that there was a lot of ‘waining’ this year. The cricket was marvellous. Unless you happen to be a Sri Lankan, in which case it was awful. Bairstow made his century to rapturous applause and then went on his swashbuckling way to a well played 140. England wound up all out 298. While this is not what you’d call a massive test innings, it was far better than it looked like being earlier on. England’s batsmen had not really turned up and if not for Hales and Bairstow, the picture could have been very different.

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Headingly England v Sri Lanka 1st test day 2

So then Sri Lanka came in and it was boys against men (and, oddly enough, a lot of the Sri Lankan players looked to be about three feet tall). Wickets tumbled, catches taken, James Anderson, godlike…it was all over in short time. Sri Lanka only managed 91 runs. England sent them back in to follow on. The weather has been forecast as pretty dire for the next few days and we reckoned the England team wanted to wrap it up by the end of play today.

A happy Nicktor
A happy Nicktor

Sadly, that was not to be. The umpires called bad light not long after the restart and we all went home. Actually, it was quite dark but they did have the floodlights on so why they couldn’t keep going, we do not know. Still, it was a very happy group of us that made its way back to the Skyrack for a couple of beers before heading to the station for the train.

This was a wise move as it meant a not so crowded train back to Leeds centre then on to Huddersfield where we stopped at the Head of Steam (for old times sake) for a swift couple of beers before grabbing a taxi back to Colin’s place.

A splendid day, yet again.

I think I should mention that the company wasn’t called Shoddy and Mungo. Shoddy and mungo are two types of wool products that were manufactured in the Dewsbury factory in the mid to late 19th century. The company was ACTUALLY called Machell’s Shoddy and Mungo Manufacturers. Shame. Still…I thought Neil’s remark was dlightfully obscure and did make me laugh.

Speaking of Neil, he reminded us that he and I have been coming up for the cricket for 11 years now. I find that extraordinary but it does explain why they all know me.

Yorkshire Tea band - with cups on their heads
Yorkshire Tea band – with cups on their heads

Best band you never saw

In the occasional sun of the morning, the newest addition to our house glowed with pleasure.

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Unfortunately I was only able to look at it for half the morning as Nicktor was picking me up to drive to Holmfirth for our annual Test Cricket Junket.

This year the whole thing has been organised by Colin, one of the Syngenta guys and it was to his place we were headed.

The drive up the M1 was a long parade of roadworks and collisions but we eventually arrived at the local squash court to watch Colin and Sleazy play some racket ball.

While we were watching we came up with an excellent idea for a Two Ronnies type sketch about the world laziest sportsman. He will only participate in sports that he can do on a chair. Watching racket ball was a start.

After we’d been joined by Steve and Rob, friends of Colin, and had a couple of drinks, we ordered an Indian and headed off to Colin’s place where Frances was waiting.

Colin and Frances live in a wonderful converted and extended farm building on a working farm. They have the most brilliant view up a valley and over the hills. The house was also beautiful.

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View from the garden

Over our Indian (my biryani was actually something entirely different which I did eat but not without a tinge of disappointment) we discussed the usual silly stuff we discuss on these nights like ‘What’s the best band you never saw in concert?’

Then Pete arrived (he was originally coming to the cricket but had double booked a night at the theatre with his wife and she won) and we headed up to the wonderful Rose and Crown for some excellent beer.

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Some marvelous ales here

We left at just after midnight and continued drinking and talking rubbish back at the house.

It was a late bed time but a lovely day.

The beautiful window

Sadly there wasn’t really any sun today. In fact it pretty much rained for all of it. Even so, our beautiful new stained glass window sill managed to glow with life.

I felt very sorry for John. He came over with Amanda to install it. Amanda made it. That sounds way too minor a role. Amanda created it. And she did an excellent job.

The two of them worked outside in the rain, removing the frame from the old, boring opaque double glazed unit before the three of us manhandled the new window into place.

While removing the frame was a bit of a pain, it was nowhere as bad as putting it back on.

One of the lengths of aluminum somehow managed to get a slight bow in it so that every time John bashed it in on one side, it popped out the other.

It wasn’t until he swapped the top and bottom lengths that it finally worked.

And so, finally, there it was. Glorious, beautiful, gorgeous…everything we’d hoped it would be and more. And more.

The Avenue of Trees in glass.

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Amanda photographs her work

Thank you Amanda, we love it. And now the extension is finally finished.