A different kind of wind

Following the almost complete destruction of the fence between us and the Crazies, I finally met up with the fencing guy (Matt) to get it replaced. The poor guy has been inundated with bad luck over the last week.

First his phone was drowned then his son was ill and he had to look after him while his partner was busy. Still, all is now well (including his son) and we met up this afternoon.

He measured and checked it out then said he’d send a quote through tomorrow at the latest. He drove off then, ten minutes later, I had a quote on my phone from him. I then accepted the quote and we organised for him to come and do the actual work this Thursday. All done and dusted. I do like it when things run really smoothly.

Possibly not as smoothly as Freya and her farts.

We have decided she’ll not be having lamb again. Ever. Since last night the house has been reeking of her butt end emissions. And they are decidedly not nice. Mirinda has even been forced to burn incense in the library to try and diffuse the nasal invasion. (‘Forced’ might be pushing it given she burns incense in the library all the time, regardless of Freya’s little bombs.)

The rest of the day was spent in various domestic things though I did ring mum then Denise rang me, which was a very pleasant surprise and rounded off a pleasant day.

Here’s something equally pleasant. The heads of the daffs are starting to appear.

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Parallel lives

Sometime before 1927, my paternal grandmother, Ada, had a child out of wedlock. The child was handed over to a family member to bring up, a family member who was safely married. The child, a girl, was brought up believing the family member was her parent.

Ada married my grandfather Ernest in 1927 and they proceeded to have some legitimate children including, eventually, my dad. Ada died shortly afterwards in 1933. In fact, dad never knew his mother. And, as far as he knew, he only had a couple of brothers for siblings

Fast forward to the 1980’s when mum and dad came over to the UK for a visit home. A party was organised by dad’s family where he met the sister he’d never known. While a lovely surprise, it was also very upsetting. How could a family deliberately take away a child from its mother and keep the child a dirty secret for so long?

Well, on Friday, I researched a very similar case.

Sydney Eade was born in 1889 to the unmarried Minnie Nash who was just 16. I have no idea who the father was. There is no birth certificate because these children were not recorded given the shame the families felt.

There is some indication (family history perhaps) that Sydney’s biological father was a Canadian soldier but what he was doing in Wrecclesham, Surrey in 1889 is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was a travelling snake oil salesman or a circus performer. It’s not relevant.

Minnie Nash had a married older sister called Fanny. She had married Alfred James Eade in 1877 and suddenly found herself with a son called Sydney. Naturally he was given the surname Eade. The Eade’s already had two children, Sydney’s cousins John and Anne and they had two more after Sydney’s appearance.

Meanwhile, Minnie was packed off to work as a servant in a big house in Aldershot. In 1892, she returned briefly to Wrecclesham where she married Earnest Alfred Wilkinson but they quickly moved to Nunhead where they spent the rest of their lives. They had five children. On her marriage entry in the parish record, Minnie’s father’s name is not recorded – the box has a line through it. He was still alive but, I reckon, he’d disowned her.

That’s not to say that Sydney didn’t know who his mother was. He joined the army in 1907, aged 18 and, as far as his army application form is concerned, he states that his mother was Minnie and his father was her husband, Ernest. He also lists their various children, some as his siblings, some as step siblings. It’s all very confusing. More confusing is he lists Fanny as his grandmother.

While in the army, Sydney saw a lot of travel. He spent time in Gibralta, Somalia, South Africa, to name but a few. He spent some time in hospitals for an abscess and then, more seriously, a hernia before heading for the front at the outbreak of war.

Reading his service record he seems like a nice enough chap. He had a few isolated charges for overstaying passes and being a bit drunk in the barracks but nothing out of the ordinary. Apparently he was considered quite a good gardener.

He eventually died in action at Gheluvelt in Belgium.

I’d like to think that perhaps Sydney’s siblings (and half siblings) knew who he really was before he died because I know how dad felt about not knowing he had a sister for most of her life. It’s rather sad and so very unnecessary.

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Smelling like a lamb

Albert Finney died today. He was 82. There was a lovely interview with Tom Courtenay (very good friends for many years) this morning on the Today programme. He was upset but thankful for such a good friendship.

An obituary isn’t the best way to begin a day but it did improve. After walking into Farnham, buying meat and veg from the butcher and other sundry goods from Waitrose, I headed home. I then spent a lot of time in my office printing off articles for Mirinda who is currently working on updating her literature review.

On the spur of the moment we decided to have lunch at the Holly Bush. Originally Mirinda was due a guitar lesson today but her teacher had to rush home after hearing some bad news so we had the morning together as well.

Before heading into the pub we walked the dogs across the common where I used to spend quite a lot of time with Day-z when we temporarily lived in Frensham. It was all a bit wild and windy and bleak, unlike the hot, sunny days I spent reading on the grass while Day-z slept beside me.

Emma looking a bit odd running towards me

Lunch, as usual, was delightful though I shouldn’t have had the salmon fishcakes. Although they were delicious, they were full of potato (as well as salmon) which meant I was struck down with a wave of tiredness shortly after returning home. Bloody carbs! Mirinda, wisely, chose the naked lamb burger option.

Before leaving the house I put a whole load of lamb bones (from the butcher) in the slow cooker so by the time we returned, the whole house smelled like a lamb casserole. I reckon the bone broth is going to be pretty yum this week.

The Holly Bush

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Windy world outside the window

I worked from home today because the fencing guy was coming round to quote for fixing the flappy fence panels between us and the Crazies. As it turned out, I’m rather glad I didn’t go to Woking.

The weather started reasonably enough but it didn’t last. The wind roared bringing sessions of torrential rain followed by blue sky and sunshine that lasted only as long as the next bout of wind started it all over again. I reckon I’d have managed getting wet going there and coming back.

While I enjoy going to Woking and sitting in the History Centre, I despise doing it in wet clothes. And I would have been wet. There isn’t a raincoat alive that could have withstood the day’s onslaught.

Working at the dining table I watched the war in the back garden, safe inside as birds flew from trees moving more than them. They flapped their wings energetically in an attempt to remain in one place. The bird feeders, surprisingly, remained in place though the bird feed table almost engaged in somersaults, depositing seed on the heads of the walking pigeons on the terrace.

The fencing fellow was due to turn up at 2:30pm. At 3:30pm I received a message from him. His day had been a nightmare culminating in his phone getting soaked taking all details of all things with it. I empathised with him. If my phone suddenly became inoperable, I’d be in a bit of a pickle.

Anyway, we rearranged for him to pop in on the weekend. Given he inadvertently saved me from getting a jolly good drenching, how could I possibly be angry?

Meanwhile in the world of WWI research, I found someone whose early life reminded me of my father’s family. I might write about it tomorrow.

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Flat Jasmine

All night and through the early hours this morning, the wind blew like some sort of demon with toothache. I laid on the lounge and watched the world blow by outside as I cuddled Emma (who is still in season and in need of love and comfort) and Freya (who is not).

When I walked out the front door, heading for the gym, I was presented with a scene of wind-borne destruction. The first panel of the fence betwixt us and the Crazies had fallen over. It lay, sad and ignored, the jasmine flattened beneath it.

I hesitated briefly then headed off anyway, cursing the weather and all its associated gods.

In Farnham (after the gym) I headed to Nero’s still considering what I was going to do with the fence panel. Wandering the aisles of Waitrose, the panel was still uppermost in my mind. On the walk home I realised that no-one else seemed to have lost a fence panel.

After unpacking the shopping and briefly chatting with Mirinda, I grabbed some tools of destruction and headed outside again.

The wind hadn’t exactly died down, making the whole operation somewhat irritating. It also kept blowing in squaully rain making sure my discomfort was total.

Eventually I managed to prop the panel up so I could untie the jasmine from the wood, attempting to preserve as much of it as possible.

Urgent repairs

Finally, inside again, I contacted a fencing person (the old one we used appears to have gone out of business) who is coming out tomorrow to give us a quote to put in a proper, concrete post fence.

The whole thing took me a couple of hours and put my schedule back considerably. This meant I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to. Mind you, I did manage to make a promised walnut loaf which, Mirinda said, was “Divine!

I took the video below when I left the bus. I thought it quite hypnotic.

I admit to feeling a bit of joy seeing a small part of the destruction of the horrid Woolmead.

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A Sheldon Cooper kind of day

There was a crazy man in the train from Guildford to Aldershot this afternoon. I thought he was talking to someone on a phone. After hearing him saying “three three three” quite a few times I listened a little more carefully.

He was talking about a mass of invisible armies and socialist ideals. He wasn’t loud but seemed educated and literate. He didn’t have a phone or earplugs. He also seemed quite mad. He left the train at Ash and the carriage sighed with relief.

There wasn’t any crazy people on the train to Portsmouth this morning. Or none that I noticed anyway. Actually it was quite misty today and, uncommonly, the train from Aldershot pulled into the same platform that my train to Portsmouth was leaving from. Of course I paid for this in the afternoon when they changed the platform for my train home twice.

Guildford station platform 4

Today was mostly about Naval signalling. Books abound regarding the subject of how to communicate with ships and shore and how to distinguish between friend and foe. Actually, a couple of them claimed that they were filling an empty niche. I can testify to this niche being far from empty.

As well as the signalling books, I also had cause to catalogue a few volumes regarding the naming of ships (far more interesting than signalling). Two of them were written by the Prince of Battenburg but the third, by far the most interesting, was written by Francis George Crofton in 1877.

Francis George (1838-1900) was a commander in the Royal Navy who decided this lovely little volume was needed by anyone with an interest in the art of the naming of things.

A bit tatty but lovely

While I handle and deal with a lot of books of which I have little (read none) interest in, this is one I would dearly love. Apart from the fact that the information is invaluable, the book itself is lovely.

You can’t really see it from the photo but the edges of the covers, rather than being at right angles like any ordinary book, are bevelled at about 45 degrees. This gives it an air of the box, the lid and base protecting something precious. The jewels inside are safe and sound within.

It is, however, not a book I’ll be getting any time soon. I just looked it up on Abebooks and the cheapest volume is £98. Of course I could always get a reprint for about £7 but it’s just not the same is it?

Another wonderful item this week was the discovery of two German World War II code books. It took a while for me to translate what they were but soon the columns of meaningless collections of characters started to make sense. One of the books even had some type written pages in English, translated, one imagines, by the code breakers.

Sometimes the books I find have loose bits of paper in them. These can be reviews of the book or articles written by the author or even random notes. Like this one.

The SMY Meteor IV was the royal yacht of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Captain Begas was the captain. The Kaiser rather enjoyed sailing though this wasn’t one of those little racing yachts. No, this was a yacht like the Britannia. It was a luxury marine vessel.

I wondered about the piece of paper and when I turned it over, wondered even more.

I don’t know what happened to the rest of the note but I can only assume that the scalp wound was on his scalp.

But mysteries aside, today was mostly about signalling which, naturally, involves lots and lots of flags. Nelson at Trafalgar was mentioned a few times with one entire book written about his use of the flags that he did use. Not a best seller I’m thinking.

Flags for boats, flags for warships, flags for merchant marines, many, many flags.

By the end of the day I’d flagged and was ready to go home.

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Dog days

I was dozing on the bed this afternoon, partway cleaning, partway listening to the radio when I realised I was dreaming. I was heading for some sort of holiday accommodation. I was in the country, walking easily through a wooded landscape.

When I arrived at my accommodation, the place was in disarray. It looked like the place had been burgled and the burglars had thrown everything on the floor. Atop the various objects was the mattress. I was early and decided to help the owner by doing a bit of tidying.

Then I realised there was a dog with me. It was big, dopey type of dog. It looked like the result of a great Dane and greyhound coupling. It was very friendly with a big lolling tongue and bright happy eyes. I patted its head and it looked at me.

The dog suddenly ran off and started barking. Perhaps it was telling the owner that some strange guest was tidying up. The bark seemed strangely familiar and didn’t quite match the big dog . It sounded as if it should come from a small, yappy type dog. A cockerpoo perhaps.

I woke up as Emma continued her shrill noise in the library. She was welcoming Richard the Eggman as he made his way up the street. And it wasn’t the only time she’d caused a commotion today.

Earlier, in the park, we ran into a beautiful white akita which spent an inordinate amount of time circling me, interested in Emma. He let me pat him but refused to let Emma out of his sight. Freya then followed him trying to get him to play with her.

It must have made a funny sight (I wish I’d videoed it) particularly with the akita’s owner constantly calling him to come to her. Eventually she walked over and grabbed his collar, telling him to stop being a pest. As she returned to her walking companions, she released him only to have him trot back to Emma.

The only way the owner was going to convince her dog that he was not going to remain with us was to snap his lead on and drag him, unwillingly away. He was very disappointed. Emma was rather pleased with herself.

The park was quite chilly in the wind though the ambient temperature was quite mild.

Bleak Park

And, of course, the place is still very wet and spongy. The girls needed a foot bath when we reached home.

In Downunder News…today mum went and visited the Residential Home she’s moving into. It’s brand new and looked lovely (Denise sent me a video). She should be moving in next week. While Skyping she seemed to be half excited about and half dreading it. I told her it’ll be fine.

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Oh dear

What a difference a thaw makes. Here’s the same view as yesterday.

Apart from a few patches of snow and some rather scary strips of ice, it’s as if it was never cold. The temperature has risen, almost to double figures.

In Farnham this morning I was presented with the awful news that Brasserie Blanc is moving away! Yes, my favourite Farnham restaurant. Damn it! Okay there’s a lot of others but even so.

Meanwhile at home, the gardeners moved the big compost bin.

Nicely done

Before the actual move, they had to transplant the spiky pyrocanthus that was growing there strong and tall. Paul did the deed and I can only hope he is as skilled as I am at pyrocanthus transfer.

On the right, with the stake

And now the working area is looking a lot tidier.

Nice and neat

The poor guys were working in the rain for most of the morning but it sort of stopped by the time they were finished. At least their next job would be a bit more pleasant.

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Cauli hash brown

Following the snow comes the ice. When the temperature over night refuses to rise above zero, you just know the all-weather path will be a thinly disguised ice rink. One could always walk on the grass except most of the grass will be gone because of all the sled action. The wisest course of action is to remain at home until the thaw.

Because we ate out last night, the lamb chops I’d bought on Saturday morning would be our dinner. That’s not so much planning ahead as good luck. There was a bit of worry over lunch (I was running low on the salad front) but I managed to whip up some delicious egg in bacon muffins.

I’m quite pleased with the photo as well

Mirinda said they were yum.

For a lot of the afternoon I managed to (almost) complete research into another chap from the Wrecclesham memorial. The information I have doesn’t quite gel with the facts so I had a bit of a knot to unravel. It makes a change from just copying down information and it’s always satisfying when you solve a mystery.

The lamb chops were lovely but possibly the highlight of dinner were the cauliflower hash browns. Mirinda found the recipe on a lo-carb app she has on her phone. They tasted great but next time I’ll need to make sure I squeeze more liquid out of them because they were still a bit wet.

There is an amazing amount of liquid in a cauliflower.

Tonight it’s supposed to rain and the temperature will rise and the week ahead will be mild. I’m anticipating a lack of ice tomorrow for my walk to the gym.

I hope the rain won’t be as bad as in Townsville at the moment where the crocodiles are roaming the streets looking for dry land. And dinner.

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Welcome back to 1952

There’s something very peaceful about a snow filled vista.

That was my view walking to the shops this morning. A little further along the path, Farnham Park was alive with kids and parents sliding down the slopes making the most of the inch of snow while ensuring it only lasted a day. By the time I returned from the shops, the big hill by the castle was merely brown ruts of sodden earth rather than a pristine white blanket.

Still, they were all having a lot of fun. Even this little chap.

Mr Melty waves

Mirinda eventually came home (she’d been stuck at the flat last night because the trains can’t run if there’s even a whiff of snow in the air) and I told her all about the amazing things I’d seen in Berlin.

In the afternoon we took the girls to Frensham for a delightful, picture postcard walk around the pond. There were not as many people there as we expected and we even managed to park in the proper parking area rather than on the side of the road. I can’t remember the last time we were able to do that.

The walk was wonderful. A thin layer of ice on the pond, the pine trees providing pools of brown oases within the snow. It all looked a wintry delight.

Approach to the pond

There were a few family groups and people with dogs but it was nowhere near as crowded as it normally gets on a nice Saturday. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

We also stopped off at the Barley Mow in Tilford for a quick drink before heading home.

We weren’t home long before it was time to go back out again because we were off to the theatre.

I have managed to avoid seeing The Mousetrap for the past 20 years but Mirinda managed to corner me in a weak moment and I bought tickets to see the touring production. Tonight we saw it at the Yvonne Arnaud.

Originally Agatha Christie hoped the play would last eight months back in 1952 when it started. Even she was baffled at the plays success. Having finally seen it, I am also baffled.

Apart from the clearly dated nature of the play – it was, after all, written for an audience of over 60 years ago – the acting was pretty dire. Actors upstaging themselves all over the place, a bit of inexpert mugging and unconvincing performances left me cold and uncaring. Of the entire cast of eight I only thought Harriet Hare as Mollie Ralston deserves any sort of credit.

Apart from the dated material, I was astonished that the entire cast was mic’ed. The Yvonne Arnaud is not that big and any proper actor should be able to fill it with their own voice. The opera the other night may have been ghastly but at least it wasn’t delivered electronically. I think the actors should be ashamed of themselves if they are unable to use their voices properly.

Along with the dated dialogue and corny setting, I found the stereotyping deeply offensive at times. I know this is a glimpse into the past and it comes with the territory (sort of like seeing the homophobia in Friends but forgiving it because it was from a less enlightened time) but I don’t have to like it.

Another thing I found oddly reminiscent of a less enlightened time was the use of an English actor as the mysterious foreigner, Mr Paravicini. What’s wrong with using an Italian? Or Schumanian? We haven’t hit Brexit yet. I found this almost offensive and not a little bit unnecessary.

Then there were the strange gaps in the plot. I’m not the biggest Agatha Christie fan but her books are excellent in their plots and devices. They are really tight and work perfectly. The Mousetrap does not. There are holes in the plot and inexplicable snatches of dialogue that aid the plot but make little sense at the time. This is clearly not good.

I think it’s safe to say I didn’t enjoy it and if this is the level of theatre we can now expect at the Yvonne Arnaud then I doubt we’ll go much in the future. It’s a shame because I really want to support our local theatre but there’s no point if I don’t enjoy it.

In the front row in the red curtain glow

Something else that was very disappointing was the change of menu at the Top Bar in the theatre. The wonderful tapas menu has vanished to be replaced by a menu that is dull and consists of just cold stuff. Obviously this means they couldn’t justify the cost of a chef. Fair enough, I suppose but a real shame it wasn’t used enough to justify its existence.

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