There was a Young Lady of Firle

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July 21, 2017

After a traditional welcome-sign portrait, we took advantage of the excellent weather by heading up Firle Beacon:

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Looking south from Firle Beacon

Debbie’s hair is naturally only slightly wavy, but Rik was able to procure a convincingly curly wig to lend verisimilitude to the re-enactment while preserving her natural dignity.

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Expansive

Firle Beacon is one of the 2,010 Marilyns in the UK: that is, mountains and hills with prominence of over 150 metres. The name was coined by Sir Hector Marilyn as a companion to the more famous Scottish Munros.

Next we visited the lovely village of Firle: after a cup of tea at the famous Ram Inn, we paid a visit to the church.

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St Peter’s Church, Firle
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Visitors to the church were invited to attach a ribbon to the metal “Thank You Tree”.

The seat of the local manor Firle Place has been with the Gage family since 1476, and the name of the famous greengage plum variety almost certainly derives from a member of the Gage family, though there is some confusion over whether it was the Reverend John Gage or Sir William Gage, 7th Baronet who are both variously credited for the import of this fruit into Britain from France.  Visitors to the village are advised to stay well clear of this bitterly disputed controversy.

Leading economist John Maynard Keynes moved to Firle in 1925, and died there in 1946.

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The Long Man of Wilmington

Formerly thought to originate in the Iron Age or even the neolithic period, a 2003 archaeological investigation has shown that the figure may have been cut in the 16th or 17th century. From afar the figure appears to have been carved from the underlying chalk, but the modern figure – which is in a different location to the original – is formed much more conveniently, from white-painted breeze blocks and lime mortar.

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The tiny figure in the blue shirt under the tree is Rik. For scale, Rik is about six feet two.

Early depictions of the figure show other details such as a possible scythe blade on the right-hand staff and the suggestion of a helmet or hat on the figure’s head.  Now he looks more like a pioneering Nordic walker.

Rik’s contribution to this historic spot was to lie down for a rest on the grass below the giant’s feet with his spectacles in his shirt pocket. Not a good idea it turned out.

Next on our programme was a short walk to see the famous Seven Sisters,

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A Common Blue butterfly. Not just a common blue butterfly.
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Deborah and Her Sisters

(While taking the photograph above, Rik realised that his glasses were not with him, and recalled being supine by the Long Man).

From this viewpoint, we completed our walk by crossing the bay to the base of the Seven Sisters, which involved paddling through a fast flowing stream, before heading back inland, surrounded by the happy babble of day-tripping foreign students.

It was then time to return to the Long Man, so that Rik could retrace his steps, and with undeserved good fortune, reclaim his specs.

How better to set the seal on a perfect day’s Learing than by returning to Angmering Manor to enjoy a storming performance by Suspiciously Elvis – serendipitously appearing on the third night of our stay.

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Thangyouvaymurch

 

 

 

There was an Old Person of Hove

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Where are we, Debbie? And who’s the sponsor?

July 20, 2017

The tourists, mods and rockers all go to Brighton.  Hove is where a lot of quite posh people live.

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Anyone for a swim?
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That tall thing is the British Airways i360 in Brighton

The inspiration for the i360 observation tower came from the architects, husband and wife team David Marks and Julia Barfield, who famously originated and designed the London Eye.

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The graceful curve of Adelaide Crescent, built in the 1850s

Time to visit the Hove Museum and Art Gallery.  It included a large display of vintage and not-so-vintage toys: these were interesting, but there is nonetheless something poignant about seeing once beloved toys locked in display cabinets, or labelled Do Not Touch.

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Creepy enough for you?

More impressive was the

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Hove Amber Cup

which was discovered in 1856 during the construction of Palmeira Square. It is one of only two found in Britain, and has been dated to the mid-Bronze age, c.1250 BC.  It was found in a coffin made from a tree trunk, and it is believed that the amber came from the Baltic region – suggesting that in those days Britain was open to trade with Europe.

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Could not persuade any wrens or rooks to join me

Close to where that tranquil Old Person above is lying, the Anthaeum was built in 1832.  This grandiose project was conceived by botanist, landscape gardener and writer Henry Phillips in conjunction with architect Amon Henry Wilds. Under the world’s largest dome would be a 1.5-acre tropical garden filled with exotic shrubs, flowers, birds and fish.  Unfortunately the builders removed a supporting pillar crucial to the design and took away temporary scaffolding holding up the glazed dome. On its opening day in 1833, the structure spectacularly collapsed, shocking Phillips so much he is said to have gone blind.  The wreckage lay where it fell for the next 20 years.

After a tough morning’s Learing, it was time to treat ourselves to a delicious lunch at The Better Half, a gastropub run by Rik’s friend and ex-colleague Simon.  It tasted even better than it looked!

 

 

 

There was an Old Person of Shoreham

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I assume the fellow in white is also following the Edward Lear trail

July 19, 2017

Muslim scholar Muhammad al-Idrisi, writing c.1153, described Shoreham as “a fine and cultivated city containing buildings and flourishing activity”.  I am pleased to confirm that this is still the case.

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The waterfront. Possibly more photogenic at high tide and in sunshine.

I asked one of the locals why there so many boats in the harbour and none in the sea: didn’t the owners ever put to sea?  He said nobody ever would.  In Shoreham.

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A short detour to New Road, to where Debbie’s great-grandfather Owen Harrison retired in the 1920s.
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St Mary de Haura Church, founded in 1093 by William de Braose, 1st Lord of Bramber.  Sorry if you already knew that.

Tragically Shoreham made the news in recent years when, on 22 August 2015, a vintage jet aircraft crashed onto the nearby A27 during a display at the Shoreham Airshow,  killing 11 people and injuring 16 others.  The cause of the accident was found to be pilot error.

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No need to bring your bucket and spade
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Just as well it wasn’t raining in that cellar, given the state of my Umbrella. I couldn’t say whether all the people of Shoreham were pleased by the way I sate.
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Shoreham lighthouse, first lit in 1846.

 

 

There was an Old Man of Three Bridges

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Expand it, look, you can see it says “Three Bridges Station” above the doorway.  Rik seems to have his mind elsewhere.
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Oh all right then, unbelievers, can you read this one? (We didn’t test the affordability or the luxury).

July 19, 2017

“I don’t think you’ll find much to write about in Three Bridges” said Debbie.

We’ll see.

Debbie was not anticipating the appeal, for example, of one of the eponymous Bridges:

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Three Bridges was a hamlet which grew with the coming of the London and Brighton Railway in 1841. Interestingly, the village was not named, as some think, after rail bridges, but after three much older crossings over streams in the area.  Obvious, really, because otherwise before the railways arrived the place would have been called No Bridges.

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Caroline Haslett’s chief interest was in harnessing the benefits of electrical power to emancipate women from household chores, so that they could pursue their own ambitions outside the home.
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Both the inspiration for, and a filming location for the late Roger Moore’s classic 1979 Bond film.

See, Debbie?  There’s always something fascinating there if you scratch beneath the surface.  So it was not without a hint of sadness that we said our farewell to this most charming corner of Crawley.

Ah, nearly forgot.  The re-enactment.  Of course.

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Unrelieved by any Veal

For our Spanish readers: Habia un viejo…

June 21, 2017

A sizeable minority of our readers have Spanish as their first language, and will be pleased to know that a new translation of Edward Lear’s limericks, by Herrín Hidalgo, has just been published in Spain by Media Vaca.  I am indebted to Marco Graziosi’s excellent “A Blog of Bosh” for bringing this to my attention.

I am no student of Spanish, but it looks to be that Herrin has made a very good job of capturing the charm and spirit of the originals: a tricky task because he has had to recalibrate Lear’s exquisitely wrought rhymes.  Cromer has become Vivero, Tyre has become Alxira, and Brigg has become Albarracin, which sounds much more exciting.  Troy has been allowed just a short trip to Troya.

In keeping with the educational mission of this blog, readers will be pleased to learn that Sanson is considered a suitable name for parrots in Spain.

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There was an Old Person of Cromer, Who stood on one leg to read Homer: When he found he grew stiff, He jumped over the cliff, Which concluded that Person of Cromer.
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There was a Young Lady of Tyre, Who swept the loud chords of a lyre: At the sound of each sweep she enraptured the deep, And enchanted the city of Tyre.
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There was an old man in a barge, Whose nose was exceedingly large; But in fishing by night, It supported a light, Which helped that old man in a barge.
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There was an old person of Crowle,                                                     Who lived in the nest of an owl;                                                         When they screamed in the nest, he screamed out with the rest, That depressing old person of Crowle.
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There was an Old Person of Troy, Whose drink was warm brandy and soy: Which he took with a spoon, by the light of the moon, In sight of the city of Troy.
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There was an Old Man who said, ‘Hush!  I perceive a young bird in this bush”: When they said, ‘Is it small?’ He replied, ‘Not at all! It is four times as big as the bush!”
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There was an old man of Dunrose;  A parrot seized hold of his nose.                       When he grew melancholy, they said, “His name’s Polly,” Which soothed that old man of Dunrose.
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There was an old person of Brigg, Who purchased no end of a wig;                                                        So that only his nose, and the end of his toes, Could be seen when he walked about Brigg.

 

 

 

There was an Old Person of Grange

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Strong and stable? Or scroobious and strange? You decide.

June 13, 2017

“How can I get more subscribers to our blog?” I asked Debbie.

“Well, perhaps you could try writing about something that people actually give a fxxx about.”

I paraphrase of course: Debbie is far too much of a lady to use that sort of language, but really, I think I deserve a bit more support.  Nevertheless I have tried to fill this post with the sort of information that will be invaluable to hard-working families all over the world.

While staying at Ambleside, the opportunity to add another green dot to our Lear map proved too strong to resist, so we drove to Grange-over-Sands.  Some way over-Sands it turns out: this is not a place to take your bucket and spade: a large expanse of treacherous marshland separates the promenade from the vast sandy reaches of Morecambe Bay.

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The promenade hummed with life, even on a cloudy Tuesday morning

So, sorry guys, no re-enactment this time, as it wouldn’t have been safe to carry the waterproof tub I brought with me out to the sea.  Another problem is that I have so far failed to locate St. Blubb on the map: furthermore there seems to be some doubt as to whether Blubb was ever actually canonised.  A cynic might think the poet simply made the place up to rhyme with “tub”, but I’m sure Lear would never have stooped so low.

The town was formerly known simply as “Grange” – the ‘over-Sands’ suffix was added in the late 19th or early 20th century by the local vicar, who was fed up with his post going to Grange in Borrowdale near Keswick.

The railway came to Grange-over-Sands in the 1850s, and the town was enthusiastically promoted by the railway company as a tourist destination.  The crazy golf course is just one of the attractions, and Debbie and I tried our hand.  Unfortunately it turned out to be an unfair course, which resulted in Debbie edging a victory by 37 to 43.

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Twinned toilets. Plus the number, in case you should need it.
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Forced to continue with muddy boots
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The lido was built on the seafront in 1932 and closed in 1993…

…which was just the start of the town’s problems with public bathing facilities. A new public swimming pool, the Berners Pool, opened in 2003 at a cost of £3.5 million. It was designed by architects Hodder Associates and won a RIBA Design Award in 2004, but closed in 2006 due to structural problems and high running costs. It was demolished in 2014. An argument, perhaps, for a five-year holding period before dishing out architecture design awards?

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The clock tower was declared the best building in the town by travel writer Nikolaus Pevsner.  Time for an early lunch, methinks

After carrot and coriander soup with a roll, it was time to undertake the climb of Hampsfield Fell, normally abbreviated to Hampsfell.

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Limestone pavement on Hampsfell. This was frequently plundered for building and rockery stone until prohibited in 1981
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“Fetchez les vaches!” Can anyone translate the Greek inscription? (not you Biff). The Hampsfell Hospice was built in 1830 “for the use of visitors and others”.
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Limestone pavement (again) and hospice (again)
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It hasn’t moved for about 10,000 years, but it’s not strong and stable, oh no, it’s erratic.
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Well-earned sustenance, that healthy eating thing – look, there’s a grape

Next a short drive to Humphrey Head, a dramatic rocky outcrop which claims (among several other places) to have witnessed the killing (in 1390) of the last wolf in England.

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The desolate beauty of the shoreline and nature reserve under Humphrey Head

Our final visit of the day was to Cartmel Priory:

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Founded in 1190 by William Marshall, England’s most chivalrous knight.

 

 

There was an Old Man of Dundee

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There was an Old Man of Dundall

May 19, 2017

Dundee has been famous for the three J’s: jute, jam and journalism.

Jute is a rough fibre from India used to make sacking, burlap, twine and canvass. By the 1830s, it was discovered that treatment with whale oil, a byproduct of Dundee’s whaling industry, made the spinning of the jute fibre possible, which led to the development of a substantial jute industry in the city, employing about 35,000 people in 1901, 70% of whom were women.  Local “jute barons” became immensely wealthy, and invested heavily in Indian factories: after about 1914 imported jute started to become cheaper – an early example of globalisation.  The Dundee jute industry underwent a slow decline, and commercial production of jute in the city all but ended in the 1970s.

Jam – or rather marmalade – is associated with Dundee through the firm James Keiller & Son, which has a claim to have launched the world’s first commercially produced marmalade in Dundee, although it also had plants in Guernsey and London.  The brand was eventually acquired by rivals Robertsons, and production in Dundee ceased.

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Helping Dennis – that D was heavy

That leaves journalism as the only remaining J: Dundee is home to DC Thomson, publishers of the Beano, the Dandy, and the Sunday Post.  Established in 1905, the company was notable for its conservatism, vigorously opposing the introduction of trade unions into its workforce, and refusing to employ Catholics.

The circulation of the Dandy plus the Beano reached nearly two million in the 1950s, but changing tastes and the internet had reduced the Dandy’s circulation to 8,000 by 2012, when the print edition ceased and the it underwent a “digital relaunch” (there’s a euphemism).  It closed altogether six months later. The Beano, however, survives with a circulation of around 30,000.  DC Thomson is aiming to capitalise on the comic characters in TV and film: they also own Friends Reunited (oh) and findmypast.com.

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We love a food post…name that cake

A fourth J might be jolly good ships: Dundee’s expertise in making whaling ships made it a natural choice when a ship was required for Antarctic research.  Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery was the last traditional wooden three-masted ship to be built in Britain, and was launched in 1901. Its first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first, successful journey to the Antarctic, known as the Discovery Expedition.  This was some eleven years before Scott perished in his attempt to lead the first party to the South Pole.

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RRS Discovery as we saw her from the approach
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RRS Discovery as she should be seen – with a frame, even

We mounted an expedition to the expedition exhibition, then went on board.

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Rik takes the helm – be lucky
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A reconstruction of one of Captain Scott’s cabins

Dundee was also the scene of the Tay Bridge disaster during a violent storm on 28 December 1879 when the first Tay Rail Bridge collapsed while a train was passing over it from Wormit to Dundee, plunging all 75 or so people aboard to their deaths in the icy water below.  The bridge had been open for only 18 months, and the engineer who designed it, Thomas Bouch, had recently been knighted after Queen Victoria had passed safely over it.

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The replacement Tay Rail Bridge was opened in 1887 and is still in service. The stumps of the piers of the collapsed bridge are still visible in the water.

The enquiry into the disaster found that insufficient allowance had been made for the effect of wind on the bridge.  There were also flaws in detailed design, in maintenance, and in quality control of castings, which were found to be largely Bouch’s responsibility.  His reputation was ruined, and he died within a year.

The locomotive was salvaged and repaired, remaining in service until 1919, nicknamed “The Diver” – many drivers were reluctant to take it over the new bridge.

We will let William McGonagall have the last word:

Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv’ry Tay,
I now must conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.