Sunday, 16 April 2017

Pigs 2017: An ending and a beginning

"Pigs again this year?" came the question. And the answer is "yes".  Coincidentally we've just completed a collective homage to last year's group with a special Pig Lunch at Langman's Restaurant in Callington. The chef, Anton Buttery, devised a one-off menu for us using parts of the pig that we would not normally eat and parts that had been in the freezer since the slaughter. A copy of the menu is shown below and featured such delicacies (?) as crispy ears, crispy head, 'quaver' skin, cheeks, sweetbreads, black pudding made with a hint of snout and some crackling. All that plus some 'standard' belly and tenderloin. It was a delicious meal and a fitting tribute to both Anton's culinary skills and our expertise at pig raising.
The menu, unique in the true sense of the word.
Just the one photograph as my camera-phone was playing up. This is the black pudding course.
A couple of days after the meal and a working party spent a few hours getting the pig field ready for the next set of occupants - eleven of the beauties due to be picked up from Penzance on May 3rd. We are going with the same breed and the same supplier. Why change a winning combination?
I'll give the pigs about two weeks to root their way through all this new grass.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Keep an eye out for this one.

Writing a review of a play for our local parish magazine is always a little daunting. What if I don't like it? When this happens, I always try to focus on the positives, however elusive they may be. But those who know me can see through my damning with faint praise and can decipher the code. And so we come to last night's one-man show at the Old School: The Odyssey (Greek Stuff). Luckily no need for coded language, it was great. If you have a chance of seeing it as it does the rounds, do. You won't regret it. Here's what I've written for next month's Old School News.
The mythical tales of the Greek gods of ancient times are, by their very definition, epic, heroic and magical. Translating them into a one-man show is, on the face of it, a hiding to nothing in the making. How can you depict storms at sea, enchanting creatures of the deep and sorcerous sirens on an almost bare stage with just a scrap of cloth as a costume? All concerns were quickly forgotten the moment David Mynne stepped onto the Old School ‘stage’ and launched into his hilarious retelling of the classic tale. Utilising a piece of blue material, a stack of wooden crates and virtually no other props, David morphed into a legion of characters: as the story unfolded he brought to life opposing armies and their ensuing battles, the sacking of Troy and the subsequent struggle by Odysseus to return home to his wife and son.

The journey home after victory at Troy took 10 years, during which time Odysseus and his crew (lead by his faithful first mate, Pilates) meet obstacles at every turn. They take on a Cyclops, are lured by Sirens, drugged by Lotus Eaters and Odysseus has a wild love affair with a witch goddess, Circe, who wreaks further havoc by turning his men into pigs. More drama follows as they are drawn into the depths of hell when Poseidon sends a storm to wreck the ship in retaliation for the death of the Cyclops who just happened to be Poseidon’s son. Eventually the hapless Odysseus finally arrives home, only to find that his wife, Penelope, has a queue of suitors trying to convince her of his demise and pestering to marry her. The final moments of this grand piece deliver an unexpectedly brilliant feminist sting in the tail.

Liberally sprinkled amongst the traditional narrative are numerous surreal detours and side adventures casually thrown in to raise a laugh and move the story along. David produced teeny tiny models, created voices and threw the cloth around to suggest costumes. Maybe it’s my age but I’m sure I detected more than a hint of Michael Bentine's Potty Time as David conjured up images with words and sounds.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

On this day in 1917, Private Thomas Murley was killed.

Private 45628
8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment
Died age 25
2nd April 1917
Thomas Stanley Murley was born in 1892 in Lynton, Devon. He was one of the four sons and two daughters of Thomas and Elizabeth Murley. His mother, Elizabeth, was a daughter of Edmund Gill, a well known Victorian fern grower who took advantage of the mild climate in North Devon to establish a nursery. His house in Lynton was called The Fernery and still bears that name today. Thomas Murley Senior joined his father-in-law in this business.

Thomas’s aunty, Annie, had married Edmund Dingle from Venterdon and it was here that Thomas Stanley lived and it is here that he is mentioned in the 1901, where he appears with his mother, and 1911 censuses. It is likely that he joined the family engineering business as his occupation is given as a ‘student engineer’ in the 1911 census. His father died in 1906.

At some point, he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment in Exeter and entered the France and Flanders Theatre of War as part of the 8th Battalion. His service thereafter is unknown but we do know that on April 2nd 1917, during the Battle of Arras, his battalion attacked the village of Ecoust, just south east of Arras. One description of this engagement describes it as a ‘great success and light casualties’. This description is at odds with the official version in the Battalion War Diary which details an advance under cover of a creeping barrage of artillery firepower, meeting a hail of machine gun and rifle fire and ending up with hand-to-hand combat.
It was in this battle that Thomas was killed and his body was one of those never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and is also remember on memorials in his birthplace, Lynton. He left few effects and his mother received his estate of £2 19s 6p, which is worth around £80 today.

Sadly Thomas's younger brother, Percy Douglas Murley, also of the 8th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, was killed on 1st July 1916 aged 20.
Arras Memorial

Detail of the Lynton war memorial

Lynton war memorial
Notification of Thomas Murley's effects.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Keep calm and carry on

'Keep calm and carry on' seems to be the consensus view on how to react to the recent atrocity at Westminster. And I'm going to start my comments north of the border as this seems to be as good a place as any.

Bearing the 'keep calm and carry on' theme in mind, initially I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to suspend the referendum debate in Holyrood. My view had nothing to do with the importance of the debate or its subject matter. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of any sympathy or feeling for those who were bleeding and dying on the streets of London. It was simply because I felt, and continue to feel, that governments should strive to do all they can to ensure that the influence and effects of terrorist outrages should always be as limited and contained as possible. They should 'keep calm and carry on'. The greater the contagion into the rest of our democracy, the greater the impact and effect that an evil individual with evil intent can have. When institutions and organisations which were not directly targeted close down, it amplifies and spreads the ability of terrorism to disrupt our democracy and destroy the peace.

Let's face it, one of the greatest threats to our civil liberties isn’t terrorism: it’s the response that governments make to terrorism. When the effects of terrorism are magnified and spread to a greater extent than is necessary to ensure public safety and to deal with the immediate humanitarian crisis involving those directly affected, it increases the impact that terrorism has on everyone’s lives. It makes it easier for governments to introduce repressive and anti-democratic measures in response. Then we all lose. We become a society which is shaped, or more accurately deformed, by a terrorist threat, when there are other threats which we blithely ignore or shrug off which extract a far greater toll in terms of suffering and death.

Threats like, for example, air pollution, domestic violence and abuse, or road deaths, all of which kill many more people in the UK than terrorism does. They get far less attention, far less concern from those in the seats of power. We are blinded by the bloody spectacle of terrorism, leading us as a society to prioritise it over threats which, in terms of the numbers of lives they destroy, are far more lethal and have a far greater death toll. Don't get me wrong, I do not diminish or downplay the suffering of those caught up in last week's tragedy. Their pain is real. Their blood is real. Their deaths were real. Their deaths were a tragedy. We should all mourn for them. We should all offer our sympathy and compassion. But as a society we must be careful to avoid allowing the attention grabbing barbarity of a terrorist attack to define our democracy. 

But it’s only human that legislators in Holyrood were concerned and worried about their friends and colleagues in the other parliament. It’s only human that they’d find it difficult to concentrate on the topic at hand while people lay bleeding and broken on a London street, people who for all they knew could have been their friends and associates. So I don’t have a problem with the fact that the proceedings at Holyrood were suspended. Humanity and compassion should always trump any points of principle or politics.

I did get, and still am, very angry at social media in the immediate aftermath of the attack. I got angry with people, both individuals and news organisations which really ought to have known better, publishing photos showing dead and dying people. Can you imagine the pain of discovering that a friend or relative had been killed in a terrorist attack because you happened to chance across a photo of their bloody end on Twitter or Facebook? It treats death as spectacle and display. It reduces suffering to social media content. It’s the parasitic search for attention (and, in the case of the press, revenue) from the blood of the dying. If your immediate reaction on seeing a person bleeding and dying on a bridge is to reach for your camera and not to rush to give aid, your own humanity is bleeding and dying too.

I got angry with those who sought to score political points on the back of the dying. People like Nigel Farage finger pointing and trying to use the tragedy as a stick which which to beat up the immigrants and Johnny Foreigner.

I got angry at many things. Keep calm, Parsons, and carry on. 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Coast and Canal.

A half and half sort of walk in more ways than one. Half coast and half canal: half dry and half wet. But still good to get out even though the tragic events at Westminster were on everybody's mind.

Our route started and ended at the 'top' car park at Widemouth Bay just sou th of Bude. We followed the coast for roughly half the walk and then along the Bude canal for most of the rest. 
Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, I do like to be beside the sea! A blowy day and the surf was up along Widemouth Bay. Here, we are looking south along what is one of the most popular surfing beaches in Cornwall.
A little further up the coast and the geology becomes more apparent.
Strange things by the wayside Part XXV: a barrowload of books. For a small donation to a local charity, coastal footpath walkers have the opportunity to laden themselves down with a few hardback tomes. I wonder how many succumb to the temptation?
Yet another seascape. Can't get enough of them.
The Coastguard Tower on the cliffs just outside of Bude. Known locally as the Pepper Pot, it was built c 1810 as a refuge for the coastguard, it was also an ornamental feature on the Efford Estate and part of Bude’s ambitious development plans. The octagonal tower, with the points of the compass carved as a frieze, was re-sited c. 1900 due to the eroding cliffs.  It was dismantled and rebuilt further inland but unfortunately seven degrees out of alignment. And it is, because I checked against the compass on my GPS.
A very early show of anemones in a sheltered spot by the harbour in Bude. They haven't even started showing above the ground in our garden
I didn't even know that there were elvers around this part of the world. Elver pasties anyone? What an awful thought but it might go down well with unsuspecting tourists.
The sea lock gates of the Bude Canal.
He was keeping a beady eye on our lunch and we were keeping an equally beady eye on his beak. He seemed to be in a passive/aggressive mood.
Lots of the male flowers of the pussy willow around.
A Grey Heron stalking fish or frogs or anything edible.
Heron in flight

Ditto. I've got a fast shot sequence of about 200 like this but I'll spare you them all.
Beware! Red rabbits? Not really, it's just warning walkers that there may be hares around. Apparently there is a scheme to reintroduce them on some pasture land nearby.

One last seascape at the end of the walk. Just over 6 miles and a good stretch.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Walford Break March 2017: Post the first

To Herefordshire for a few days with friends. Time to do a little exploring.
Berrington Hall, dating from the late eighteenth century, was the last landscaping project of Capability Brown. Built of a rather dour red sandstone in the Neo-Classical style, it's more interesting on the inside than the exterior might suggest.
Just a patch of daffodils but they appealed to me.
As did this autumn flowering crocus. In March?
The iron brackets along the back wall of the walled garden were a puzzle until we twigged that they originally held a glass frame to protect the fruit espalliers (peach, apricot, nectarine) growing up the wall. The modern plastic tent does the same job, albeit with much less style.
I do like a bit of Box topiary and this is about my level of ability.
Undoubtedly the highlight of our visit to Berrington Hall, was the artwork by the ceramic artist, Bouke de Vries. Entitled War and Pieces, it's six metres in length and filled the table in the Dining Room. It comprises of many porcelain figures engaged in a deadly struggle under the shadow of a central mushroom cloud. The theme echoes the tradition of generals dining the night before a battle and then breaking all of the china as an act of symbolism.
The mushroom cloud. The whole piece was very effective and affecting.
A tale of two staircases. This is the one the lords and ladies used...
....and these are the back stairs for the servants.
The Priory Church in Leominster. Very big on the inside but rather too austere for my tastes.
It's not often that I come across someone who was a POW in WW1 so my curiosity was piqued. Although the plaque says one thing, the CWGC site lists George on the Thiepval Memorial amongst the unlocated killed. Perhaps George (32) was missing, presumed dead, in the first instance and his real fate became apparent later on?
John Scarlett Davies - reknowned artist? Not by me, he wasn't. Never heard of him and that is my loss. Mr Google says that he was a landscape, portrait and architectural painter. Unfortunately he died of TB when he was only 41.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

On this day in 1917, Sergeant Nathaniel Lobb died.

Sergeant 5818
Nathaniel Lobb MM
Special Section, Special Brigade,
Royal Engineers
Died age 38
10th March 1917

Nathaniel Lobb was born in Tavistock in 1879, the son of Nathaniel and Annie Lobb, both of whom had long connections with Stoke Climsland and Downgate. Nathaniel Junior was a career soldier, joining up in 1900 and ending his career in France in 1917. The following obituary written just after his death gives a good summary of his military service.

 We regret to report that Mrs Lobb of Downgate, Stoke Climsland, has received the sad news of the death of her son, Sergeant Nathaniel Lobb RE in France. Sergeant Lobb, who joined that Royal Engineers on June 13th 1900, went through the South African War (Second Boer War) and went to France at the commencement of the present war.
He was reported wounded three times, the first time receiving wounds in the shoulder, knee, leg, hand and foot. Recovering from these he met the enemy and was wounded in the foot and, in a third effort, was wounded in the hand. He was at the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. So recently as January, he was home on a well earned ten days’ leave but, on returning to the Front, he developed bronchial pneumonia brought on by exposure and died in a French Hospital (10th Stationary Hospital, St Omer) on March 10th 1917.
Sympathetic letters from Sergeant Lobb’s fellow officers and comrades have been received by his widowed mother testifying to his ‘fearlessness and gallantry in action’ and his being ‘a remarkably cool and collected leader’. The Reverend Alfred Coutts, Chaplain to the Forces, in a touching and highly appreciative letter received on March 20th says Sergeant Lobb ‘was one of the finest men I have ever met’. Much sympathy is felt for the relatives in their bereavement of one of such sterling qualities both as a man and a soldier.

Sergeant Lobb’s time in the Second Boer War entitled him to wear the Queen’s South Africa medal, with clasps for service in 1901 and 1902 and for the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony campaigns. His medal, shown above, features prominently in a display at the Museum of the Royal Engineers at Gillingham in Kent.

Although we do not know the nature of his work in South Africa, his assignment to the Special Section of the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers is very interesting. This indicates he was one of the engineers drafted in from other units, initially as volunteers, to develop and deliver poisonous gas. These moves were in retaliation to the Germans’ deployment of similar materials earlier on in the war. The British efforts started in 1915 and the British army employed poison gas for the first time in the opening barrage for the Battle of Loos, principally to overcome a shortage of artillery.
Sergeant Lobb’s final resting place is in the Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, near St Omer. He is mentioned on his parents' headstone in the graveyard of Stoke Climsland church.