Wednesday, 25 November 2015

An entry for Wordless Wednesday

A fellow blogger has goaded me into contributing something for a Wordless Wednesday competition. My first question was "what is Wordless Wednesday?". And the answer came back: "a simple blog post featuring a photo which conveys a message that speaks for itself without using words".
So, here goes. Where's my prize?


Is it just me?


Tears of joy emoji

I've just caught up with the news that, for the first time ever, Oxford Dictionaries have chosen a "pictograph" as its word of the year. They say the "face with tears of joy emoji" best represents "the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of 2015". They go on to say that "Emoji culture has become so popular that individual characters have developed their own trends and stories. The image chosen shows the "playfulness and intimacy" of emoji culture".
Good grief. Is it just me or is that a load of populist dumbing-down tosh? The fact that they have chosen a 'Face with Tears of Joy' emoji and not a real word makes me feel like this:
Let's call this one the 'Face with Tears of Linguistic Despair' emoji. I wonder if they'll choose it as the word of the year for 2016?
However, it could also be

*  An entry into the 'Person Most Able to Cry Perpendicular Tears' competition
*  Proof that when you are bright yellow your tears look a different colour to everyone else's
*  Evidence that using too much blue eye shadow just before you watch the last episode of Downton Abbey is not a good idea
*  A reason to stop eating so many blueberries
*  Proof that even if you have no hair, if you cry like this, you get a beard of sorts.

Friday, 20 November 2015

A riverside walk along the Teign from Fingle Bridge

Yesterday we walked along a river on the western edge of Bodmin Moor. Today we walked along a river on the eastern edge of Dartmoor. Lunch in Chagford with friends, a 3 mile linear walk along the Teign from Fingle Bridge and then back to Chagford for a very pleasant early dinner at the Birdcage Pizzeria. Another good day.
Our route was along the northern bank of the River Teign, just below Castle Drogo.  Castle Drogo was the last castle to be built in England and its construction took from 1911 until it was finished in 1930. It was commissioned by Julius Drewe, who is better known as the founder of the Home and Colonial Stores (as an aside, I've just remembered that I had a Saturday bicycle delivery job at the H & C in Caerphilly for a while when I was 11. Nepotism, as my Aunty Phyll worked there). It has never been watertight and it is currently undergoing a 5-year conservation project to finally keep the water out. It looks odd at the moment as it's completely encased in a plastic shroud but, however it looks, it's not a place that features on my Favourites list.
Along this stretch of the river are a series of artificial weirs put in place by Drewe to form pools that allowed him to indulge his passion - salmon fishing.
Looking down on the river from the highest point of the walk.
It was cold, it was damp but there were a few canoeists enjoying the white water caused by the weirs.
And this was as far as time would allow us to go. If we'd thought about it we could have crossed by this bridge and walked back along the other side of the river.
We've done this walk before and there's always something new to be seen. But artworks were not what we expected. As part of Castle Drogo’s restoration project a set of installations in the form of modern photographs (by Mike Smallcombe) have been put up in called Teign Spirits. The concept behind them is to give a sense of the history of the Valley along with an insight into the Drewe family.  This one is a photo depicting the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the nearby Fingle Mill – the miller’s wife and children have just escaped the fire. The ruins of the Mill can still be seen near to Fingle Bridge on the way to Fingle Woods.
And this one illustrates the life and times of the charcoal maker, once a major industry in these parts.
Another installation shows Julius Drewe salmon fishing
This one is a photograph of a Venetian chandelier purchased by the Drewes whilst on their honeymoon.
The chandelier was photographed outside and its background merges in quite cleverly with its background in situ. I'm not sure it works for me but, overall, the installations gave some added interest to the walk.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

An abortive walk around Siblyback Lake

It was going to be a simple walk around Siblyback Lake, which is the reservoir from which we get our water, but it didn't turn out quite as we expected because of the weather. Not the weather today but rather the aftermath of Storm Barney. It seems that some trees had come down on the footpath around the lake and there were closure signs up everywhere. So what was intended to be a 5 miler turned out to be around 3.

Our route (in red) and, yes, you can see two circles. That's when we were wandering around, somewhat aimlessly, trying to decide what to do because of the closed footpath.
And this gives a good feel for what the weather was like. Rainy and misty - what the Scots would called 'dreich'.
A group huddle. OK, we can't go where we wanted to, so where now? And the answer was back to the starting point where some would go home and a few others, including we two, would drive a short distance and walk to Golitha Falls.
When used selectively, I think the fisheye lens effect can be quite effective. A few remaining hawthorn berries glistening in the rain.
Now here's something that irritates me about our government's clamp down on Local Government finances. The fact that car parking is being 'monetised'. A car park in an out-of-the-way place being let for who knows what? But whatever it is, you can bet that a hefty charge will be levied for the privilege of using it. Which, of course, people won't as they'll park in the narrow lane and cause obstructions. Cue the double yellow line brigade to put in an appearance.
And here's something else that irritates me about our government's clamp down on Local Government finances. The fact that public conveniences all over the county are being closed, particularly in areas where tourists go. "Sorry for any disruption". No, they're not. Who are they trying to kid?
Golitha Falls. Perhaps a better name would be Golitha Cascades? Lots of water in the River Fowey, which we last saw nearer the sea by St Winnow's church on our last walk, gave us a good show of rough water.
Looking downstream on a typical moorland river close to its origin - dropping quite steeply for a considerable distance. This one arises quite close to Jamaica Inn in the middle of Bodmin Moor.
Come on, you'll recognise this a wheelpit. Nothing unusual about that and, taking into account a nearby leat, it was, most probably, fed by water channelled into a wooden launder at its top. Overshot is the technical term. What is unusual is that there are no signs of any associated structures nearby. So, what did it power? My money would be on it powering a series of flat rods that went from it up the hill to machinery at the Wheal Victoria copper mine. This was in operation from 1844 to 1846, or so a not particularly informative notice board told us.
They wouldn't get planning permission for this nowadays that's for sure. Nothing definite but I think it was taking water from a spring/stream to the right to a farm/house on the left about 1/2 mile away.
The walk down to the falls goes through the Draynes Bridge Nature Reserve which has a very varied flora and fauna. Not much of either around this time of year and the weather prevented any exploration off the paths but I did spot this impressive array of fungi. My fungi guide tells me that it was Stereum hirsutum, commonly known by the wonderful name of Hairy Curtain Crust. Pretty obvious really, it was hairy, looked like a curtain and formed crests. What else would you call it? Brown Crumbly Thing?
And the only decent bird shot I managed to get all day. A solitary Pied Wagtail having a paddle in the shallows of the river.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Aftermath of Storm Barney

We were caught up in the maelstrom that was Storm Barney last night. Have spent the morning clearing up the devastation it caused on our patio. We survived the Great Hurricane of 1987 and we'll get through this - somehow.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Postcard Treasure Trove

There's nothing quite like a loony to brighten up your day and validate your notion of your own normality. Another dip into Dolph and Mabel's postcard collection comes up with one such: a Grade One Nutter and an American Grade One Nutter at that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you George Matthew Schilling.

I didn't know who he was either and there seems to be very little on the internet about this very remarkable Long Distance Walker. And what there is suggests that he was not quite as famous as his self-promoting postcard made him out to be. Here's what I've been able to piece together.

Apparently he started his perambulatory exploits as the result of a wager and walked around the world, leaving New York in August 1897, in a newspaper suit and penniless. To complete the mental image, I should add that he only had one arm and invariably travelled with a large black dog as his companion. A newspaper reported, after the event, that his feat was unverified. I can't comment on that but I can say that I have come across brief press reports of when he was in the UK, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. These make amusing reading as they were all somewhat bemused by what he was doing (a polite way of saying that they were all taking the piss!). Apart from selling his postcards as he went around, I can't find out how he supported his walks although there are hints that he was not averse to freeloading and stowing away.

He seems to have caught the walking bug in a big way because, after completing his first feat, he embarked on two more. The first of these, and the subject of the postcard I've got, was when he walked 20000 miles throughout Great Britain and the Continent pulling a 6 hundredweight airship (Why an airship?). Again for a wager, he started from London on February 18th 1908. And after this he went onto his next (and last?) undertaking: pushing a six-and-a-half hundredweight wooden globe (Why a wooden globe?) around the world. The globe was also his sleeping berth., and he presumably shared this with his faithful canine compadre.

And here the trail goes cold. What happened next? Did he really end up in an asylum? What happened to his dog? I've no idea but I would dearly love to find out more about this unsung and largely forgotten nutter, sorry, hero. It definitely makes for a fun postcard though!

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Stoke Climsland War Memorial: Ephraim Jenkins

Anyone looking at the names on the WW1 Memorial in Stoke Climsland can’t but help notice that there are four Jenkins’ listed. "Poor family", you might say and poor they were in more ways than one. Poor because, of the five sons of William James and Mary Anne Jenkins of Lower Downgate and Kelly Bray, four died during WW1. And poor because, in the 1901 census for Lower Downgate, the Jenkins’ were listed as ‘paupers’, living on parish benefit. As is often the case, it would seem that those with the least to give, gave the most in the conflict. Perhaps it was some small comfort to the family that both William and Mary died in 1907, well before the start of the war.
The first of their sons to die, Ephraim, was not, in fact, a casualty of the war and had not even seen service during the war. He had enlisted in the Royal Navy at Devonport on 27th August 1908 for a 12 year period but had been invalided out on 8th May 1913 due to Pulmonary Laryngeal Tuberculosis (one of the most serious and common complications of pulmonary tuberculosis and often fatal). After his discharge he returned to Kelly Bray and, presumably, stayed with his brothers and sister who had a house there. He did work as a labourer in the Gas Works at Callington but finally died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Kelly Bray on 9th May 1915. His burial place is unknown at present. It is poignant to note that his brother Percy, who was killed in France later that year, was present at his death.
So what else have we been able to find out about Ephraim Jenkins? We know that he was born on 6th August 1890 and was baptised in Downgate Chapel on 26th March 1891. At this time, his father’s occupation was given as a miner. When Ephraim enlisted in the Royal Navy, he had given his own occupation as tin miner. Perhaps they had both worked at the nearby Redmoor, Windsor or Holmbush mines?

The only personal details we have of Ephraim are those found on his naval service record, where he is described as 5’ 7", with black hair, brown eyes, a fresh complexion and a scar on his lip. He went into the service as a Stoker 2nd Class and had gone up one step of the ladder to Stoker 1st Class when he was discharged. I cannot but help think that the hot, steamy conditions of a ship’s boiler room would not have been a very conducive place for someone with incipient tuberculosis. It is interesting to note that the major part of his naval service was aboard the cruiser HMS Aboukir which was subsequently torpedoed on 22nd September 1914, along with HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue. Three cruisers and 1459 men were lost in the space of an hour and a half. Perhaps if he had remained in service, he might have been one of these casualties?

Given that Ephraim was not an active serviceman or a casualty of the war, the question arises as to why he is commemorated on our War Memorial. There is no information which helps to answer this question but is it unreasonable to think that he is listed along with his brothers as a recognition of the sacrifice that one poor family made?  

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sent on 4th August 1914

We have a very interesting collection of a hundred or so postcards dating from the early 1900s and kept by Mrs P's grandparents, Adolphus and Mabel Laws. I dip unto these every now and again and have learnt a lot about the family from who was saying what to whom. Fascinating snippets from times long past. Here's one I came across recently which chimes with Remembrance Day. I hadn't noticed the date on it before, 4th August 1914, the date war was declared on Germany and the day WW1 began.

The postcard reads:

A.H.Laws Esq.,
25, Wesley Street,

Nr Newport, Mon,

Dear Dolph
Has Nixon been called in for war? All Marine Reserves have been called up here. Father was called up Sunday morning and has gone to the Naval Barracks. The town is greatly excited. hardly a Bluejacket to be seen. All are anxious. Let Nixon know Reserves are called up. He will be bound to come. All Territorials are called. I am expecting to be called in myself as I hear all corporation officials are to go.

It's written to Mrs P's grandfather, Adolphus (Dolph) Laws, by his brother, Alfred, who worked for Plymouth Corporation. Their father, George Charles Alfred Laws, was fifty at the time and must have been on the Naval Reserve as he was much too old to fight. Adolphus was working for Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds in Cwmbran and, because of the importance of the steelworks to the national effort, had a reserved occupation that kept him out of the forces. We don't know whether Alf was actually called up but their brother, William (Bill), did serve in the Royal Navy and survived. We've got no idea who Nixon was.

Bluejackets? Slang term for naval personnel. And little did the townsfolk of Plymouth know how things were going to turn out. If they did, would they have been so 'greatly excited'?

Recipe Time Again: Raspberry Bakewell Loaf Cake

Everyone likes a recipe so here's this week's effort for our village Pop-up Cafe. I fancied something with almonds and came across a recipe for a Raspberry Bakewell Loaf Cake on the Something Sweet Something Savoury food blog. It was worth a try and the cakes seemed to have come out OK. As is my customary practice, I double-up on the quantities shown and put one in the freezer for future use. We've got eight lurking there now as the process is not at equilibrium: the rate in is greater than the rate out. With Xmas coming, maybe we'll be able to reduce our stockpile somewhat.
150g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g ground almonds
1/4 tsp almond extract

1 right index finger for tasting at various stages 
1 left index finger (ditto above because I can multitask)
50ml milk (I used almond milk because I had some in the fridge)
150g self raising flour
150g fresh raspberries
About 3 tablespoons raspberry jam
75g icing sugar
25g flaked toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a loaf tin with, what else but, a loaf tin liner.
Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and almond extract in a jug and slowly add to the creamed mixture. Add the milk, still beating and then gently fold in the flour and ground almonds with a metal spoon. Finally stir in the raspberries very carefully so that they aren't crushed. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared tin then spoon over the raspberry jam.

I couldn't be bothered to be neat so just dotted teaspoons of the jam on top of the mixture to get a reasonably even spread. And then the rest of the mixture is dumped on top and smoothed out with a fork.

Into the oven for around 45-50 minutes or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To ice the cake, place the icing sugar in a bowl and stir in a few drops of water until the icing coats the back of a spoon quite thickly. Spoon over the cold cake and sprinkle with flaked almonds. I think what I made was a little too runny as it set translucent rather than the opaquely white finish I was intending. Still, it will taste the same and the punters won't know the difference. Or maybe they will. They usually give me some honest feedback: one of my earlier cakes had a slight dip in the middle (actually it was quite a trench and I disguised it with a thick layer of mascarpone frosted topping) was described by Mrs H as the 'Titanic Cake'.
And the verdict after the event? Even if I do say so myself (corroborated by Mrs P), it looks and tastes pretty good. One to do again but with a more determined effort to make a better job at getting the jam layer more uniform. And the icing topping could be improved as well, with maybe the addition of a few drops of almond essence? And a few more raspberries wouldn't go amiss.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Walk: Lerryn - St Winnow - Lerryn

A wet 6 mile walk from Lerryn along the creek and up the River Fowey to St Winnow's church and then back to Lerryn across the fields. It's a walk we've done several times before and it's one that doesn't dull with repetition.
For those who want more details, here's the route we followed, starting and ending in the car park at Lerryn.
We started in the rain and it followed us most of the way around. It seems to have been the first walk in a long while that has been this wet. A sign of things to come?
Looking down the Lerryn Creek towards the Fowey. To be accurate, the Fowey and its tributaries are not estuarine but originated as a flooded valley. The correct term for this is a 'ria'. It's hard to imagine now but, until the early 20th Century, Lerryn was a thriving port. Silt from mines etc put an end to all that.
Stopping for a damp coffee break.
I've got my beady eye on you. Come any closer and you'll get a good flapping.
To shelter from the rain, we took our lunch stop in the beautiful St Winnow's church (Norman foundations but present building predominantly from the 15th Century) set in a stunning location on the river bank. No external photographs as I didn't want to destroy a lens with water. But here are a couple of just part of the stained glass windows. This one is a detail from a Victorian composition.
And this is a detail of the earliest glass in the church - 15th Century and still vibrant after all this time.
Looking down the creek again at the end of our walk. Still wet.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

St David's October 2015: Miscellany

The final compilation of photographs taken during our recent sojourn in St David's. No theme for these as they all come under the 'seemed appropriate at the time' banner.
Fishing off the beach at Abereiddy. I was hoping that the fishermen would end up framed under an arch of their fishing rods but it never happened and I couldn't be bothered to wait.
The remains of St Brynoch's church at Cwm yr Eglyws. The rest of the church was swept away during a violent storm in October 1859. A lovely spot and roughly the half way point of a circular walk around Dinas Island (was once an island but isn't now).
Surfers coming out of the sea at Newgale Sands. I liked the difference in heights between mother and daughter (or so I presume).
I'm not sure of the identity of this fungus but it seemed a good subject for the fisheye lens effect on my camera.
The Celtic Cross just outside of Carew Castle. 9th or 11th Century? No-one knows but that doesn't detract from how impressive its 13 feet are.
The living room of the Longhouse at Carreg Cennen. A fine collection of 'stuff' on a table in the corner. Lots I could recognise (washing board, food mincer, hot water iron, sewing machine, top to a vacuum milking bucket, flat iron) but lots I could only guess at. I'll admit to having a similar collection of 'odds and sods' in my garage.
And this caught my eye on another cobwebbed window sill: a very old electric iron..
....that looks even better in black and white.
I'm of the vintage who, when they see a 'heavy plant crossing' sign immediately think of Lord of the Rings and Ents.
And guess what? There was an Ent just around the corner waving its arms at us.
Apprentice Ents having a 'show me your roots and I'll show you mine' competition.
Our accommodation for our last night wasn't up to much but the views were great and it was cheap.