Monday, 26 July 2010

The Lost Book

They say curiosity killed the cat so it’s a good thing we’re human and not feline or we surely would both have used up our nine lives years ago.

I’ve heard the groans from Librarians when they tell tales of requests for a book, vaguely remembered. “I’m looking for a book I read once where the hero was Fred, or it might have been Ted. He was a soldier or something, perhaps a cop. It was set in a town somewhere – I think.”

Alan has been looking for such a book for, literally, years. All he could remember was that it was set in Malta in World War II and featured 3 planes known as Faith, Hope, and Charity. He read it when he was a boy (many years ago) and it disappeared in some clear out or house move.

He scoured bookshops in Malta, searched online, asked Maltese friends. I checked with a Children’s books forum I belonged to. No one had heard of it. Then a few weeks ago Alan put the right query into Google and up it popped – ‘Island on The Beam’. With a title, he searched again and found 2 copies available for sale.

Island on the Beam

You will not be surprised to hear that he ordered both. One is now on a bookshelf and the other went off today off to a friend in Malta.

Alan tells the whole story at his website.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Down House: Charles Darwin’s Home


This is a small island, as Bill Bryson says, and we had an example of that on our trip to Kent. A few weeks ago we were near Shrewsbury where Charles Darwin was born, now we were to visit Down House where he lived for 40 years from 1842 till his death.

He wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ here  We tend to only hear about his Darwin, the scientist and, especially, about his voyage on The Beagle but there was obviously much more to the man.

I love the notes he made when he was deciding whether to marry his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. On a scrap of paper, with columns headed "Marry" and "Not Marry" he listed his thoughts. Advantages included "constant companion and a friend in old age ... better than a dog anyhow", against points such as "less money for books" and "terrible loss of time."

Despite this logical approach, the marriage was happy and they had ten children. Unfortunately, two died in infancy (not unusual for the period) and he was grief stricken by the death of his daughter, Annie, when she was ten.

The upstairs of the house is devoted to a very fine exhibition about his work and family. He was a devoted father and spent more time with his children than most men of his time, including them in his observations of butterflies and providing them with a large wooden slide which attached to the stairs.

DSCF2399-1DSCF2405-1  DSCF2424 Outside, a lot of work has been done to restore the gardens to their plan in Darwin’s day – though that is an ongoing scheme.

There are more pictures at Picasa.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Brook Bungalow CL


This lovely orchard was our home for the two weeks we spent in Kent. Like all Certificated Locations, it only takes 5 caravans or motorhomes and we had it to ourselves for most of the time we were there.

The owner and two young couples live there, running a small holding and they have made it an idyllic place to live or stay.





As well as the orchard (which is old but is having some trees replaced with young ones), there were several separate areas with seats, one by a pond and one by a large aviary – which didn’t photograph well, sadly.

We tucked ourselves well away at the back of the orchard, put up the awning, without the walls, and virtually lived outside for the fortnight. The site’s location was perfect for us, only 14 miles from Maidstone where Jon and his family live and near Sissinghurst, not far from the coast and only a few miles off the A21 straight down from the M25.

We will make it our base whenever we travel to that part of the country.  Oh, and the real bosses of the enterprise are these magnificent cockerels who are the product of a small Bantam father (who was camera shy) and a rescued battery hen. They are twice their Dad’s size and strutted around the orchard several times a day, crowing proudly. I’d never realised that cockerels have different voices. We could tell them apart by their call.

DSCF2161-1 DSCF2164-1 A few more pictures are at Picasa.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens


Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are claimed to be the most visited in England. Certainly they were incredibly busy on the Monday we went along. Visitors from many countries and all ages thronged the garden with cameras and notebooks – this is a ‘Gardeners’ Garden’ and has been influential, not just in designing stately homes but for many small gardens.

Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson found the property derelict in 1930. Harold wrote in his diary that they found a vast accumulation of rubbish: ‘rusty iron, old bedsteads, old ploughshares, old cabbage stalks, old broken-down earth closets, old matted wire and mountains of sardine tins, all muddled up in a tangle of bindweed, nettles and ground elder’.

From this unpromising beginning, they created a beautiful garden. Harold was a classicist and laid out the structural scheme of the garden, dividing it into a series of compartments which could each be viewed separately.  The lime walk was his pride and joy.


DSCF1925-1 Vita was a romantic and the planting which fills the flower beds shows it. Possibly the most famous ‘room’ in the whole garden is the White Garden.

P1020123-1 P1020161-1

The couple first opened the garden to the public in 1938. The proceeds raised £25.14s.6d and Vita nicknamed the visitors 'shillingses', as one shilling (5p) was the admission price. There are accounts of visitors encountering Vita working in the garden and chatting to her.  She gave cuttings to visitors and enjoyed correspondence with some of them.

Vita died in 1962 and Harold and her two sons decided that the best way to preserve the garden was for ownership to be transferred to the National Trust. This was completed in April 1967.

We took 183 usable photos between us and a few are up on Picasa.  I wish we could share them all with you.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Biggin Hill Airshow 2010


The picture above says it all!  A Spitfire from WWII with the latest Eurofighter Typhoon maintaining formation while doing circuits and manoeuvres over the airfield. It was quite awe inspiring to see the two aircraft from such different eras flying together.

The visit was part of my birthday treat on reaching my three score and ten. I didn’t know where we were headed until we were on our way, though I did know we were going somewhere with my children and their families.


P1010962-1 DSCF1416-1 It was a great day with a wide variety of displays of aircraft, old and new, and glorious weather into the bargain.

DSCF1425-1Ten people made for a serious encampment and a serious amount of catering (Thanks, Kerry).

P1020034-1The finale was a flypast by a Lancaster Bomber as we headed off to Allington Lock for dinner and a walk by the river.

DSCF1792-1   Of course no birthday is complete without a cake and one was duly provided.

DSCF1779-1More family pictures on Picasa and also more of the airshow.

Thanks to Alan for the liaison, Mike, Rosie and Dan for driving all the way up from Devon and Jon, Kerry, Layla, Tariq and Kalif for organisation and the picnic. Thanks also to everyone for making it a memorable day and being willing to miss the last episode of Dr Who in the current series!

All pictures, here and on Picasa were taken by Alan or Tariq – credit where it’s due.

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