Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Rain at Random in Chipping Campden

Monday 5 June 2017. We had left Evesham and are now in a very picturesque market town called Chipping Campden. Unfortunately the rain is still with us too...

In moving from Evesham we have crossed from Worcestershire into Gloucestershire, but so subtle was the crossing that we never even noticed... Chipping Campden is another of the towns built with that lovely honey-coloured Cotswolds limestone.

We passed a little door with worn lettering over it. It reads: "SCHOLA GRAMMATICA 1487 J.F." Despite the date, the building dates back only to the 1620s. The school had been originally founded in the 1400s it is true but probably around 1440. What the significance of 1487 was has been lost. Schooldays were a mere twelve hours long when the school was new.

From the days when recommendation by way of recognition by the Automobile Association was thought to require signs a little more impressive than a small placque on the wall. The A.A. started recognising quality in hotels back in 1908 and introduced the star system a little later in 1912.

As we walked down the high street a woman walked towards us with two dogs. They were just absolutely gorgeous. If there was to be a new film about Enid Blyton's Famous Five then they were the spitting image of illustrator Eileen Soper's Timmy. I couldn't help exclaiming and came away from the encounter with somewhat licked hands... The dogs had joined in too...

I had been hoping to revisit a tiny but haphazardly crammed museum that we saw (on another rainy day) some twenty years ago. I couldn't remember just where it was so we entered the tiny Tourist Information Office just in time to be greeted with a strident clarion call from one of the two staff. "I heard that!" exclaimed the other one jovially, then noticed us and the subject changed suddenly. I explained (as quickly as I could) what we were looking for, but apparently the museum had closed some time ago. A great shame. [cough] Right... we'll be off then...

The High Street has an old market hall, that we will see shortly, which stands on a little island of space between the High Street and a little road that cuts off round the back of the hall rejoining the High Street at the other end. We turned round at this point as the rain was getting harder and Miss Franny had spotted a tea room where we could get shelter and a spot of tiffin.

Chipping Campden market hall. The town was a centre of the wool trade in the Middle Ages. The market hall dates from 1627.

The cobble stones of the floor have worn a little unevenly over the last 500 years but the hall is still as impressive as it must have been in the days when you couldn't move for stalls of balls of Sirdar and knitting patterns with a young Roger Moore modelling cardigans. Who knows what sordid acts people got up to? A sign at one end warns: "No persons shall cause annoyance to others using the market hall by improper acts." There you are... do it proper...!

By this time Miss Franny is standing impatiently outside the Bantam Tea Rooms into which you descend from the High Street by way of a few steps. Hmmm... Perhaps that's why it's called the high street...

Once inside we found a table near the old unused fireplace and were soon getting ourselves around tea and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Sigh...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Creeping Bentgrass at Myerscough College Open Day

This year is the sixteenth year we have played this particular event. We always have to keep a wary eye on the weather as with any outdoor gig, but this year apart from one short but quite heavy shower and a bit of wind which made a gazebo near us think it wanted to be a kite, we managed very well.

You can usually find us opposite the entrance to the college bar - The Stumble Inn - so on a really good day we can have quite a large audience sitting at tables or just standing about, drinking and enjoying the music.

And it even got warm enough for me to get all giddy and take my jacket off!

Friday, 16 June 2017

A Surprise at The Gateway Tea Rooms

Monday 5 June 2017. We are in Evesham, Worcestershire and having traipsed round the shops, Market Place and Abbey Grounds, we look for somewhere to sit down with a drink. That somewhere is The Gateway Tea Rooms on a corner of the Market Place and it has something rather special to show us.

First impressions are of your average standard English tea rooms. Similar establishments can be found almost anywhere in the country, especially where they are housed in an old building in a town frequented by tourists.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love tea rooms. We are great coffee drinkers (albeit very weak coffee by most people's standards) but there's something about drinking tea in a tea room that appeals to me. It's an english tradition and as such it needs people to carry on the tradition lest it dies out. Who needs to wait ten minutes whilst someone farts about with a noisy machine making a bucket of coffee anyway? A bit of Instant in a cup and add hot water and you can serve ten people whilst the "barista" (pah!) is still banging the grounds out of his ridiculously expensive equipment.

The Gateway served a good cup of tea in a proper teacup with a saucer. Pastries, cakes, sausage rolls and fruit pies were on display to tempt us, as were bottles of cordials. A few people came and went and it was when a group who had been sitting in the corner by the fireplace got up to leave that I spied a glow coming from a square shape next to the fireplace.

I couldn't make out what it was from where we were sitting so I got up and trundled over, to have a look. This was amazing! Set into a recessed space was what looked like a scale model of a transept or chancel of a cathedral. It was bare of furniture - no pews or monuments - but the tracery of stonework on the ceilings, the detail of stained glass in the windows was brilliant. I nipped into the the room behind the fireplace but the external detail had not been added.

Even so, just look at this. This model was about 18 inches tall by 12 inches across. The "stained glass" had been drawn on tissue paper and the interior was lit through it, producing the wonderful effect you see here. The owner told us that it was a model of part of Amiens Cathedral in France. It had been made in 1915 by a Mr Frederick Beck, who had obviously been impressed with the real thing that he must have seen either in pre-war years or as a member of the Services during World War One. What his connection with the cafe or it's past owners was has been lost to history, but it is thought that this was just a part of a larger model of the full cathedral. What an undertaking!

By the time we left the cafe it was drizzling again outside. Not to be put off, we set off down the hill to see the river, passing yet more black and white timbered buildings, including this courtyard with the upper storey joining the buildings on either side, over the entrance to what were presumably stables at one time.

Aw look, come on... I can't visit every tea rooms you know... There was a sign on the pavement pointing to "Tom's Barbers", but I've no idea who Tom was or why I should be expected to go there just because he does... Should it not be "Tom The Barber"? Specialisation really had it in for the barbering trade. At one point they were the one and only place to go to, not only for a haircut, but for bad teeth to be pulled, amputations and all manner of surgery. Most people now have forgotten or have never known that the familiar red and white striped pole represents blood on a bandage... And all with just one pair of scissors...

We approach the bottom of Bridge Street and there in front of us is a bridge. That's uncanny... And what a splendid humpty-backed thing it is too. The house on the corner is rather splendid also. I've no idea what it is or was, but you can't help but be impressed with the size of the chimney on the top!

Ah... and now we've got here it's decided to start raining in earnest. Thankfully we're in Evesham... No it's raining here too, and rather exposed on top of this bridge so we take a look and then head off back up the hill to find the car. The river is the River Avon - one of four River Avons in England. This is sometimes called Shakespeare's Avon. It runs from Naseby in Northamptonshire (where the Civil War battle was fought) and runs through Stratford-upon-Avon to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire where it joins the River Severn. The name derives from the old Celtic "abona", meaning "river".

Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Short Break in The Cotswolds - Evesham

We're in the middle of several gigs with the band - our busy time. We had hoped to get away for a week, but then another booking came in for mid-week so we decided to make the most of it and went off on Sunday 4 June for three nights at a farmhouse B&B just outside Broadway in Worcestershire, but near the border with Gloucestershire. The weather was a bit wet but we managed to dodge most of it after the first day which involved getting drenched in Broadway itself. This did result in us nipping into the local museum which was excellent and well worth the modest entrance fee.

After an excellent breakfast at Smallbrook Cottage we looked at the rain and thought a larger town with shopping precincts might be our best bet for the day and Evesham was the nearest to us. This wonderful building on the Market Place is a branch of Nat. West, but somehow I don't think it was purpose built...

Another corner of the Market Place. We'll have a look at The Gateway Tea Rooms in the next article -I promise it will be worth it. Peeping over the rooftops is the Bell Tower of Evesham Abbey, not quite the only remains of the abbey, but perhaps the most impressive. We'll visit the Abbey Grounds in a few moments.

Also on a corner of the Market Place is the Town Hall with a dial wind direction indicator, thermometer and barometer. We didn't need any of them to know it was raining...

Evesham has some excellent black and white pubs in the town centre. We start with The Royal Oak.

Ye Olde Red Horse stands opposite a small triangular green upon which stands the old stocks - with a very uncomfortable-looking thin plank end-on for a seat. None of your cushy wooden benches here for miscreants... But at least a wooden gable structure provides shelter from the rain.

At the rear of the triangular garden was The Old Almonry, originally a part of Evesham's abbey.

We pass through the gateway in the Almonry and come to a group of churches that occupy spots previously taken by the various buildings of the old abbey. St Lawrence church is seen on the right, the Abbey Bell Tower centre and All Saints Parish Church is on the left.

Of the actual abbey itself notwithstanding the Bell Tower this is the biggest chunk of masonry left.

The Dissolution of Henry VIII was the death knell of the abbey and it's relics, but this modern altar-like monument is on the site of the original tomb of Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester (c.1208 – 4 August 1265). He rebelled against King Henry III and became for a short while the ruler of England. In the space of a year he called two Parliaments, one of which stripped the king of Absolute Power and the other included ordinary men from towns. Consequently he is regarded as inventing modern parliamentary democracy. However at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 he was killed by men loyal to the king.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Creeping Guys With Guitars

In the past we have played a few gigs for a local car club so it was nice to get a call from their secretary the other week. 'We are having a meeting and social on Thursday 8 June,' she said 'and we asked the members what entertainment they wanted. They said "those two Creeping guys with guitars!"...'

Isn't it nice to be remembered! Ha ha! But of course, we don't take ourselves too seriously so we were only too pleased to go and play for their event. They have quite a few new members also since we last played for them so they were all seeing us for the first time and we got some great feedback. 'Your voices are great!' came one comment. 'It's quite rare for someone's voice to be so strong after 40...' Well, we'll let you know whether our voices change once we get there...

It was our first time playing at Fleetwood Cricket Club too - a nice venue with easy access and no stairs - that's what I like! I still have nightmares at the memory of having to carry our previous huge and heavy speakers down an unlit fire escape iron staircase one dark night because the club didn't want us on their front stairs. It was throwing it down with rain and the steps were very steep and slippery. We will not be playing there again!

But this night was not just about music - there were cars to be looked at and judged (thankfully by someone who knows more about them than I do...) This Morris Minor Traveller won the first prize, winning a hefty silver cup to be kept for a year by its owner.

I quite liked this Ford Consul Classic - the first UK car to have twin headlights if I'm not mistaken. I nearly bought one once for £60 when I was 17, but it was just that bit too expensive and I bought a Hillman Minx for £40 instead!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Heskin Steam Rally 2017

Creeping Bentgrass were out playing at the Heskin Steam Rally last Saturday night in the huge marquee. For the second year the event was held at Malt Kiln Farm in Eccleston.

We started playing just gone 8:00pm and came off stage around midnight - just a short set then...

Always one of our favourite gigs of the year, we had a great audience again as the seats were all filled and the crowd standing around the bar got deeper and deeper. The dance floor got busy as we moved into the faster numbers and of those not able or willing to dance, there were a few of the circular tables who were swaying from side to side with linked arms!

This shows just half of the marquee - it is really huge and as the light outside faded into night, the stars came out over the dance floor!

Another fabulous night. Our thanks to organiser Jack Gerrard for his continued support - this was our 13th year playing at this event.

Friday, 2 June 2017

2017 Reading, Part Three

Once again I've got through another six books. There are two authors new to me amongst them this time, some old favourites and some older books that I've only just read for the first time.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs first came to my attention when a film crew complete with big name actors like Samuel L Jackson turned up here in Blackpool filming in and outside Blackpool Tower on the Promenade. Once the film came out we watched it and I enjoyed the story. The book is aimed at a young adult audience and doesn't quite follow the full narrative of the film - Blackpool seemed sadly missing for instance - but I have the follow-up book out of the library at the moment so more next time! The book has a wonderful collection of photos along the lines of the one on the cover - people seemingly performing impossible feats, or in surprising and bizarre costumes.

Private Eye Mike Hammer is the hero of this "pulp fiction" tale from Mickey Spillane. Fast moving, violent, full of sexy women and shadowy thugs it is the second of three books in a trilogy that I bought recently in a cut price book shop in Kendal. You can imagine Bogart playing the main role. Sam Spade, Mike Hammer... same mould!

This was somewhat unexpected. We sadly lost my uncle in March and whilst sorting through his house I came across this. I recognised it because of the Aardman animated film, which I enjoyed watching, though again the film is somewhat different than the book. Certainly Charles Darwin comes out a far better character in the book than in the film and Queen Victoria doesn't even get a look in!

In the 17th book following the adventures of 14th century Cambridge scholar and physician Matthew Bartholomew we find Matthew, Senior Proctor Brother Michael and other colleagues travel to York to secure a inheritance that has been left to them. However they find that there is opposition to their claim and almost as soon as they arrive a local man engaged in conversation with Matt is shot with a crossbow in broad daylight. The scholars have to solve not only this crime but others before their time in York is to come to an end. Once again a wonderful story, with lots of misleading clues and red herrings to negotiate, leaving the end denouement to come as a surprise.

The Last Kingdom has become a much-followed TV series with the second series having aired (I haven't seen it yet!) since I read the previous book. In fact the entire series of books that has been previously known as the Making of England series or The Saxon Chronicles has now been retitled as The Last Kingdom series on the back of the popularity of the TV series. I must get round to watching series 2...

This last week we were walking along the river front at Fleetwood to get some buttons from the market and I saw a sign for a book sale. I used to love Harold Robbins books - I suspect most schoolboys of my era did - and I'd never even heard of this particular book before so I shelled out 50p and gave it a go. It returns to the world of movie making, which was a popular topic for Robbins in such books as The Carpetbaggers. This follows a script writer who wants to be a book writer through adventures from New York to Hollywood, to glamorous places like Cannes and St Tropez. I'm sure sex has been a popular pasttime throughout history, but my own recollections of the days before widespread availability of the pill are somewhat more tame than this book would have you believe... Perhaps I had a deprived adolescence...

Monday, 29 May 2017

Family Postcards

I know! A full month without a post! You lucky people! But here I am again, having spent a number of weeks with my brother trying to get to a state where we could sort out the probate following the death of my unmarried uncle. Until that happens there will be scant news of the process and findings, but I now know where my hoarding genes come from. Not just the collections of my uncle but of family members I have only just found out about... I never knew the names of my great-grandparents until we started on this, but now I've started to draw up a family tree. How long before I find myself out on a limb, I wonder...

Anyway, I can't see any harm in having a quick look at some postcards from the 20th century that various family members sent or received. There could be more of these to come...

Sent home to Castleton, Rochdale from Southport by my Great-Grandad to my Great-Grandma who, for whatever reason, had been left at home. 24 September 1906. "Arrived safe about 1/2 past 1 o'clock. The weather is grand here. Yours W.T.B."

W.T.B. was William Thomas Burke, my Great-Grandfather. He's not exactly pouring his heart out here, but it would be too easy and perhaps unfair to draw conclusions from so few words. Funny though that I never even knew his name until now... The rides are long since gone from Southport, but just up the coast in my own home town of Blackpool the Pleasure Beach still has their own version of Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine still in operation. Sir Hiram originally wanted to install controls so that riders could send the gondolas up or down but with thoughts of cars stalling and diving or simply being too low when the ride slowed and crashing into the landing stage, the request was denied, leading to the designer dismissing the ride as "merely a roundabout".

Sent by "Emily" to my Great-Aunt Cissie on 19 August 1907. "Dear Cissie, I arrived on Saturday at 11:30am. Enjoying myself very well and I hope you are, though you are at home. The weather is nice so I hope to return in the best of health. Your affectionate friend, Emily." Cissie was my Grandad Burke's sister.

Another Blackpool postcard sent by my Great-Great-Aunt Florrie home to her mother in Rochdale on 22 August 1907. "Dear Mother, I am still enjoying myself. Yesterday we went on the Helter Skelter and got stuck in the middle. On Thursday we kept having showers, but never keeps us in. Florrie". Florrie Woolfenden was the sister of my Great-Grandmother on my paternal grandmother's side.

Manchester Piccadilly - somewhat different to the present day! This card was another sent by "Emily" to my Great-Aunt Cissie in Castleton, Rochdale on 29 November 1907. "Dear Cissie, I was glad to hear from you and will meet you at quarter to seven. Please bring programme if for entrance. All are well, have plenty of time to talk tomorrow, your loving friend Emily." Cissie at this time would have been aged somewhere between 10 and 14 I think. I only remember her as a quite wrinkled old lady who had never married and who chain smoked unfiltered cigarettes. I rather think though that she was quite a character during her youth and there's a super photo of a very confident young woman in full 1920s flapper-style complete with head dress that will no doubt find its way onto the blog at some point.

Five years later Cissie sent this card from Colwyn Bay back to her mother (my Great-Grandma Burke) in Castleton, Rochdale on 17 August 1912. "Dear Mother, Arrived here quite safely, got lovely digs. Rained here this afternoon, fine now. We are rather a long way from Colwyn Bay centre but in a nice position lovely scenery. With love from Cissie."

A local postcard sent from their home town on 7 September 1961 by my Grandad and Uncle Geoff to my Grandma who was on holiday at Morecambe Bay Holiday Camp, Heysham. "Dear Mum, Hope you are having a good time. Have you won anything at you know what? We expect to arrive on Saturday between 2-00 and 2-30. Love Geoff and Dad"

The mention of winning refers to whist drives - she would play every night if possible and would sometimes tut or grumble under her breath if my Mum and Dad insisted we play for matchsticks not pennies when she played cards with me and my brother when we were small! Yet she would have gone mad at the thought of gambling in any other way. Inflation has gone mad here - all the postcards from 1906-12 were sent for a ha'penny (a halfpenny - pre-decimal coinage. 24 of them would be the equivalent to a 5p coin today, though that ignores inflation). In 1961 it cost tuppence ha'penny or 2½d, equivalent to 0.521 pence of today's money without inflation. Just to be clear, that's £0.00521 pence... Add in the effects of inflation and today it costs 56p to send a postcard second class or 65p first class. There was only one class of postage in 1961 and post was delivered twice a day.

Comments on a postcard please...

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