PP of DC
Various articles that don't form part of a specific series.
by - Pam Parke
A TOE OF WOE
This Little Piggy stayed at home
This Little Piggy had roast beef
This Little Piggy had none
And this Little Piggy went OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!
All the way home
That was all the sympathy I got from my good friend Jan in Norfolk, followed by six more clever verses, when I had to have my little toe amputated recently. There isn't room for all her verses, nor the reason for my loss, but it made me wonder about the origin of this beloved nursery rhyme. Google helped!
The rhyme has been told in different languages all round the world. It originated in a melody of 1728 called The Nurse's Song, but not until 1760 did the full version appear in the famous Tom Thumb's Little Story-Book, together with Baa Baa Black Sheep, Hickory, Dickory Dock, Pat-A-Cake and so on. The author of 'Piggy' is unknown.
As we all know, it is associated with wiggling a child's various toes, the last one being the 'pinky' when the bottom of the foot is tickled, resulting in many squeals and giggles. It's a good way to teach infants and toddlers to count to five and often causes as much fun for the ones doing the tickling!
But give a little thought to what it is saying - the darker interpretation of this little rhyme. The 'little piggy going to market' is not off to the supermarket! It probably means he's going to be slaughtered and become a juicy pork joint, or breakfast bacon. The 'little piggy staying at home' could mean that he's not yet mature enough to be eaten. The one eating roast beef needs to be fattened up and the poor little one with none is probably too small for anything other than to be eaten by the farmer's family. And what of the one crying wee, wee, wee? He's probably just terrified!
So try not to think about its meaning when next you wiggle a little one's toes - and remember that for them, "Innocence is Bliss!" Jan, however, wasn't going to let me get away with innocence. Her final verse read:
Find a box with cotton wool,
To wrap your toe and keep it in,
So you can look at it and smile,
Remembering days when you could sing
"Wee wee wee" all the way home!
I didn't keep the toe, and she's still a very good friend!
What fun we had! A goodly band of friends turned up to arrange
the hall. Judie's tablecloths, balloons
and table arrangements in Macmillan colours brightened the scene. I wish
I'd had a camera when she emerged from the back seat of the car with a dozen or
so helium-filled balloons threatening to whisk her off like Mary Poppins!
71 tickets were sold and 69 people turned up
- quite a squeeze! It was exciting
watching folk turn up with their packages and bundles for valuation - just like
the genuine BBC Roadshow. The items were displayed on tables in front
of the Valuer and everyone sat around
enjoying excellent 'nibbles' generously provided by our shop suppliers and
friends, washed down with a glass of wine. Janet, Vi and
Margaret performed miracles in the kitchen, working like beavers and presenting
a superb spread.
Some people brought various items for a
table auction where bids were placed and the highest bidder won. This added £177 to the kitty.
The raffle, all prizes donated, raised
£106, whilst Fenella's 'Guess the Age of the Chair'
caused some interest and raised a bit more cash. 1815 was the date and Jill Massey won a
gorgeous bouquet of flowers arranged by Sue Wright [now an area floral art
demonstrator - congratulations, Sue].
Everyone agreed that Christopher Hampton
[of Hampton and Littlewood, Auctioneers and Valuers,
The evening raised a total of £740 with all
expenses paid, so that Macmillan Cancer Support and our new Community Shop
are richer by £370 each. We were
very grateful to all who contributed in whatever way - including those who
turned up and then generously supported the various money raising events. Thanks, everyone! PP of DC
PP of DC
THE EARTHQUAKE APPEAL Early in November, the lofts and wardrobes of Berrynarbor were scoured for items to help with Rotary's appeal through the North Devon Journal for blankets, warm bedcovers and warm clothes to send to Pakistan. And what a magnificent turnout! Fenella and John kindly provided the use of the barn at Sloley Farm and trestles were appropriately laid out in front of our award-winning carnival float, depicting HMS Victory. Between Saturday and Monday people brought 20 black bags of blankets, 13 of duvets, sleeping bags and eiderdowns and nearly 50 bags of clothing ranging from sheepskin jackets, Barbour's, anoraks and fleeces to woolly hats, gloves, scarves and socks. On the Tuesday, a further 8 duvets were taken separately to Barnstaple. Although there were few children's and baby clothes, on the whole they were well catered for by other areas. What happened next? All the items were taken to Tiverton where they were sorted and loaded into 15kg bags. North Devon produced about 10 tons of aid and Devon as a whole generated enough items to fill 4 articulated trucks! Later, I spoke to George Kempton, the local organiser, who proclaimed the collection a 'phenomenal success'. By then, two trucks had been driven to Aid International in Perth, one about to go and the last would leave on Monday, 14th - in time for the deadline for goods to arrive before the winter freeze. Each truck took just 2 hours to empty - blankets and bedcovers were put on pallets and within 24 hours were in Pakistan. The clothing went into shipping containers to arrive at their destination within ten days. Lessons in Logistics could be learnt from both local and national organisers. Many thanks to all who so generously contributed and to those who not only delivered the goods but also stayed on to help sort. PP of DC
THE EARTHQUAKE APPEAL
Early in November, the lofts and wardrobes of Berrynarbor were scoured for items to help with Rotary's appeal through the North Devon Journal for blankets, warm bedcovers and warm clothes to send to Pakistan. And what a magnificent turnout! Fenella and John kindly provided the use of the barn at Sloley Farm and trestles were appropriately laid out in front of our award-winning carnival float, depicting HMS Victory.
Between Saturday and Monday people brought 20 black bags of blankets, 13 of duvets, sleeping bags and eiderdowns and nearly 50 bags of clothing ranging from sheepskin jackets, Barbour's, anoraks and fleeces to woolly hats, gloves, scarves and socks. On the Tuesday, a further 8 duvets were taken separately to Barnstaple. Although there were few children's and baby clothes, on the whole they were well catered for by other areas.
What happened next? All the items were taken to Tiverton where they were sorted and loaded into 15kg bags. North Devon produced about 10 tons of aid and Devon as a whole generated enough items to fill 4 articulated trucks! Later, I spoke to George Kempton, the local organiser, who proclaimed the collection a 'phenomenal success'. By then, two trucks had been driven to Aid International in Perth, one about to go and the last would leave on Monday, 14th - in time for the deadline for goods to arrive before the winter freeze. Each truck took just 2 hours to empty - blankets and bedcovers were put on pallets and within 24 hours were in Pakistan. The clothing went into shipping containers to arrive at their destination within ten days. Lessons in Logistics could be learnt from both local and national organisers.
Many thanks to all who so generously contributed and to those who not only delivered the goods but also stayed on to help sort.
PP of DC
A MELON-CHOLY TALE!
The little melon plant nestles innocently amongst the courgettes and cucumbers in the garden centre. It conjures up memories of a friend's conservatory, a hammock swung below the ripening melons, waiting to catch the luscious fruits. I buy it.
Arriving home I read the label, 'fertilise by hand'. Visions of wielding a paintbrush sweep before my eyes. I reach for the gardening compendium [which I've had longer than I've had Alex!].
From there I learn that once there are 6 female flowers on the plant [identified by the tiny embryo melons at the base of the flower], I must peel back the petals of the same number of male flowers and without disturbing the pollen, introduce them to the female flowers. What is more, the operation is best carried out at mid-day when the female flowers are most receptive. I shall be taking their temperatures next!
As I'm working most days, I try not to pander to their own timetable, but to no avail. In the mornings they haven't woken up and by evening they've all modestly closed their little petals or withered.
On Sunday, however, I catch just 3 of them! Surely there is more to life than stuffing a melon, I say to myself as I peel back the petals of the male flowers and do as I'm told to the females. I leave the 6 flowers entwined. They might as well enjoy the experience. A few days later, to my immense surprise, the flower bases start to swell. Within two weeks I have 3 baby melons the size of (i) a ping-pong ball (ii) a tennis ball and (iii) a small grapefruit. If these grow to maturity, I shan't dare to eat them I'll take them to the taxidermist!
Ideas of triumphantly carrying off the Derrick Kingdon Cup in the Horticultural Show for 'Any other fruit' swim before my eyes. Who said it was difficult to grow melons?
Pride comes before a fall, they say. By early August the melons haven't put on any weight. By mid-August the leaves start to wither. In spite of all the loving care and attention, the melons are by now rock hard and very, very dead.
Will anyone notice if I put them in the Handicraft Section - No. 21 Any handcrafted item not covered under Classes 15-20 inc. - as pottery melons [various sizes]? I could perhaps win the Watermouth Cup!
PP of DC
[Part 2 - again with apologies to Rudyard Kipling]
And not apportion blame nor blow your top
If you can put your trust in those who're working
To motivate us all to keep our village shop
Who willingly give time to rattle cages
Check grants, make plans and survey sites to choose
Then instigate a meeting for us sages [dubious, but it rhymes!]
To bring us up to date - then air our views
If our postmaster's into golf and surfing
And tired of daily chores - no blame for that
Remember Nora's care for sick and aged
And Alan's help when we have lost the cat
They've passed on news, sold tickets, survived flooding
And opened shop next day we saw no tears
Can we not make allowance for their closing
Then wish them health and many happy years?
Or think up ways to make our own shop pay
if you will shun the supermarket's trash
And wine shops where the booze is cheap, you may
Then buy your stamps, cooked meat and luscious veggies
And other needs, like pensions, cards and pop
Come have a chat, fund raise, provide the goodies
Then what is more - we'll keep our village shop!
Although the deadline has passed, IF you've not yet filled in the survey, please, please do so without delay. To parody the words of John Kennedy: "Ask not what your village shop can do for you, but what you can do for your village shop"!
PP of DC
Not Just an Event an Experience
It was a gloriously balmy evening after yet another day of sunshine. We followed the clearly lit trail past the agreeable sounds of willow on leather at the cricket match and 'trad jazz', through stone portals topped with beautiful flowers towards the magnificently floodlit Castle Hill.
From there the vista stretched down into the valley and up the opposite hillside to a skyline temple from which laser lighting was streaking across the heavens. Moving to the end of the terrace, we watched a croquet game 'a la Cluedo', where Miss Scarlett - on the lawn with a croquet mallet - was giving her all! Passing the millennium gardens - a delight of pinks and mauves - our attention was drawn to a distant hillside folly from where drifted operatic excerpts from an unaccompanied soprano. Within minutes we were wafted to Bonnie Scotland by the dirge of bagpipes which failed to 'cheer us down'!
As the skies darkened and the lights shone brighter, we wound our way along lantern or lamplit paths for over three hours of utter pleasure, meeting old and new friends on the way. We cheered as the 'goody' won the fair maiden in a medieval challenge at the castle, marvelled at the daring firewalkers, lingered on the memorable 'Ugly Bridge' with its far from ugly harpist, and left the country market refreshed. These were just some of the highlights - there were many, many more.
However, all good things come to an end and what a spectacular end! We had lingered so long that we missed the beginning of the grand finale [repeated at regular intervals during the evening]. The most lasting and poignant memory is of the water fountain cleverly used as a video screen to remind us all of the reason for the event raising funds for our local hospice. Although we found the accompanying music incredibly loud, we had nothing but praise for the organisers and volunteers who managed to park, entertain, feed, water and send home, without delay, 11,000 happy people on that evening.
PP Of DC
"Write something about Dreamwalk," mum said. Where do I start to describe such a magical and unique evening? Not sure what to expect, we arrived at our allocated car park to be greeted by a fairground of entertainment. A quick look at the map and we opted for the easier family trek. "That way we can see the house" was our excuse! Off we set at a gentle pace and before long we had met a jazz band, an old-fashioned cricket match and a river masked in softly scented incense. The house looked magnificent all lit up and the gardens were truly beautiful. I fell in love with the spherical water feature which we stopped to admire whilst listening to the Torridge Male Voice Choir. It was a steep climb to the castle and by this time the crowds had gathered and we gave the fire and drama there a miss. Hog roast sandwiches and we continued our magic journey through the grounds. I was especially taken with the river fairies and most impressed by the standard of the home-grown 'Make Me Smile Band', who were causing quite a crowd to gather on the river's edge.
I was anxious to find the grand finale field. I had spotted some interesting looking lighting equipment when we arrived and heard snatches of a soundscape reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre. Finally, we reached the end and what a treat! A massive wall of water with fire, lights, motorbikes, explosions and live music; the house formed a stunning natural backcloth to a unique mirage of images, poetry and dreams projected on to the water screen. I was enthralled. "Please, let's stay and see it again from the very best position," I virtually demanded the rest of our party. They were not disappointed second time around it was even more poignant. I'd have happily stayed until the sun came up to watch the spectacle, but the others were tired and concerned about getting out again.
I am now settling into my new job as Arts Officer for Swindon Borough Council and quietly scheming a way to organise my own Dreamwalk adventure!
On arriving at the fairground, a decision had to be made and we chose to take the Discovery Trail. We proceeded towards the house and so began an enchanting evening of entertainment ending with the moving and spectacular son et lumiere. I look forward eagerly to next year's event!
AN IRISH BREAK ...
"Been skiing have you?" asked Liam the pilot laconically. I glanced sideways from my stretcher through the tiny rain-streaked window of the minute Piper Seneca onto the sodden Cork runway and laughed. "Nothing so dramatic," I replied, "I slipped on a grassy slope and fell awkwardly!" Now I was Exeter-bound in an air ambulance with a delightful nurse/companion, a tasty picnic, Sunday newspaper - and right leg in plaster from foot to bum!
"Have you gone through the emergency drill with Pam?" said Liam over his shoulder as we taxied down the runway. "Oh no," said Helen, "Pam, if we have a problem, I flick this switch at the top and the one at the bottom, and the door drops out. Then we grab a lifejacket and get out. And don't worry", here she gave me a reassuring grin, "when we hit the water your plaster will dissolve and we shall all be in the same boat!" "Liam", I pleaded, being immobile and strapped to the stretcher, "please get us there safely!" It was much later that I remembered that my cast was fibreglass not plaster of Paris. I should have had a long wait on the seabed waiting for that to dissolve!
But let's go back to the beginning.
"Let's take a break in Ireland in the spring" said the four of us [all female] just before Christmas. The only suitable date was March 17th St Patrick's Day. I 'phoned my friend in Dun Laoghaire to tell her we'd be calling for coffee and she threw up her hands in horror. "Dublin will be hell, the villages en route will be heaving with revellers, and if you can change the date, you should!" Too late...we had already booked our cottage near Kenmare in South West Ireland.
That was before the foot and mouth problem, because of which, the go ahead wasn't finally given until the 14th March, by which time we had organised an alternative holiday in the Isles of Scilly. Had we taken the latter holiday, I guess that would have been the end of the story!
Our holiday cottage was spacious and very comfortable, our hostess welcoming and generous. We had, of course, been disinfected at Dun Laoghaire - selves, car, dog and boots. I seethed when the canned dog food was confiscated by officious guards at the port, in direct contradiction to MAFF'S advice - I strongly suspect that no guard will have to buy dog food for years hence! But now our longed for holiday had really begun.
First thing next morning, when I called to the dog, I'd lost my voice! I was still croaking 3 days later when I broke my leg! The next day, Judith fell foul of "Kerry-belly", and she was off her food until after leg-break day!
On Wednesday, we decided to explore the Beara peninsula - a delightfully remote and less touristy area south of the Ring of Kerry. In the pretty village of Castletown Bere we bought huge prawns to be cooked in garlic butter [for those of us who were eating] and half an hour later stopped the car to admire the sunset from a roadside track.
As I fell forwards and slipped sideways on the wet grass we all heard the 'ping' of snapping bones. I shifted my wet bum out of the stream onto dry heather and my friends made me as comfortable and warm as possible. There was no mobile 'phone signal, and we hadn't seen a soul since leaving the 'prawn' shop. Suddenly in the distance appeared a battered car driven by an equally battered old man. "Well, I don't rightly know", was his answer to Judith's request for help. "Ah, wait a moment. Theresa lives over the brow of the hill. She's just been made redundant as nurse on the ambulance. I'll go and get her." And in less than no time, Theresa arrived, followed shortly by Sean and Frank and their welcome ambulance with gas and splint.
"Follow me," said Frank to Rosie. Poor Rosie had driven my car only briefly on the journey to Ireland, and now in the gathering gloom she had to take control of car, passenger and dog.
The doctor at Castletown Bere hospital came out to the ambulance, took one look at the leg and declared: "Well, you and I both know it's broken, so Cork is the only place for you. The problem is that we only have the one ambulance and I can't risk being without it. As you have a car and driver, she'll have to drive you." "How far is it?" I asked. "Oh, only about 2 hours. I'll give you a shot of morphine to see you through." Waiting only to hand over the prawns to the ambulance men, I was settled widthways on the back seat, propped up with pillows. By now it was pitch dark - and raining of course. Not surprisingly, we lost the road several times, and for the second time that night heard "Follow me", as a kindly Irishman hurtled us through the streets of a nameless town at 50 mph until he guided us back to the right road. Incidentally, we rarely knew how much farther the journey was as Irish major roads are now measured in kilometres, whilst side roads still indicate miles! In the end the journey took us 3 hours.
Cork University hospital accident and emergency on a Wednesday night [and, no doubt, every night] looked like a scene from the Crimean War.
Damaged bodies were everywhere and the air was filled with groans. Almost as soon as I entered on a stretcher, I groped for pen and notepad. A nurse had taken one look at me and declared "My God! You'd best move up the stretcher, you must be 7' long!" I knew I was in for a fund of stories, and I wasn't disappointed.
My two poor friends finally left the hospital at 2.30 a.m. to drive back to Kenmare - 1.5 hour's drive away. Incidentally, you may have noticed that there were four of us in the beginning and now only three. Yvonne was unable to come in the end -- and fell two days after me on the beach at Combe Martin and broke her wrist but that's another saga!
I was wheeled to a ward bay for 6, as a 7th patient. At right angles to the other beds, I should have had a good view of my fellow patients had I not been drowsy from the sedative already given. At 4.00 a.m. I was wakened [together with the rest of the ward] by a nurse asking my name, address, age, religion, etc. What had happened to the details I'd already given twice? Next morning I was wheeled down to the operating theatre, accompanied by Mark, my anaesthetist - a lovely young man. A harridan confronted us who demanded my yellow card. I was tempted to say that I wasn't here to play football, but I don't think she would have been amused. Perhaps the card of my night-time interrogator was yellow but I hadn't noticed!
Eventually I woke from the anaesthetic, to find a party going on at the bed to my right. Four or five visitors were gathered around Mary's bed and as there wasn't room for more chairs, I invited two to sit on my bed! I was rewarded when Mary said to one of them, "Are you to go into your man with your ears tomorrow?" "Fat chance he'd have of going in without 'em", I thought!
Later that day I was slotted into my own bed space, between Philomena, a dear soul suffering from verbal diarrhoea [and a broken hip!] and Jennie, a lovely young 23-year old who had accidentally fallen off a fire escape and compacted her spine, and opposite 80-year old Annie, suffering from chest problems, who asked of Philomena, "And what's wrong wid you?" "Aah!
My story is a long one," she replied with all the feeling of the 'Sisters of Sorrow'. "Oh no!" exclaimed my young friend, " I've heard the same thing everyday this week and it goes on and on..." And it did! 18 minutes without a pause, apart from the occasional "Aah", or "I know, ya", from her questioner. Finally the saga came to an end. The ward fell silent. Philomena settled herself back on her pillows and declared, "Sure 'tis nice to be in a quiet ward again! "
Next morning at 8.00 a.m. the drug trolley did its first round. "Pam, you'd best have some painkillers. You need to take 'em half an hour before the pain starts", declared the nurse. "Thank you", I said meekly. Well, it's very logical in an Irish sort of way!
By evening, lifting the lid from my supper plate, I gazed unenthusiastically at the chicken supreme, but realising that I hadn't eaten anything but toast for over 48 hours, I reluctantly dipped a fork into the white meat. Just then I heard a noise and glancing across the ward was in time to see the Annie bringing up something very similar in appearance. My appetite disappeared!
Monica, directly opposite me, even at 95 had lovely facial bone structure. She also had a chest infection. Round her neck hung day and night, bed or bathroom - her handbag! She didn't believe in banks and so all her life savings were in the bag - except of course that on her arrival they had been placed in the hospital safe. One day she realised the bag was empty, and accused her visiting niece of pinching the money. "Oh no, Aunty", explained the niece, "they put it in the safe. I'll go and get it to show you." The only problem was the hospital couldn't release it to anyone other than the owner, unless with a letter of agreement from the owner's solicitor - and Monica couldn't grasp what a solicitor was, let alone his name!
The niece, however, kept me amused for 10 minutes. She was a Dubliner, and having had a one-sided conversation with her Aunt, came across to me and said, "My God you look much too healthy to be in here -- what's the matter wid yus?" I threw back the bedclothes to reveal the plaster. "Jaysus, that's bad! I'm reminded of the time I broke me arm. 'Twas terrible 'cos I'm a pianist. Anyway, I've three great sons at home, and I ordered them not to screw any lids on jars tightly 'cos I wouldn't be able to undo them. And what did I do? Decided to do the washing. Gathered it up and put the liquid Daz under me arm. The lid popped off and the Daz trickled down me arm and under me plaster."
So what did she do? "I poured a jug of water down inside to rinse it out - but it just came out in me palm as froth! Then I decided I'd better dry it with me hairdryer but that didn't work. Finally I reckoned the best thing was to 'phone the hospital. They said I'd best come in immediately or I might get the 'dermytitis'." Unfortunately, by now the plaster was so soggy that it clogged up the 'rotary saw' they use to cut off plasters, and they had to resort to scissors. But it was the way she told it!
On my last night, I was so excited at the thought of getting back home next day that sleep evaded me. Or it could have been Monica's snores with every breath. Or the four times I had to call the nurse because she was trying to get out of her cot. Near dawn, she suddenly sat bolt upright in bed, checked that her bag was still around her neck, groped for her slippers [I suspect she had something hidden in the soles] and then started feeling around the bed again. Relief! She had found it - her massive rosary. With a great effort she got it over her head, looked across at me with unseeing eyes, shouted, "Am I dead Yet? NO! I don't think so." Flopped back on her pillows, and within two seconds was snoring rhythmically again. And I was supposed to get some sleep?
After all this excitement, the journey home was deliciously uneventful, and life is gradually becoming more normal. I've decided I'm 'legicapped' - there's nothing wrong with my hand.
And one benefit is that I'm gradually using up all those odd pop socks. Not so good, though, is that the left sandal of a new pair is getting decidedly more wear.
My next 'break' is already in the pipeline but it won't be in Ireland!
Footnote: Through the newsletter, I'd like to add a few heartfelt 'thank you's': Firstly, I couldn't have coped without the ministrations of Alex's care, cooking, car driving and 'couragement! Then there is Daniel. He kindly offered to walk Jet [my black Labrador] and over the weeks they've become great pals. Ironically, after about 2 weeks Dan turned up with his arm in plaster! He'd fallen and broken a bone in his hand. [It's obviously catching.] Nevertheless, he still insisted on his daily visit - helped occasionally by Bethany and Luke and is still helping out [mid May]. Yvonne's arm is now out of plaster and thankfully on the mend. She, too, has been of great help and support. We made a great entrance at the Ilfracombe Walkers dinner. Paul Lethaby took one look at us and decided there and then not to join! Still, as Judy remarked, "Never mind Yvonne, you can kick 'em and Pam can bash 'em".
Finally, thanks to my friends [especially our own dear ED, Anna and Judith] for emergency help, visits, lovely cards, flowers and good wishes. They've all been much appreciated.
PP of DC
MARILYN, WE MISS YOU
"Your hair is growing", said my friend the other evening. This is, of course, a polite euphemism for, "You are looking more like the Dulux dog every day!" It is not surprising. I reckon I am not on my own. Together with many people in the Berrynarbor and Combe Martin area, we are all missing Marilyn Boudier's skills in keeping us all elegantly 'coifed'.
When she first announced a few weeks ago that she would be going into hospital and then there would be several weeks of recuperation, mingled with everyone's spoken words of "Oh, I am sorry", "Do hope that everything goes well", "Get well soon", etc., was the underlying thought, "What on earth am I going to do, how will I cope?"
We do, of course. It's a minor thing getting one's hair done, but to most women it's their glory, and to some Marilyn's weekly visit is an important link with the outside world.
Well, Marilyn, if you read this, we are all wishing you the very best for a speedy recovery, and do come back soon. We do need you.
Meanwhile, is there a redundant sheep shearer in the area who would like to earn a few bob?!
PP of DC
[PS By the time this is in print, we expect and hope that Marilyn will be recovered and back in business.]
Unearthed by PP of DC
- An Accountant is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
- An Auditor is someone who arrives after the battle and bayonets all the wounded.
- A Banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain. [Mark Twain]
- An Economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today.
- A Statistician is someone who is good with numbers but lacks the personality to be an accountant.
- An Actuary is someone who brings a fake bomb on a plane, because that decreases the chances that there will be another bomb on the plane. [Laurence J. Pqter]
- A Programmer is someone who solves a problem you didn't know you had in a way you don't understand.
- A Mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there. [Charles R. Darwin]
- A Topologist is a man who doesn't know the difference between a coffee cup and a doughnut.
- A Lawyer is a person who writes a 10,000 word document and calls it a 'brief'. [Franz Kafka]
- A Psychologist is a man who watches everyone else when a beautiful girl enters the room.
- A Professor is one who talks in someone else's sleep.
- A Schoolteacher is a disillusioned woman who used to think she liked children.
- A Consultant is someone who takes the watch off your wrist and tells you the time.
- A Diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
ONLY IN BRITAIN
- Only in Britain - can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance
- Only in Britain - are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink
- Only in Britain - do supermarkets make the sick people walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front
- Only in Britain - do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries and a DIET Coke
- Only in Britain - do banks leave both doors open and chain the pens to the counters
- Only in Britain - do we leave cars worth thousands of pounds on the drive and put our junk in the garage
- Only in Britain - do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place
- Only in Britain - do we buy hot dogs in packs of ten and buns in packs of eight
- Only in Britain - do we use the word 'politics' to describe the process of Government - 'poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'.
Unearthed by PP of DC
To: Alan and Nora
IF [with apologies to Rudyard Kiplingl]
Is confusion, and Christmas is not very far away;
If you can make yourself turn out and see to
Your customers receiving morning papers every day;
If whilst wearing 'wellies' you can gossip
And open up for business just the same,
Or can meet with South West Water and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same.
Awaiting the insurance for your loss;
And lose the sale of useful Christmas presents
And never breathe a word about the cost;
If you can talk with locals 'bout the damage
And move into Whitley with ne'er a blink,
Then you have earned the thanks of Berrynarbor
And - what is more - their signatures I think!
IF you've not done so already, please sign to save our Post Office - we need it!
PP of DC
The Magyars Saw It Too!
September 1998, and Eclipse mania is well underway. I telephone my cousin who lives in Kecskemet in Hungary [also in the area of totality]. 'May I book a bed for next August 11th?' 'Of course, but why?' 'It's this eclipse.' 'What eclipse?' That's it. Cornwall - 40% chance of sunshine, Hungary - 95% chance. No contest!
On August 11th 1999, I awake in Kecskemet with the excitement of a child on Christmas morn! Instead of the wall to wall sunshine of the past few days, thunder rolls around grey skies and the inevitable deluge follows. However, by 10.30 a.m. [we are one hour behind BST], a crack appears in the greyness and by 11.00 a.m. the sun is once again beating down and soaring temperatures soon reach 35 Deg C.
In the house the BBC World Service shows the eclipse passing over Falmouth, then France and Germany, all cloaked in cloud and rain. Outside the dappled sunshine throws increasingly narrow crescents onto the ground and across our clothing.
We are prepared with solar glasses and pinhole cards to view this phenomenon. What is totally unexpected is the amazing drop in temperature. Fifteen minutes into the eclipse and I am standing comfortable in open sunshine for the first time since my arrival three days earlier. By totality, I am shivering.
Any Hungarian interested in the Eclipse has headed for Lake Balaton [Hungary's Helston], the rest go about their daily business until it is nearly dark.
The last sliver of sunlight rapidly disappears and everything happens at once. The dappled crescents have disappeared - total blackness. Don't need the glasses. Look at the sun, must take a photograph - don't be daft, it won't come out [it did]. Isn't it eerie? Ooh, look at the diamond ring. What happened to Bailey's beads? Isn't the corona huge? Those bright stars - Mercury to the right and Venus to the left. Gosh, there's the sun again. Who's got the glasses?
Then all goes into reverse, but somehow the magic is over. Life gradually returns to normal and with it the returning crowds from Lake Balaton and the heat! But somehow it's much more bearable - we are sobered to realise just how much we depend on that life-giving ball of fire.
The next total eclipse is in Madagascar on Midsummer's day in 2001. See you there?
PP of DC
THERE'S GOLD IN
THEM THAR HILLS - PART II
And the Womenfolk ain't gonna be left out!
'Women have made up their minds to go to the Klondike, so there is no use trying to discourage them. When our fathers, husbands and brothers decided to go, so did we, and our wills are strong and unfailing. We will not be drawbacks nor hindrances and they won't have to return on our account.'
So wrote Annie Hall Strong in 1897. She was then 27 and an unusual woman of her time. An accomplished musician, having studied in Germany and France for 5 years, she then taught music and German at the University of Washington. After their marriage in 1896, she and her husband, J.F.A. Strong, moved from Seattle to Skagway in the 1897 Gold Rush [see August 1999 Newsletter]. Amongst his many business interests, Mr. Strong founded several newspapers, including the Skagway News. Mrs. Strong, well-educated and in a position of importance in society, was well placed to observe the to-ings and fro-ings and, no doubt, the demise of many wives, sisters and other camp followers who descended on the town in their droves.
On 31st December 1897 she issued a paper comprehensively entitled
Hints to Women
What should be Taken and What Should be Left Behind
Other Points of Value and Interest
Her first concern was to deter 'delicate women' who 'have no right attempting the trip ... those who love luxury, comfort and ease would better remain at home.' Having cleared that, she continues with sensible advice on 'being properly clothed and equipped for the trip to the interior ... First and most important of all, by far, to be considered is the selection of proper footwear. It is not necessary to have shoes two or three sizes larger than one's actual last, simply because you are going on a trip to the Klondike. Get a shoe that fits, and if the sole is not very heavy have an extra one added.'
Her minimum requirement in footwear are: one pair each of house slippers, knitted slippers, heavy soled walking shoes, arctics, felt boots, German socks, heavy gum boots, ice creepers, plus 3 pairs each of heavy all wool stockings and summer stockings.
Bear in mind that this would have been a year-long expedition and compare what you or I take for our two weeks in the sun! Mrs. Strong recommends that a woman can comfortably get along with:
- 1 good dress
- 1 suit heavy mackinaw - waist [bodice] and bloomers
- 1 summer suit - waist and bloomers
- 3 short skirts of heavy duck or denim to wear over bloomers
- 3 suits winter underwear
- 3 suits summer underwear
- 1 chamois undervest
- 1 long sack nightdress, made of eiderdown or flannel
- 1 cotton nightdress
- 2 pair of Arctic mittens
- 1 pair of heavy wool gloves
- 1 cap
- 1 Arctic hood
- 1 hat with brim broad enough to hold the mosquito netting from the face
- 1 summer dress
- 3 aprons
- 2 wrappers
- 2 shirt waists snow glasses some sort of gloves for summer wear, to protect the hands from mosquitoes
Camp Skagway No. 1
I listed the recommended 'commissaries' set out by the Canadian Government in Part I. Annie Strong commends it, but shoves in her 'penn'orth': 'From actual experience I find evaporated eggs a failure, and every one who took saccharin as a substitute for sugar are loud in their condemnation of it. Take plenty of sugar. One craves it, and 200 pounds per outfit is not too much. ' [That's four 30-mile trips to the top of the pass 240 miles just to carry the sugar!] 'The list fails to mention butter, on account of its being looked upon as a luxury, but all the old Yukoners take it in goodly supply ... The miners say pure grease makes a pleasant drink. '
Women are then advised to 'Take plenty of Tea. Fifty pounds of rolled oats is the usual amount mentioned in lists, but 100 pounds is far better. [another two journeys up the pass] 'Baking powder and candles are apt to be the first articles to disappear. A few extra pounds would come in handy.
She highly recommends the dried blackberries, raspberries and apples, and evaporated onion soup, vegetables and minced potatoes - and we thought these were comparatively recent innovations. A 'mess box' is advised, containing enough food for the trip, to avoid opening numerous sacks en route, and likewise she suggests three canvas bags, one 'exclusively for bedding', one for 'wearing apparel' and a third for 'footwear of all kinds. '
A final piece of advice regards replacement of the 'heavy, inconvenient ready made sleeping bags ... Take apiece of heavy canvas 5 x 14feet ... fold half the strip of canvas on the ground, place your bedding on it [1 rubber blanket, 3 or 4 pair all-wool blankets, I feather pillow] and draw the other half over you and don't have a restless night! 'You are thus protected from dampness and wind and have something doubly useful, for if you are caught out in a blizzard without a tent you can stretch your canvas over a pole and make a tent at a moment" notice. " Just like that!
Mr. Strong was made Governor of Alaska in 1911 and served for 8 years, returning to Seattle in 1918. After that, the couple travelled extensively until his death in July 1929. Annie's obituary in the Alaska Weekly dated April 25 1947 stated that Mrs. Strong had 'encircled the globe five times and spent much time in India, South America, Russia and England'. She was a remarkable - and tough - woman.
PP of DC
- Skagway Museum
- 'One Woman's Gold Rush' by Cynthia Brackett Driscoll
THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS' - BUT AT WHAT PRICE?
Wherever there is a community, there will be rogues! And Skagway was no different. This 'hick' town lies framed by rugged mountains in South East Alaska, a vast land once owned by the Russians and sold to the US in 1867 for 'peanuts'. Now it bustles only when the massive cruise ships make it their temporary home. In 1897, things were very different. Gold Rush Fever had started when 68 miners reached Seattle on the 17th July 1897 in the steamship 'Portland', with over a ton of gold, found by accident in Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, about 11 miles from Dawson City.
At one time, 60,000 'wanna be' prospectors queued to climb by one of two equally difficult routes in order to reach Dawson City, They had left their comfortable homes and families to sail the dangerous waters of the Inside Passage from Seattle. Now there was nothing for it but a hard, steep, 33-mile slog either up the notorious White Pass or equally difficult Chilkoot Trail. These territories were so forbidding, with temperatures often plummeting to -50 Deg C, that in an effort to avoid mass starvation and disease, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police imposed mandatory supply regulations. No one could enter that area of Canada from Alaska without a ton of food and supplies, enough for a year. This meant that a prospector would have to carry a 50 lb pack up the steep trail, and repeat the climb between 30 and 40 times!
The fame of the gold strike also attracted almost every crook, gambler, 'painted lady' and adventurer in Canada and the US. One such was 'Soapy Smith'. Amongst his many tricks, he hit on a simple scam. In Seattle, he would sell dogs to the prospectors to help them pull their loads up the Trail not huskies, but any dog, be it Labrador, poodle or Heinz 57! Of course, once the prospectors tried them out in Skagway, they soon discovered how useless they were and let them go to wander the streets. 'Soapy' was then paid as the official Dog Catcher to round them up, when he promptly took them back to Seattle and sold them to the next naive shipload.
This and other ruses made him very unpopular and ultimately he was shot. Unfortunately, as so often is the case, an innocent man got in the way of one of the bullets. If you ever go to Skagway, seek out the old graveyard. There you will find 'Soapy's' grave - he's the one behind bars! Next to him is buried the innocent man, whose epitaph reads: 'He gave his life for the honour of Skagway'. Next to his grave is that of Klondike Kate, 'painted lady' par excellence, whose epitaph reads: 'She gave her honour for the life of Skagway'!
So what was considered essential for a year's supplies? The full list is too long to repeat here, but it starts with 400 lbs of flour [that's 8 33-mile treks!] and includes 150 lbs each of bacon and split peas [another 6 treks], 100 lbs sugar, 75 lbs of evaporated apples, peaches and potatoes, 40 lbs rolled oats, 25 lbs butter, 8 lbs baking powder, 18 cans of condensed milk, 10 lbs salt and 1 lb pepper, I gallon of vinegar, etc.
Then there is a box of candles [plus 3 lbs of candle wick], tin of matches, 5 bars of Castile soap and 6 bars of tar soap. Added to this is a rubber sheet, pick, axe, shovel, whip and hand saws, files, hatchets, chisel, gold pan, cooking pots, coffee pot, covered pails, eating bowls, granite cup, knife, fork, teaspoon, tablespoon [l of each], draw knife[?], tape measure, compass, and 200ft of 5/8" rope. One journey would be necessary to carry 10 lbs oakum [loose fibre obtained by untwisting and picking old hemp ropes and used especially in caulking], 10 lbs pitch and 26 lbs of assorted nails! Not to be forgotten is a spare axe handle and stone, emery stone, solder outfit, jack plane, a brace and assorted bits.
As if this isn't enough, the prospector must take a tent, 14qt galvanised pail, medicine chest, sheet iron stove, 25 lbs canvas sacks and a washbasin - wot, no kitchen sink! The final items on the list are personal clothes, extra boots and a sled for winter travel.
There must have been some honour amongst thieves; after all, who guarded the loads already transported to the top of the trail whilst you made the 66 mile round trip with the next load?
What the prospectors didn't know was that after all the effort, financial loss and unbelievable hardships endured on the White Pass or Chilkoot Trail, their dream of untold wealth was shattered when they arrived at Dawson City to discover that all the gold creeks had been claimed.
But, men were tough in 1897, there was no sneaking out to buy a Lottery ticket in those days!
But what of the womenfolk? They were tough too. In the words of Annie Hall Strong - the wife of a businessman from Seattle who settled in Skagway: "Women have made up their minds to go to the Klondike, so there is no use trying to discourage them. When our fathers, husbands and brothers decided to go, so did we, and our wills are strong and unfailing. We will not be drawbacks nor hindrances and they wont "have to return on our account".
She then wrote a paper on "From Woman's standpoint . . . what should be taken and what should be left behind." Watch this space to find out what they were!
PP of DC
AN ICELANDIC EXPERIENCE
"How do you fancy a hot bath on 20th January?" When a friend ask you that, you immediately sniff under the armpits and reach for the Lifebuoy! Intrigued, because it was only early December, I asked what it was all about. "Well, there's a chance of a day trip to Iceland." Now I think it's great the way Iceland has expanded from just selling frozen food, but a day trip seemed excessive . . . were they now selling jacuzzis as well as freezers?
We sorted it out of course: fly from Exeter, swim in the Blue Lagoon, see Reykjavik and oh, why not complete the day with an Icelandic fish lunch and a tour of the hinterland for good measure?
And that is how Yvonne, George, Alex and yours truly rose at 4.15 a.m. on a cool, damp January morning and flew out from Exeter, with 230 other mad folk from as far apart as Penzance and Taunton, just as the sun was rising. Oddly enough, it was still rising in Keflavik, 2.5 hours later! It tinted the snow-clad crystal clear landscape with a rosy glow - or maybe that was due in part to the celebratory Bucks Fizz with our in-flight hot breakfast.
I forgot to mention that one of our party was celebrating a birthday and another is a computer 'whiz kid' who had discovered what hours of daylight we could expect - about 6 - the history of this interesting island which is the size of England without the Scottish and Welsh appendages, and which has a population of only 1/4 million. The website also produced the tune of the national anthem - similar to Norway's entry for the Eurovision Song Contest, but not so tuneful! - and some useful phrases, 'takk fyrir' [thank you], 'yow/nay' [yes/no phonetically speaking] and a word now added to our vocabulary 'snyrting' [toilet]. We overheard a lovely Devonshire brogue at one loo announcing, "I could do with a good snyrt!"
The big pre-lunch event was THE swim in the Blue Lagoon. I'd describe it as an experience rather than a pleasure. The water, which had already circulated round a geo-thermal power station, was patchily hot and cool - not what you want having negotiated ice underfoot between changing rooms and pool in your 'cossie' in an ambient temperature of -6 Deg C. The steam rose so thickly that it blanked out the power station superstructure! Still, we braved it. The highlight for Yvonne and me was discussing serious politics in the changing room afterwards with a large, completely nude, girl from Washington DC, whose husband worked 'on the hill'. As she became animated, both with Clinton's peccadilloes and Blair's reform of the House of Lords, her pendulous boobs broke into a rhythmic and hypnotic swing. Breaking the trance, we joined our menfolk and conscious of enhanced appetites, it was lunchtime.
The modern restaurant, built of timber with strong Viking overtones, was in Reykjavik. Iceland is short of ancient buildings. Wooden structures don't have the staying power of English stone ones and the natural bedrock of Iceland is porous and unstable pumice. Surprisingly, the new timber houses are topped with corrugated iron, as protection. But back to the restaurant. The fish lunch was excellent, the surroundings attractive and the waiters, in deerskin tunics secured with heavy leather belts, positively sexy to the women! Alex and George fell for the nubile, serenading soprano, who sang haunting, unaccompanied Icelandic airs - not easy over the hubbub of eating, especially when you know your audience won't understand a word anyway.
The tour of Reykjavik continued, the highlight of which was ascending to the coffee shop and balcony of the newly opened 'Perlan', which from its fourth floor afforded superbly clear views of the city, mountains and a geyser which spouted at 5 minute intervals, about 200 yards away. By now it was 4.00 p.m. and the setting sun gave it a spectacular fiery glow. Alex and I treated ourselves to huge ice-creams. We thought these appropriate and anyway, we always have them on holiday!
We still had two hours in which to explore the harbour, buy postcards and shop for home-produced woolen goods before getting on the bus for the airport. Most of the canny trippers from the South West went 'on the wagon' until safely back on the flight home, as we had been warned that alcohol, even local beer, is astronomically expensive. In any case, the water was like nectar and free!
At midnight, four very elated though tired geriatrics rolled into dear old Berrynarbor . . . and with what a tale to bore their friends! Now we've got the 'just-for-the-day' bug, who knows? Next time it could be Bergen and the Fjords, Capri, Sorrento and Vesuvius or the Pyramids. Watch this space!
PP of DC
A BIT OF HUNGARIAN SLAP AND TICKLE ... !
"May I come with you tomorrow?" My cousin had been telling of his weekly swim and massage session with a vigorous Russian woman. It must have been the excellent Hungarian 'bubbly' talking ... followed by ditto Chardonay ... Cabemet Sauvignon ... Tokaji .. ! As a result, now totally sober, we're at the outdoor pool in Kecskemet, a delightful town lying between the Danube and Tisza rivers, about 60kms from Hungary's capital, Budapest. The fertile land grows crops of corn, maize and fruit - mainly apricots. Agriculture and the allied can producing factory which my cousin runs, gives employment to many families in a population of over 100,000, making it Hungary's second largest town.
In the entrance my eyes are drawn to a huge, florid-faced woman with hands like a boxer and bursting out of her white coat. "That's not her, is it?" I whisper hoarsely, "I've heard tales of these Russian masseuses!" "No, no", I hear with relief.
Today, Saturday, many of the townsfolk are enjoying the Olympic-size pool: diving from both ends, lounging around the edge, sitting on the sun-parched grass. My cousin launches into his 20 length [1km] marathon; I set off doing the breaststroke at a more sedate pace, conscious of 2 metres of water below me at the shallow end, and no hand rail! Tiny mermaids and mermen skim by fearlessly. Three lengths later, we stroll over to the hot pool. Hungary has many thermal springs and this brackish-looking water, I am assured, is very good for one. I determine not to swallow any of it!
This is a land of hot, dry summers, and cold, snowy winters. By October the indoor pool [presently closed] should be operating with nature's hot water supply, rather than the wasteful gas heating system installed by past communist masters.
"What's the entrance fee?" I ask. "200 forints." A quick calculation 300 to the pound sterling and falling - 70p. "That's cheap." "Not when it takes you 2 hours, tax paid, to earn it!" my cousin replies. Wages are low, yet everyone appears fashionably well-dressed, restaurants are full, more and more two-car families are emerging, and houses are being bought, not rented.
Illustration by: Paul Swailes
Back to the pool, I skirt the slippery edges gingerly, finish with triumph my 1/4km swim and am duly handed over to a diminutive but well-formed, well tanned, sickeningly healthy-looking lass in a scrap of a bikini. Donning a white T-shirt, she leads me through two sets of crudely hung drapes. ["Defence against Arabs who try to peak at nude women", explains my cousin afterwards.] There is no finesse. Walls are peeling, the bench is rickety. I spread my damp towel on it, strip of, slightly self-consciously - 'Don't know why you worry" says another cousin later, "we all have the same, some of just have a bit more in places!" Anyway, I'm relieved I'm not in the hands [no pun intended] of the good-looking masseur - her partner. Lying on my front, as indicated, she greases my buttocks and sets to work on my neglected flab. I look up to check she's not been joined by her partner. Are there really only two hands flying over my backside like Ashkenazy playing Rachmaninov? She unzips my spine with her knuckles, transposes my shoulder blades, jiggles my vertebrae so that first they meet, then overlap. She finds trigger points of tension I'd no idea were lurking. More oil on the neck and shoulders. She lifts and tums my head so that its weight is resting on my nose which I feel widening and flattening. I fear I'll emerge resembling a close relative of Sammy Davis Jnr. Relax. Doze. I wake up, instantly alert, when she starts on my right arm. How do I explain to a Russian that I broke my left arm last February, so go easy! No problem. I say it in English. She mimes tearing a telephone directory in half, so I think she understands ... yes, she's gentle.
Various friends of hers have popped in for a chat, acknowledging me with a friendly greeting. I try desperately to remember "Yo napot kivanok" in reply, give up and mumble "rhubarb, rhubarb". A word here about the Magyar language [perhaps you know, but I didn't, that it's pronounced Majar]. It is related to no European language other than Finnish, with whom it shares about 100 words. It has 46 letters in its alphabet and is apparently very hard to leam.
Back to the slab. My cousin has warned me that at some time I will hear a sound like a sneeze, which means 'turn over'. Suddenly, "Tessek meg fordulni", the masseuse sneezes. I turn over, hoping there are no more visitors, and that the huge spider above me on the ceiling has stout suckers on his boots! Her attention concentrates on feet [aah! that tickles] and legs, and finally the scalp - the oil should do wonders for my hair - and face. Gentle fingers massage the temples, soothe the brow, circle the eye-sockets. I'm given a friendly slap and it's all over. I wrap my towel round and pad out clutching my wet 'cossie', feeling great. She immediately starts another 1/2 hour session on my cousin. The half hour costs 800 fts [under £3]; a full hour is more than double at 1800 fts, reflecting the amount of energy needed for a longer session in that heat.
My health farm massage reported earlier this year cost £20.00 or £25.00. It was good, and in wonderfully luxurious surroundings, but the end result was very much the same. To me, a visitor, the Hungarian massage was tremendous value, but if I'd had to work for 8 hours to pay for it, I might just have opted for the swim!
PP of DC
A NEW YEAR REVOLUTION
"Enjoy your carrot juice", smirked a colleague on hearing that Yvonne and I were going to a Health Farm - or Hydro as it's now called. Little did she know that one of the reasons for breaking a lifetime's habit of avoiding such places was that this one advertised 3 course lunches, 4 course dinners and 'fine wine if you so desire'!
Having sent for details, we were overwhelmed by the choice of treatments: Gommage? Cathodermie? Vital Evidence? Phytologie Experience? What on earth were they? And did we need them anyway?
We needn't have worried, of course. A telephone call soon sorted out our treatments, and we both opted for a relaxing back, neck and scalp massage, pedicure and make-up lesson.
On arrival, an immediate offer to park the car for us was welcome. Ragdale Hall, just north of Leicester, was mentioned in the Domesday Book, but looked more Victorian Gothic to me. You may have seen it on the BBC holiday programme in early January [coincidentally, shown whilst we were there] when Monty Don visited it. He went there in the summer. During our visit, all was blanketed with several inches of snow. As a result, I can't speak for the outdoor activities which include tennis, croquet, pitch and putt, archery, clay pigeon shooting, cycling and beautiful gardens apparently.
What I can vouch for is the charm of the staff, excellence of the cuisine, comfort of the bedrooms and public rooms and thorough pampering of the visitors.
Sadly, we could spare only two nights away, but as these spread from early afternoon on arrival and departure after lunch on the third day, it seemed longer. On reflection, because of the shortness of the stay and the novelty, we tried to cram in far too many activities and treatments. After being 'on the go' for most of our one full day, at 4.00 p.m. we still managed an hour's 'line dancing', an hour's much needed yoga, a jacuzzi and a pedicure before dinner .... and then sat in on a talk on dowsing before collapsing into bed - exhausted! But any stress was self-inflicted by the formidable programme we'd set ourselves.
Our fellow guests were delightful: largely women, and, we couldn't help noticing, well, large! But all had a sense of humour and a good tale to tell. They were from places as diverse as Orkney, Guernsey and Ireland, with a fair smattering of local 'day' guests.
On the way home, I was very conscious of the unfamiliar weight of mascara on my eyelashes [removed only with oodles of cotton wool and cleaner], but the other benefits were much longer lasting. Would we go again? We could certainly get used to the life, and now we have a benchmark, we could perhaps try one nearer home.
Has anyone had experience of Cedar Falls?
PP of DC and YD of RE
NO WIGAN PIER...?
... Oh yes there is! But if you tell people you've been, they'll just laugh!
So, what's the joke? Wigan is over 15 miles from the coast, so how can it have a pier? Well, the story goes that a train-load of holiday makers on their way to Southport stopped close to the signal box at Wigan. In this area the ground was liable to flooding, and across it ran a gantry carrying coal wagons. One of the travellers called up to the signalman, "Hey, are we at Southport yet?" "Southport! Not b....y likely! This 'ere is Wigan Pier!" The joke spread, aided and abetted by a local music hall performer - George Formby Snr.
There the story might have ended, had it not been for a town councillor with vision. In the 1960's, canalside warehouses and a redundant cotton mill, were due to be demolished and the area redeveloped. "Why don't we restore the whole site, make it a tourist attraction and call it Wigan Pier?" he said. And they have done just that.
It must be one of Lancashire's best kept secrets. Sadly, one cannot pop there for the day: it is about 260 miles up-country, but the brown and white Tourist Board signs off the M6 north of Manchester point the way. Don't 'pop in' anyway. It's worth at least 3 hours of your time. You won't regret it.
The site covers 8 acres, connected by a waterbus and is totally accessible for disabled visitors. The group of warehouses incorporates 11sets showing 'The Way We Were in 1900', ranging from seaside holidays and school rooms to market place and coalmines. There's a Magic Lantern show and a taproom that still smells of stale beer! The resident Wigan Pier Theatre Company give performances throughout the day; 4 'promenade plays' which, if you wish, involve you; Music Hall in the Palace of Varieties; a Victorian schoolroom lesson [definitely a must!] and other entertainment. You can even join them for a week-end of murder and mystery. If at this stage you are flagging, then the Pantry and Parlour at the Pier, or the Orwell Pub and Restaurant [yes, George Orwell was another famous son of Wigan] will refresh. Suitably strengthened, head for the waterbus and Trencherfield Mill. Who could fail to be impressed by the largest working steam engine in the world, or wonder at the amount of noise emanating from just a few working cotton looms, when in their heyday, there would have been 'undreds of 'em crashing along! You might even pick up a bargain at the Courtaulds factory shop. In fine weather, there are towpath walks, and children's play areas, but the nice thing is if the weather is lousy, you can still have a great time. It is open all year [closed Fridays, except Good Friday] with reductions for children, 'Snowbirds' and families. 'Phone 01942323666 for further information. In case you're wondering .. no, I don't have shares, nor did I get in for nowt .. but ee, folks, 'twere a reet good day out!
PP of DC
Yes, I'm tired. For several years I've been blaming it on middle-age, poor blood, lack of vitamins, air pollution, saccharine, obesity, dieting and another dozen things that make you wonder if life is really worth living. But, I find it isn't any of these!
I am tired because I am overworked. The population of this country is 55 million. 25 million are retired - that leaves 30 million to do the work. There are 19 million at school - that leaves 11 million to do the work. Out of this, 2 million are unemployed and 4 million are employed by the Government - that leaves 5 million to do the work. 1 Million are in the armed forces which leaves 4 million. From that, 3 million are employed by County and District council - leaving just 1 million to do the work.
There are 620,000 people in hospitals and 379, 998 in prisons. That leaves 2 people to do the work. YOU and ME. And you are sitting on your backside reading this.
No wonder I'm ...... tired!
from PC of DC
"HAVE FUN IN ZIM" ...
... so said a friend the night before our departure to Victoria Falls last February. It had seemed a good idea when we spotted the 'ad' in the National Trust magazine. Then we discover it's as far as San Francisco and we'd have to have the dreaded jabs ... and all this for a mere 8 days! Could it possibly be worth it?
After a 10.5 hour night flight to Harare [Salisbury in my day], and a 1/2 hour into the short flight to Victoria Falls, the captain apologised for the 2 hour delay - he'd been waiting for the cement to dry on a replacement window! No rush, we murmured. As consolation, he flew us over the Falls, made famous by David Livingstone in 1855. They are impressive. The great Zambesi, dividing Zim[babwe] - once Rhodesia - and Zam[bia], suddenly plunges 400 feet over a mile-wide chasm. Its course is blocked by the opposite rock face, and its only escape is through the 'Boiling Pot' , a 100 foot wide channel. The resultant spray can rise to 2000 feet and hence the local name 'Mos-oa tun-ya', 'Smoke that thunders'. And it does! Take your brolly and flip-flops ... and still expect to get drenched! You pay for the view on the Zim side [the tickets still say Rhodesia], or for an even more spectacular view, see them from Zambia for free. You will have to queue at customs with Zambians returning from a shopping spree in Zim, where the cost of living is much lower, but the wait is enlivened by marauding baboons who steal from loaded shopping bags. Be prepared, too, for propositioning customs officers - in my case only for my zoom lens! A 1/4 mile walk takes you across a splendid road and rail bridge from whose parapet 'eejits' throw themselves to the rocky canyon far below in what is claimed to be the highest bungy jump in the world.
So how did we fill our days? Well, we cruised the Zambezi at sunset, intruding on hippos at bathtime; enjoyed a 'Breifleis' [Bar-B-Q] washed down with excellent local red wine; hired bikes and had a puncture by a sign which read 'Beware of Crocodiles'; lazed by the pool, eating alfresco lunch to the gentle sound of African music; white water rafted for 2 hours down the rapids - and we have a video and peeling skins to prove it. Due to practise trots to 'The Globe' , our climb out of a 700 foot gorge at the end was less breathless than macho types half our age!
Two days were spent in sybaritic style at a Safari Lodge. No roughing it here. Apart from one mid-day downpour, all meals were out of doors. At dinner, or from various hides, and protected by a wide ha-ha, we watched a procession of impala, kudu, wildebeest, warthogs, zebras and elephants drinking at the dimly floodlit waterhole, undisturbed by the croc seen earlier, but the hyenas caused havoc.
There was no time for a lie in! Game viewing started at 6.00 a.m., but lions at 10 feet distance were reward enough. And then there was microlighting. 6 am 'phone calls to Zambia for a weather report yielded third time lucky. On our last morning, we were once again walking to Zambia for a final Falls spectacular [well, packing is so boring]. We have more passport stamps between Zim and Zam than from a round-the-world trip.
Arriving at the grassy airstrip, I was stripped of all loose items - handkerchief, rings, watch - anything which might foul up the propeller. Then, with the pilot sitting between my knees [I assured him that any pressure I might apply was not a sign of familiarity - merely the result of youthful scooter ownership!], we took off, separated from infinity by a sheet of plastic, thin metal strips and a canvas parasol. What freedom! Rhino tracks indented the sandy runway, a crocodile swam lazily at the river's edge, and then the culmination of our 5000 mile 'Have Fun in Zim' stay - a slow glide along the face of the mighty Falls. This has to be the best way to see them. The results of a camera on the wing tip - same figures, different background - may bore our friends, but not us. We can feel the warm air, the spray on our cheeks.
And what a tonic that dose of VitD was - or could it have been the malaria tablets? Whatever it was, it was worth it!
PP of DC
WITHOUT A WORD OF A LIE...
There is this old Irish custom that takes place once a year: It's an ecumenical affair with Catholic priest, church of Ireland vicar and Presbyterian minister all shoving in their 4-penny'orth, and it is held in the extensive grounds of a private house.
The world, his wife and their animals are there. A child clutches a hamster, hen or pet rabbit. The family cow placidly chews the cud. The Arab stallion and the 'Thelwell' pony eye each other disdainfully. The Billy-goat stands regally alone. And, surprisingly, the multitude of dogs and cats lay down their arms [claws and paws] and tolerate each other, after all, it is a time of blessing, of peace... that is, until we arrive!
Some of you may remember my labrador, Seamus. We were late, as usual, and it was obvious from the beginning that he had missed the vital blessing. He had not got the idea of it at all. His opening challenge set up a volley of barks, squawks, hisses, neighs and restless stamping of feet. I tried to pretend that he belonged to the person standing next to me.
I could no longer pretend when "Donal the milk", alias the S.P.C.A. officer [notice the lack of royalty!] suddenly shouted, "Holy Jesus! Hannibal has broken free. I'll get him, Mrs. P., just you hold on to Seamus. "Hannibal was the fearsome bull-terrier, usually kept chained on these, and indeed on most other occasions. Unfortunately, both dogs, long-term enemies, spotted each other simultaneously, and I held on to the lead with dogged determination.
A report in the next issue of the Donegal Democrat noted : "... it [the animal blessing] passed without incident other than when a lady [fortunately I was not recognised from my undignified position![, clinging grimly to the lead of her boisterous yellow labrador, was pulled between the legs of the S.P.C.A. officer. Clearly the dog had not got the spirit of the occasion ... " at all at all.
PP of DC
I think that we must be STARTREK-ing crazy, because having been drowned, frozen and blown away by STARTREK '92, we enrolled again for '93 on the basis that 'it couldn't possibly be worse!' I say 'we' reservedly, as one of our '92 team [who shall be nameless] preferred to trek to Antarctica rather than walk this year, and another was a pushover for sponsorship because, as she confessed, 'I'd pay anything rather than do it again!'
So, what was it really like? Ever seen a peacock roosting 30 feet up a tree? Or Miss Rosalie Chichester's memorial urn looking even more ghostly silhouetted by a cloud-covered moon? Arlington Estate was encircled by groups of four torches moving through the trees, like wreckers of old! Three members from last year's team braved it again, and a new fourth member volunteered. She must have been heartily sick of being told what a 'doddle' it was compared to last year.
The organisation was quite as impressive and the starting marquee posed the first question - which of the four desks to go to? Passing through the main gates of Arlington Court, we saw the stone herons on the posts enjoying a meal of eels, thus giving the answer to the first question on the list - What's for supper? Our witty member wanted to add "...and Walker's Crisps"!
Not to belittle our efforts, we walked an official 14 miles between 7.10 p.m. and 2.05 a.m. One fairly reliable source confessed that it was nearer 17 miles, and two teams who had to be rescued when heading towards Barnstaple, must have done considerably more!
It was a mild night, and the terrain not too hilly nor too far beyond the boundaries of the Estate. Time passed quickly as mental alertness battled with tired legs to solve cryptic questions. We tried to make one of the checkpoint teams envious by snacking off bacon butties, washed down by hot chocolate and brandy, but they had been well-catered for with a take-away from the local pub.
I have to confess that smelling the home straight, we did not divert an extra quarter-mile to check why the obelisk near Arlington was built. Our guessed answer, 'to commemorate the Crimean War', lost us 50 points and 7 places in the final ranking. The correct answer? To commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Still, our team did raise, thanks to the generous contributions from Berrynarbor and elsewhere, over £500 - one of the largest contributions towards the grand total of well over £10,000.
Finally, home by 2.45 a.m. to a hot bath and a hot whisky - yes, taken simultaneously! In 1992, these had been necessary life-savers, but this year more a sybaritic luxury, but who was checking?!
The geriatrics had done it again! And had carried their combined years, about 250, successfully around the whole course. We even came 23rd out of a field of over 60. Dammit, we deserved that whisky!
PP of DC
THE FLIGHT OF THE EARLS
I was reminded by the item in the April edition of our Newsletter - the Hunting of the Earl of Rone - that after our move to Berrynarbor in 1982, it took us some time to realise that the Earl of Rone, so disparaged in Combe Martin's hobby horse custom, was that same Earl of Tyrone revered in our last home, Rathmullan. It was from Rathmullan's shores on Lough Swilly in Co. Donegal [Republic of Ireland] that he and his family went into voluntary exile on 13th September 1607, together with the Earl of Tyrconnell, Chief of the O'Donnell clan.
Many of the Irish chiefs and princes were given English titles to keep them sweet, but Red Hugh O'Neill - in spite of his English upbringing - was a rebel, and constantly intrigued against Elizabeth I. He and Tyrconnell were defeated at Kinsale by Mountjoy, the Lord Deputy, in 1602, whilst supporting the Spaniards who had landed there. Mountjoy made him repent and beg for pardon. What O'Neill did not know [TV news still being far away!], was that Elizabeth was already dead, and he had been tricked into repentance!
He moved to London and made his peace with James I of England, but continued to be harassed by the English and not always supported by his followers. Finally, driven north to Rathmullan, they 'sailed from Irish shores, never to return' - from Portnamurry, a few hundred yards from the town to be exact - leaving 'their clansmen sorrowing and leaderless, without hope to face the future'.
And how do I know this? Well, whilst we were sorting out the threads of our new life in Berrynarbor, back in our old village over 100 0'Neill's were gathering from around the world to watch a re-enactment of 'The Flight of the Earls'. I was sent press cuttings and a souvenir brochure of this momentous occasion, and our English friends still living there were much in demand to play the dastardly Mountjoy and other English blaggards! Quoting from the press cutting, '... when Hugh O'Neill made his exit through the ranks of grief stricken maidens, there was a long-drawn sigh from the massed spectators. ...Among the assembled O'Neills there was a hint of a tear in many an eye, and a few wept openly. No author or producer could ask for more. '
How could Shamwickites put him back to front on a donkey, with his spurs reversed!
History has it that the Earls sailed to France, journeyed through Europe and buried their bones in Rome, some 9 years later [Hugh was then a grand old man of 76].
How, or even if, Hugh O'Neill came to Combe Martin and thence to Exeter for execution, therefore remains a mystery. Perhaps, after all, the Irish had the last laugh on the English by wishing Godspeed to a 'doppelganger'!
P.O'P of DC!
"Oh Good! It's only two days after the full moon; plenty of light! They won't plan a walk on the open moor in the dark; too dangerousl "
We were wrong on all counts, but five [O.K. it should have been four, but these are inflationary times!] intrepid members of the Ilfracombe Walkers, four of whom came from the metropolis of Berrynarbor, checked in at Hunters Inn at 7.45 p.m. on a wet, windy and pitch black night.
Already barely recognisable in waterproofs and hoods, we had to prove possession of a torch (spare batteries, of course), O.S. walking map, compass, first aid kit, reflective arm bands and survival bag. Oh dearl What had we let ourselves in for?
At 8.00 p.m., not a second before, we received our first A4 sheet of instructions and map references. By 8.01, the sheet on which we had to answer questions about the route, was a soaking pulp and our map had been torn in half by the gale. It didn't help that the first section of path was too new to be on the map anyway. We plunged soggily into the darkness. I made a mental note to eat more carrots!
Being the first to leave [others followed at intervals until midnight], we had no glimmer of torches ahead to guide us; not that is until we had lost our way, our compass and our confidence in our ability to map read. Then a party passed us - running! We were right after all, still on the trail but already so punch drunk that Yvonne didn't recognise her own son who was one of the runners.
At the first check point we handed in our sheet, now a lump of papier-mache without any answers on it. Did we want a rest? No thanks If we stop now we will never get going again! But after that our confidence increased, only mildly weakened by squelching for half a mile, ankle-deep in mud and temporarily losing the trail.
We celebrated being back on it with bacon butties and hot chocolate and brandy in the car park at Lower Bumsley. We wondered what their self-catering guests made of the 260 idiots who would slosh past their windows in the storm between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. that night?
Fortified, we set off up a steep narrow track through the woods. Luckily we had chanced to walk that way only about ten days earlier. We had said then, "They couldn't bring us up this precipitous path at night, could they? " Oh yes, they could! Then after another spell across open moor, we found the second check point. On the final stage of the first half, Kathy, farmer to the core, found the strength to unite a lost Iamb with its mother.
We got back to base at about midnight, to be revived with soup [in my case water, as if there wasn't enough about] and a hot dog. Feeling the need, I borrowed Kathy's back support, but in fumbling to wrap it round my soggy middle while standing in the loo, I dropped it down the pan where it became even wetter than I was. Oh well, my soggy scarf was transferred from neck to middle, and we set off on the second half.
The well-known track from Hunters Inn to Woody Bay has never been muddier or windier and we were blown round in record time. We lost the way over Martinhoe Common and George and I needed to pass each others legs over the stile to get to the road. We added another half mile to the scheduled 13 [was that all!] but eventually reached the wind-blown Landrover that was the check point. It was no joke to be marooned in one of those for hour after hour in such conditions, but all were cheerful and encouraging.
From there we joined a melee of lost souls searching for a bridle path that had been spirited away, but by various paths, hampered by horizontal sheets of hail, we finally regained the safety of base camp. Congratulations... photographs ... the ninth team to return safely, battered and soaking, but unbowed.
We learned eventually that our overall placing was 43rd out of 60, but then we hadn't filled in any answers to the route questions. Still we had made it, and we felt that we should have been in line for the geriatric medal.
There is no need to give the team surnames, you must all have been badgered by one or other of us for sponsorship during March, and thanks to everyone's generosity, our team was able to add £365.80 to the grand total which will be in excess of £8000 gathered in by the Rotary Club of Ilfracombe, who, of course, did all the organisation. They will divide this sum between the Children's Hospice S.W. and the Hospice Care Trust [North Devon].
Lessons learned? Yes, of course. Game for next year? Definitely! Alex is already practising his anti-rain and storm dance.
PP of DC
Yes, I'm tired. For several years I've been blaming it on middle age, poor blood, lack of vitamins, air pollution, saccharin, obesity, dieting, under-arm odour, yellow wax build-up, and another dozen maladies that make you wonder if life is really worth living.
- But find out t'aint that.
I'm tired because I'M overworked.
The population of this country is 51 million: 21 million are retired. That leaves 30 million to do the work. There are 19 million in school. That leaves 11 million to do the work, of this total 2 million are unemployed, and million are employed by the Government. That leaves 5 million to do the work. 1 million are in the armed forces, which leaves 4 million to do the work. From that total, 3 million are employed by County and Borough Councils, leaving 1 million to do the work. There are 62,000 people in hospitals and 937, 998 in prisons. That leaves 2 people to do the work.
You and me. And you are sitting on your arse reading this. No wonder I'm bloody tired!
PP of DC
OPEN LETTER TO BERRYNARBOR PARISH COUNCIL
PP of DC [ex MLF] is confused. She thought she bought a house on HAGGINTON HILL, and indeed, if you look at the waist level sign at the foot of the hill, and if you cast your memories back to the tasteful old wooden signpost, that seems to be the case. But gentle councillors, raise your eyes and look at the "progressive" new sign - from somewhere it's acquired an extra 'G'!
PP is not too happy at the suggestion that those up the hill are 'hagging' and who indeed is being 'hagged'? If 'Haggin' [as in East Hagginton Farm] was good enough for Domesday, why the change now? PLEASE, let us put an end to these galloping 'G's' before they get the bit between their teeth, or we might all find ourselves living in BERRINGNARBOR near ILFRINGCOMBE!
PP of DC
BLACKBERRY PICKING FAIRIES!
The long, hot summer has been responsible not only for a fine crop of blackberries, but also for a not-so fine outburst of poetry in the village. It all began with my finding a bag of those luscious berries outside my front door, together with a note:
"The fairies thought that you might like
These blackberries we picked last night."
Intrigued, I asked one of our visitors, "Do you know anything of blackberry picking fairies?" From his expression it was obvious he didn't! A second visitor was disappointed to find it was not the opening to a Devon fairytale. Light dawned - it was the style and kind thought of a good friend. A 'phone call revealed I was wrong again.
I made bramble Jelly next day. That evening I returned to find a second bag of blackberries on the doorstep and another note:
"lt ain't no fairy with dainty wings,
Just a clumsy lass wot falls over things!
But no fairy nor elf will ever beat me
At blackberry picking as you will see.
Please accept these fruits from - an O. A. P."
Now, I've not penned a poem since the daft days of limericks, but couldn't resist dashing off:
"The fairies - instead of watching 'telly'
Turned blackberries into bramble jelly! Magic!
What's more the glorious dawn revealed
Some mushrooms in the field.
The fairies took no time to send
These country fruits to my kind friend."
... and delivered it to said 'kind friend' with a jar of juicy jelly and a fistful of field fungi.
The fairies then had a field day. A sweetly scented posy of roses arrived with:
"The village fairies have dried their wings,
They use silver birch pegs for these delicate things!
Now they are flying all over the place,
Chasing the swallow - quite a race.
Whilst having a breather they picked these roses
Which they then turned into delightful posies.
These they offer to Middle Lee
For sending mushrooms and jelly for tea."
We called a truce - well, I did. I couldn't better that. The only person to get nothing out of this 'cultural exchange' - other than a good laugh - was GRACE, yes, Nipper's Grace.
Three days later she asked if l'd found the blackberries. What a good fairy!