20 September 2017


St Peter's Church, Old Edlington
Yesterday I went to The Lakeside shopping centre at Doncaster, I bought some new shoes and a pair of trousers. I had no luck with regard to new underpants and a new belt. That was rather frustrating. For me shopping for clothing  has always been a painful chore. I hope the trousers fit me as I couldn't be bothered to try them on. To be honest, I am the opposite of a fashionista.

Feeling  hungry, I parked up at McDonald's and ordered a quarterpounder "meal" with a latte. It was so warm in the sunshine that I sat outside to consume this "meal" and it really felt like a summer's day.

Earlier I had driven to the shopping outlet via back roads that avoided the motorways. I went to Maltby then  north to Braithwell and on to Old Edlington. This is a small settlement I had never visited before. I got out of the car to have a look at the village's  cute twelfth  century church - St Peter's. Sadly, it was locked up and clearly it was no longer a functioning church. The windows were boarded up . Apparently and tragically it suffered some vandalism in the past.
Once  known as Aepling-Tun - a Saxon settlement
I would have loved to get inside that church to see the Norman stone carvings within, However, it was only when I got home and Googled the church that I discovered where I might have borrowed a key from. It was too late.

I wore the new shoes to walk up to "The Hammer and Pincers" for the Tuesday quiz and I am happy to report that Mike, Mick and I achieved the top score. It helped that we knew that Florida is bordered by Georgia and Alabama and it also helped that we knew that the comic actress Rebel Wilson has recently won a landmark  defamation case in Australia. To tell you the truth, Mike pinched that answer from a quiz sheet abandoned by a couple who had to leave early. 
Back Lane, Old Edlington.
The building to the right is an old dovecote.

18 September 2017


Between St Edmund's Head and Hunstanton town in the county of Norfolk, there's a very interesting cliff. It is striped and it runs for almost half a mile. You might say that it is a natural monument to the geological epoch known as the Cretaceous Period. This was a time when dinosaurs were alive and the planet was generally much warmer. It lasted for seventy nine million years between the Jurassic and Paleogene periods. Of course it occurred many millions of years before the first apes appeared.

I am sure you will agree that seventy nine million years is a very long time. During those  79,000 millennia an enormous amount of plant and marine animal debris sank to the bottom of countless inland lakes and seashores gradually forming layers that were compressed and ultimately petrified.

It is those layers that we see in the striped cliff at Hunstanton. The bottom brown layer was of course laid down first. It is made up of carstone and contains very few animal fossils. The next layer is the Hunstanton Red Rock layer. It is actually chalk but was coloured red by iron pigmentation. The thicker white layer above is also chalk  and part of the Ferriby Formation. This was laid down towards the end of the Cretaceous Period.

In both the Hunstanton and Ferriby layers many primitive fossils have been found and in a lump of the red rock I quickly spotted several wormlike fossils of creatures that were wriggling around more than a hundred million years ago. They were like these:-
The first time we went to see the cliff, the tide was right in so we didn't get to see much but on the last afternoon the tide was right out and late sunshine was illuminating the striped cliff so that is how I was able to get pictures like these:-

17 September 2017


There we were walking upon Snettisham Beach by The Wash when we saw this approaching:-
Should we head back to the car park? Did we even have time? It was being blown quite rapidly in our direction. 

There were no trees. No beach huts. Nowhere to hide. We pressed on towards Heacham. And then the lashing rain struck - ice cold upon our faces. 

All we could do was crouch by some thorny bushes up on the dune path.

And as I sheltered there, what did my beloved wife do? She got out her smartphone and laughing like one of those witches in the opening scene of "Macbeth" she snapped me.

Here I am, looking at you furtively - like Big Foot:-
Fortunately, the rain didn't last very long and we continued our beachside walk with my ugly mug still trapped in the gubbins of her phone. 

16 September 2017


We were sitting in Fisher's fish and chip restaurant in Hunstanton when Shirley believed she'd spotted a familiar face. When this woman got up to leave I saw her approaching our table and blurted out, "Excuse me. Are you Cheryl?"

It was indeed Mrs Berry who had been the headteacher at my son's secondary school throughout his time there. She departed from that school round about 2001, just before our daughter went up there.

Now Mrs Berry was an unusual headteacher in that she was universally admired and respected by pupils, parents and staff alike. I remember an interview with her in the Sheffield "Star". She said that she liked to be outside her office during the school day, meeting children, talking to staff, visiting lessons. She also taught one class Mathematics every school year. Any office work she needed to do would happen when the school day had ended.

I know for a fact that this wasn't an idle boast, designed to impress because in the early nineties I had occasion to go up to that school every Monday evening and I would always see Mrs Berry beavering away in her office until perhaps eight thirty or nine o'clock.

You should understand that this was a school with a pupil population of around 1800. Being the leader of that school was like being the leader of a significant business venture. Every day brought new problems to solve, new demands on Mrs Berry's time. But she remained cheerful and approachable, refusing to surround herself with mystique or bloated self-importance like many other heads of secondary schools.

Now here's the thing. On Wednesday night she asked what our son's name was and we told her. She said that of course she remembered him but she didn't add any follow on information to confirm that knowledge. 

Afterwards, I thought - how could she remember him? He was an ordinary boy who attended school every day and was never bothersome. During Mrs Berry's ten years at the school she would have been in charge of over 4500 students and hundreds of members of staff. How could she possibly remember our Ian?

As you may recall, I was an English teacher myself and every year I taught around two hundred pupils in different classes. I saw these children for four hours a week and yet if I met one of those children's parents today it is highly unlikely that I would remember ever teaching their now grown up child.

It left me wondering if Mrs Berry always claims to remember former pupils that she chatted to in the school's corridors or engaged with ever so briefly in classrooms. Perhaps she realises it's what parents want to hear - remembrance. "Yes - I remember your little darling" and not "No - 4500 pupils passed through the school in my time. How could I possibly remember your child?"

However, I should remind myself that Cheryl was and is a remarkable human being. After leaving the local secondary school she went on to do a variety other demanding jobs and even received an M.B.E. for her services to education and young people. Maybe she did remember.

15 September 2017


St Nicholas parish church in Dersingham
We are home now after three lovely days in Norfolk. The weather was  kind to us and we saw many marvellous things.

Even though I have been an atheist since childhood, I am always drawn to churches. England has a wealth of ancient churches and each one is different from the next. Their architecture and internal fittings speak eloquently of  the past - of craftsmanship, of community, of spiritual aspiration, of wealth and poverty and of the passing of time.
Detail of the Saxon font in Castle Rising
During our days in Norfolk and south Lincolnshire we entered twelve churches and I snapped lots of ecclesiastical pictures. It was nice to find that ten of the twelve churches were open to inquisitive visitors. When I find a country church open, I usually write something like this in the visitors' book - "Thank you for leaving your wonderful  church unlocked for passing visitors to enjoy". It is important to write in visitors' books as they provide visitor data for charitable bodies that help to fund the maintenance of our old churches.

Nowadays, the number of British people who claim they have "no religion" is greater than the number of people who say they are believers. Church attendance is so low in some villages that many parish churches are now redundant. Their maintenance is an enormous challenge. Personally, I would rather see billions of pounds spent on saving our beautiful churches than on nuclear armaments that will never be used.
One of the medieval angels in the roof structure - St Nicholas's Chapel, King's Lynn
It was once the expectation that everybody in every rural community would attend church on a Sunday. Failure to attend church would not only ignite much tutting and shaking of heads, it could also jeopardise one's livelihood.
Church tower and war memorial
Our churches were packed. Hymns were sung, prayers were recited and sermons were endured. Vicars often lived in palatial homes with extensive gardens. The church was the very hub of every community. It dealt with birth, confirmation, marriage and death. It was the one place where a community came together. The church was far more influential in people's lives than secular politics.

A few more pictures:-
All Saints in the tiny village of Fring
In St Lawrence's Church - Castle Rising
Detail of  Sir Humphret Littlebury's fourteenth century
tomb in All Saints Church,Holbeach 
Hidden detail of a choir seat in King's Lynn Minster

13 September 2017


Yesterday morning we drove to "Sunny Hunny" - Hunstanton on the north Norfolk coast. Later, after lunch, we were in Holme-next-the-Sea and later still we were in Brancaster Staithe. This old musical hall chorus came to mind. It was, apparently, written in 1907 and first recorded in 1909:-

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Oh I do like to be beside the sea
Oh I do like to walk along the prom prom prom
Where the brass band plays tiddly-om-pom-pom
As someone who dwells inland, I certainly do like to be beside the seaside. How about you?

12 September 2017


We are in north west Norfolk now. We stopped off in Sleaford, Lincolnshire on the way over. In fact we were in Sleaford for three hours. It's a charming little town with a lovely old church, dedicated  to St Denys. Apparently, he was the bishop of Paris in the third century.

Though decapitated during religious purges, St Denis/Denys allegedly carried his severed head to a place north of Paris where an abbey was established in his name. That tale explains this carving on the rood screen in Sleaford:-
I could bore you silly with the knowledge about Sleaford I acquired yesterday afternoon. We visited an antiques shop, a little art gallery, The Navigation House Museum and several shops as well as enjoying a light lunch in The Marketplace Cafe. There was also a bizarre modern building called The National Centre for Craft and Design. We found it terribly disappointing. Where was the craft? Where was the design? The buttons in the lift were worn out and the young women at the desks in the two galleries were messing about with their smartphones to relieve their obvious boredom.
It was a day of changing weather. Pouring rain turned to bright sunshine and back again as we drove across the flatlands of south Lincolnshire. You could see for miles. It must be easy to feel tiny if you live in such a landscape. We were on the A17, heading to King's Lynn.

Soon we were at our rental apartment in the Norfolk village of Dersingham. It's in the west wing of a grand house owned by a local solicitor and his rather posh wife - Sheena. She advised us against dining in either of the village's pubs saying she hadn't been in them for over twenty years while implying they were for the undiscerning hoi polloi. However, we ignored her snobbish advice and enjoyed delightful evening meals in "The Coach and Horses" surrounded by other ordinary people.
Our bedroom in Dersingham