Saturday, November 26

Bangers & Mash for Sarah B 50

Penny's place was packed a week or two ago. Wherever I stood, I was in the way as what seemed like most of the inhabitants of Astcote and Cold Higham had arrived to sample a whole load of variations on the theme of bangers and mash. Many had also arrived by invitation to wish Sarah B a slightly early happy 50th birthday. (The real occasion is tomorrow.)

Richard had the wood burner going in one room where the temperature was tropical and Penny's ovens were working at full steam so the kitchen was only marginally cooler. Wearing a shirt that I'd sprayed myself with blue and yellow stripes and some 1950s Polaroid sunglasses I felt appropriately dressed for the climate but, perhaps, not the occasion. The outfit had gone down well at Adrian's Half Century do just a week before so I thought an appearance, at least, was justified and a suitable nod in the direction of Sarah's penchant for the weird and wonderful providing it has something wackily artistic about it. The spray paint clogged up all the holes in the shirt fibre, though, so it was like wearing a cellulose mac and, especially in the vicinity of Richard's wood burner, the heat (and risk of explosion) necessitated a quick change to something more comfortable.

The food was, as always, brilliant and most of us had several helpings as well as indulging in the plentiful supply of alcoholic beverages available. For once, the Committee remained sober for long enough for me to read out one of my traditional birthday poems and that seemed to go down well. Here is is for anyone who missed it or fancies another chuckle.

Saturday, November 12

Hawaii Five Oh, Dear

At possibly the most colourful events I can recall attending, a huge pile of friends and representatives of the Paddock Party Committee gathered at an Indian restaurant to wish Adrian Pinckard a jolly 50th birthday. He had entitled the event Hawaii Five O - hence the ridiculous garb someone managed to snap me in. It could have been worse, I suppose, had I had the courage to don the grass skirt!

The mixture of Hawaii and some unidentified province of India was strange to say the least and perhaps it was just as well that we were more than entertained by each other as the poor waiters looked totally confused as they attempted to deliver people's orders correctly. The music may have also contributed to their confusion, the normal Indian fare being replaced by The Beach Boys and Monkees for the night.

The Paddock Party Committee had wrapped a 30-CD collection of Carry On films which I understand Adrian is slowly working his way through and a dozen selected bottles of beer which are probably suffering the same fate (OK, delete the word slowly!)

It was a splendid evening and strange to think that yet another friend has now passed the 50 mark. Indeed, next year several reach the next milestone of 60 (no names, no pack drill) which is frightening. But that's another year. Have to survive this one first.

Monday, October 24

Local chaps carving out a new career

Messrs Pinckard & Hill in the new shop they have opened in the village. Pinckard can be seen here greeting a customer and rolling a good-sized joint. In the background is his business adviser, Hill, who was mainly concerned at ensuring a plentiful supply of coffee and coke while he prepares for a forthcoming Ofsted Inspection after which he may be on his bike, (well, Pinckard's old bike actually), delivering groceries rather than lectures. An abundance of cheery swearing will enhance their coarse provision while their Rustlers' Special   lamb and Roadkill pies ensure they'll meet the Quality & Diversity regulations. Elliotts of Towcester and Towcester Tea Rooms have nothing to fear, however, with this new enterprise, as Pinckard & Hill do not, as yet, have any room in their premises for tables and chairs. Pinckard expects that he may be able to extend his shed a little in the future once he's drunk all the beer stored there. "That may .. hic .. take some time .. hic .." he said, ".. but people .. hic .. keep buying me more.. hic .. each  .. hic.. ruddy year!"

[Adrian Pinckard was 38. Ed]

All credit to the wonderful Spitalfields Life blog for the original image, by the way, and hoping they don't mind the minor editing.

Saturday, October 22

Adrian's years must be shorter than ours

Walking through Towcester on a sunny afternoon with a Beach Boys vinyl album under my arm today. Now that, apart from it being a Music For Pleasure one, was cool. Found it in the charity shop where I had gone looking for a pair of sunglasses. They didn't have any sunglasses but, as well as the vinyl, they had a reasonably loud shirt which I bought too. Now, you may be thinking that the burst of sun had affected my brain but this was all part of preparation for a party this evening to celebrate Adrian Pinckard reaching 50. One shouldn't really mention people's ages in public places like this but he really doesn't look any older than over ten years ago when I landed up living next to him in the village. I can only conclude that his years are shorter than most of ours. He is a bit shorter than the rest of the Paddock Party Committee so maybe that's what it is.

And, of course, to mark such a notable event, there has to be a poem:

The Artist In Residence

Quite flirty at thirty and bold,
And naughty at forty, I’m told,
All I can recall
Is that we’ve had a ball -
And guys like you just don’t get old.

Always bright and ever cheery
Cool and smart and gay
(That’s not the first part of query –
Whatever they say, by the way).

You daily drove your little Polo;
Inside you sat so low
I had to peer across to see
If there, indeed, a driver be.

Then one day in the morning,
Just as the light was dawning,
I saw the car but no-one there
Seems like you must have got out somewhere…

Somewhere on the straight A5
You’d shouted out “Screw this life!”
“I’m leaving! Get stuffed!”
“That’s it! Had enough!”

You’d held out your thumb
Like a hitchhiker bum
To get a ride home
Where no-one’ll moan

About lesson plans, SARS,
Or some silly arse
Wanting ECM themes
In all of your schemes,

And Equality embedded
(Not to mention the dreaded
Diversity strictures
About black and white pictures).

“Hooray!” You cry, as some chap stops,
He offers a lift – but your face drops
As he opens the door and there inside
Is one of those students you could never abide.

He goes away and you seem quite forlorn,
Until you hear the sound of a familiar horn.
“Drunk again?” I ask as I open the door,
“Nudge nudge, wink wink, I’ll say no more?”

“No. I’m free. On the dole!”
“What, you’ve left that old hole?”
“Yes. Oh, what a great day –
No more MK!”

“So, where shall we go?
“To the movies, a show?”
“I could do with a beer
“But no money, I fear.”

“Perhaps they’ll make me an offer I can’t refuse:
“Get out and we’ll give you a big box of booze.”
“That would be good -
“Yes, really they should -
“All in all it that’s quite a good ruse.”

“Now I can do all the PPC signs
“The minutes, too, and the funny lines
“I’ll be Chairman, Chief Saladeer too
“Quorate with relish, yes, that’ll do.”

“I’ll build my own trains
“Mow grass when it rains
“And I can whiz around the garden
“Even fart , get a hard on, without saying ‘Pardon’”

“I’ll be king of erections
“Give you astronomical directions
“A Ph. D in Gazebos
“And bad innuendos.”

Oh boy, won’t it be great -
For Paddock Party 8
To have AP in the tents:
Our Artist In Residence.

Wednesday, August 24

When petrol was 6/8d a gallon

This 1960 Ford Popular took me around Hertfordshire lanes at 17, on a trip to Glen Trool in the west of Scotland with Ian Golds to celebrate leaving school and later all the way to St Andrews University and back and back again. With just three forward gears, a key that you could remove from the ignition when it was still on and windscreen wipers that went slower when you went uphill and often packed with teenagers, there was never a dull moment! I called it Trundle and bought and sold it for £30.

Next came The Cardinal (named by Vincent), a 1957 Wolseley 1500 with leather seats and real wood on the dashboard. I bought it in Dundee for £40 when the Ford had expired and was going to cost more than that to repair. This was the car in which Tony Bragg and I made the trip home in March and took the treacherous A68 across Carter Bar in a blizzard, a detailed account of the journey is written on the inner sleeve of a Beach Boys Greatest Hits LP. It started with a button on the dash.

There were a couple more that I haven't found any photos of yet and then the wonderful Hengist, a 1962 Rover 100 with rear doors that opened the wrong way, a big bench seat across the front and an electric fuel pump that often got stuck, usually in Edinburgh traffic. A sharp thwack with a hammer or large screwdriver, however, got it ticking again soon enough! The Rover cost £100 and I sold it for the same price, being without a car for a few months before and after getting married in 1973, when a train to Edinburgh from Kirkcaldy where we lived was a rather more sensible way of commuting.

Tuesday, August 23

Me and a road sign

This is somewhere near Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. As I didn't get long trousers until I was in the Third Form at school it must have been around 1965.

View Larger Map

The sign doesn't look as if it's changed from this Google Street View image today! 

Monday, August 8

Problem solving at Level 8

Found this computer chess set that JM gave me back in the late 1970s. It's still immaculate and works well. It probably has less processing power than my door-bell but that was enough to make me struggle to beat it 30 odd years ago. It has eight levels of play and I do remember eventually winning at Level 8, after which it must have gone back in its box until now when my son's starting over at Level 1!

Even though there are probably wonderfully animated and instant response versions on-line nowadays there's something appealing about the buttons and old-fashioned beeps, not to mention the warm browns that would once have matched the sofa, cushions, carpets and curtains!

Problem Solving at Level 7

Graduation Certificate arrived. Missed the ceremony but not too worried about the hat and gown and clutching rolled-up prop picture. Something I can arrange when I have some spare cash for gown rental with a friend with a decent camera! Amused that I was awarded 20 Credits at level 7 for Problem Solving which I reckon I really need more than the other stuff just at the moment. What a week.

Tuesday, August 2

Broken down in Saskatchewan

The aforementioned Harold took a position in Saskatchewan in early 1923 that seemed to require travelling huge distances from town to town, with most letters coming from Laverna. Shortly after arriving, he is delighted at getting a car. My guess is it was one of these:

Lent 3, 1923
My new car is a great rig. It has self starter and battery lights that go dim to order, detachable rims, a wonderful tyre rack and a green glass vizor on the top of the wind screen to protect the same from rain and one's eyes from sun glare not to mention a Thermostat on the Radiator top to tell you when the eggs boil + a little electric light inside it to light the dial up at night.

St Lawrence Day, 1923
I did not think I should be able to reply so soon, but my car has gone bust - four loose con. rods, one loose cam shaft. five valves out of eight leaking - slack back end and a broken shock absorber and it is at this minute in pieces in the hands of the garageman. So I am stranded at Laverna for a day and a half and having celebrated the occasion by having a bath, shave and a clean shirt, I am able to sit down with clean hands and a pure (sic) heart.

His second letter was written a mere two or three months later!

Reviewing the situation over the stove and a pipe

"your humble reviewing the situation over the stove and a pipe - there is a shortage of seating in the house"

This is a photo of one of my old friend Vincent's correspondents, taken at home either in Ticehurst, Sussex or Saskatchewan, Canada in the 1920s. So far all I know is that his first name is Harold and from the reams of letters I've got covering 1920s to 1940s he appears to have been a deacon, (if not a preist or bishop even), in the Catholic Church as he writes of 'sermons to work on' and often dates letters with St Someone-or-other instead of the day and month.

No doubt I'll discover more as I read through them all but that'll take some time and I suppose I should do something useful over this summer break. I do just love this image, though, the fellow seated on a Quaker White Rolled Oats tin, the gas lamp and milk bottle in the background. although it looks like an electric light bulb in the ceiling. He writes brilliantly and I shall endeavour to reproduce sections on this blog from time to time as, despite his apparent church role, in private he takes a delightfully maverick viewpoint of much of what goes on!

Like Vincent, he did not marry or have children but would have had an influence on many and will similarly not have failed to make a significant mark on the communities where he did reside. 

Newfoundland newspaper and a silver something

In another bundle of boxes to sort out I found a lovely copy of The Evening Chronicle from St John's, Newfoundland, dated 7 August 1879, a mere 132 years old next week. Intriguing, though, is a small silver something that I need some help to identify. One friend thinks it might be a toothpick holder but I haven't been able to find anything with a similar shape anywhere in a range of internet searches so far.

The hallmarks show it was made in 1939 (I think it's that type of P) in Birmingham but I can't find anything resembling the maker's stamp, which ends LT(D?) in a sans serif font on any of the pretty comprehensive-looking catalogue sites I've looked through so far.

Maybe when I've cleaned it something will be a bit clearer. In the meantime if anyone out there has any ideas do let me know. Click on the images to get a better view of the details.

Wildlife in the village

After an amazing weekend when the sun shone and lots of people smiled a lot and Pete & Gemma became Mr & Mrs Fuller, the paddock looks nearly normal again. It would be normal but for the fact that the grass is still exceptionally short and tidy and the geese haven't yet had a chance to drop their feathers everywhere. T & L Marquees have made their last negotiation of the drive between the cottage and the main house. They deserve the link there because the guys all did a brilliant job, not only getting all the stuff in but creating such a wonderful environment at the heart of proceedings.

There are some more preparation photos in the Marquee post now. No doubt there'll be some from the wedding itself before long too. For now it's back to seeing what's growing and moving around and here's a first selection of August's wildlife in the village.

Thursday, July 28

Kirri's Picnic July 2011

Assisted by Adrian, freshly released from MK College, a considerable amount of cake, chipsticks and sherbet was consumed in and around the paddock, interrupted by a strange version of boules and searches for lost tennis balls. Teenager #1 ate most of the sherbet and my supply of fiery seeds and was quite nice all day to Teenager #2 whose birthday it was.

A marquee and an oak gazebo

Finally Peter's oak gazebo, with railings by Gemma, is complete. Today also saw the completion of a bigger canvas version. Things are looking good for Saturday!

Tuesday, July 26

My brother's 1950s Meccano Steam Engine

Found this in one of my boxes that I have been tidying up over the holiday. It was my brother's. Well, still is I suppose. It must be 60 years old now - but I'm sure it'll still work. I did warn you that there'd be some odd posts!

My 1960s calculator

"Can you use it as a ruler too?" asked Kirri. Admittedly, that was before he'd seen what a slide rule actually looked like. I even have the original case and instructions. 

It's my birthday, so there'll probably be some odd posts...

Nothing new there, then :)

Saturday, July 23

Before the chicken crossed the road

This one looked right, then left . . . (OK, it's not a road, I know, but threshold probably wouldn't have got your attention). Incidentally, if you view these two photos in the slideshow and go back and forth between them it's a giggle!.

There was also a weasel or maybe a ferret that did actually cross the A5 yesterday. First one I can remember seeing in the wild. And here's a goose and funny-looking penguin spotted today:

Up On The Roof

Finally, the roof's complete. Now for the floor. The decking had been deposited (along with three massive bags of  stones) by the suppliers in the drive, preventing anyone from getting out and Pete was nowhere in sight so Graeme, Maggie and I had to move it all. Quite how all this will be finished by this time next week I have no idea. Watch this space, I suppose!

Thursday, July 21

House of The Setting Sun

There is a house in Astcote, lit
Here by the setting sun -
And it's been the doin' of Pete with a bit
Of roof his dad has done.

The Gem 2d.

I came across this comic when tidying up some boxes of my old friend Vincent's stuff. Now you'd expect a giggle as it is a comic but probably now, 73 years later, for quite different reasons!! For younger readers, 2d, or tuppence, is a bit less than 1p in today's money. 2/6 stands for 2 shillings and 6 pence, or half a crown as we'd have said then, which is 12½p. I can remember my father calling people's faces physogs but I'd never seen the word in print and thought he'd made it up until now!

Click any illustration for a full-size version and have a chuckle as you read!

Friday, July 15

Vincent's Diary: January 1919 and December 1921

I guess this ticket wasn't a winner. A shilling would have been quite a high price to pay then. What appeals to me is how these have been specially printed - there surely can't have been that many staff in the General Manager's Office!

The diaries have been pretty sparse in their content for a couple of years but the entry on Sunday 26 January 1919, meeting the Archbishop of Cyprus at 11am, is fascinating as he was over here on a political mission at the time to pursue his island's independence. Vincent in his Church role would have been organising something behind the scenes.

Peter's oak gazebo grows

Graeme blames a giraffe for some interesting variations in beam lengths. Now, most people would, you'd think, wonder why on earth there should be a giraffe in Astcote in the first place. "Ah, just the right back angle to hold up the roof!" said Pete, always keen to use natural solutions.

Sunday, July 10

Under Gazebos

The Paddock Party Committee met in Cold Higham where Adrian entertained us and Sarah B fell asleep after providing masses of fine food and drink, including some remarkable desserts from the Saladeers. Stationmaster Steve demonstrated yet another skill by the production of Stationmaster's Light Ale, a tipple that had the Chairman wanting more and making several trips around the table after several handfuls of Bombay Mix.

In the absence of a Paddock Party this year there was not a great deal to report which was just as well seeing as how the Minutes Secretary had to interrupt proceedings in order to watch his 12 year old son emerge from a Village Hall Disco, thankfully sober and not wrapped around several female school friends, in Potterspury and then do the Dad Taxi service before returning to the Committee.

On his return half the Committee had disappeared, possibly to avoid having to sing his reworked version of Under The Boardwalk. So that they might practise for the next occasion the lyrics are included below.

Oh when the rain beats down and the sky above is black
And your clothes get so wet, you may think about going back
Under gazebos, being blown away, yeah
With our friends and a bottle is where we'll stay

(Under gazebos)
Out of the rain
(Under gazebos)
We'll all be laughin' again
(Under gazebos)
People singing this song
(Under gazebos)
All getting it wrong
Under gazebos, gazebo

From the shed you hear the happy sound of a Saladeer
Mmm, you can almost taste the hot dogs and smell Steve's own beer
Under gazebos, we're doing fine, yeah
With our friends and a bottle is where we'll stay

(Under gazebos)
Out of the rain
(Under gazebos)
We'll be laughin' again
(Under gazebos)
People singing this song
(Under gazebos)
All getting it wrong
Under the gazebos, gazebo

Oh, under gazebos, with the PPC, yeah
On the grass with a wet arse is where we'll be

(Under gazebos)
Who needs the sun?
(Under gazebos)
We'll be havin' some fun
(Under gazebos)
It can rain all night
(Under gazebos)
But we'll be all right
Under gazebos, gazebo.

with apologies to The Drifters and The Rolling Stones, amongst others.

Friday, July 8

Taking a shower

A downpour this evening didn't seem to bother this visitor.

Tuesday, July 5

Keeping cool

Now that the pond looks like a pond should look again, I can see that I'm going to have trouble next time I have to put the geese away before they're ready to go on their own!

Friday, July 1


I was just taking a quick snap of this jackdaw, who'd been showing off his ability to stand on one leg and stare at me, when there was a strange wooooo-ooo noise from across the road. Now, normally I would have associated that kind of noise with either an owl or one of Stationmaster Steve's latest steam engines blasting its way around his plum tree. It was neither. A large ghost had appeared in his garden.

Saturday, June 4

The paddock seems to have a new beach

I know the weather's been pretty warm and pleasant recently and everyone's thinking about holidays but I was surprised to find these scenes today. I had actually gone to see if any moorhen or whatever they're called had arrived yet on what I distinctly remember being a pond not that long ago.
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Friday, April 29

"Raise your glasses, please..." (but I have to find mine first)

Now this really isn't a good place to lose my glasses. It was all this fellow's fault . . .

With a few of his friends this lamb had clambered over a stream, a fence and some obstacles put in their way after they'd got into the paddock last week. The Chairman being away with Stationmaster Steve at Towcester Beer Festival raising another pair of glasses, I thought I'd better do something like persuade the invaders to return to their own field, especially bearing in mind that it was a beer festival and neither would be able to focus any better than I could without my glasses on their return.

So I put my glasses in my top pocket and set about creating some new obstacles for the sheep to negotiate. At some point in this activity the glasses must have fallen out of my pocket. "Damn!" I distinctly remembering saying to myself, followed by "Oh well, nothing for it but comb the area." Being pretty light I'd hoped that they would be easy to spot perched on a thistle or atop a bunch of sticky-willy. After an unsuccessful first survey, during which I began to doubt whether I would actually recognise them even if I did see them, I had to start at one end of the area and, on hands and knees, do an intensive search. I had never realised quite how much stuff there is beneath other stuff in what just looks like grass and some plants and weeds. Piles of scrabbled-up weeds and plants and ivy and more sticky-willy and brambles (ouch) and nettles (still tingling as I write) grew up and I was beginning to wonder whether I would finish up having to search through them again so daredn't chuck them away either.

At one point I was thinking that a jackdaw or magpie could have whizzed down and nicked them when I wasn't looking or that perhaps one of the invading sheep was now wearing them and had hoofed it off into the adjoining field with the things. Then, after about an hour's unplanned weeding, my mind beginning to wonder whether there'd be a shop open to get a pair from and whether I'd be able to get by with some standard reading glasses, there they were. "Yippee!!" I shouted and felt a really big smile coming on and a huge sense of achievement. It was one of those things that you just want to tell everyone about. Only those who've ever lost something in a ridiculously difficult place to find it again but did find it will appreciate any of this but now I have done and maybe you will.

And congratulations and very best wishes to William and Catherine too. So pleased it all went well and even the weather was kind.

Tuesday, April 26

Looking out of my window one nice morning

I've decided I like lichen

This wonderfully coloured lichen grows on a old hutch in the paddock. I think I shall look around for some more. It's the sort of stuff you can take photos of even when the wind's blowing.