Welcome one and all to my beach hut

Grab a deck chair, Tea or coffee and help yourself to a buiscuit but you'd better mind the seaguls or they'll grab them first. Just look at that view and doesn't the sea look inviting.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Good News or Bad News: Your Choice

I consider it of some importance that I find out what is going on around me on a daily basis. Being a responsible citizen of the UK, Europe and the world I consider that it is my duty and a privilege to be able to gather information that affects me and those around me. At a time when at least one third of the worlds population are denied the freedom of both the press and the internet I am thankful that democracy allows me to openly access both tools.

A good part of my time is spent during the day in gathering information from news sources but I am a person of habit because to me it is just as important that I gather good news that I feel I can trust as opposed to bad news. It is also important that the information I receive is not just other people’s opinion or just plain gossip.

My day always starts with BBC Breakfast around the sofa, I always feel safe when getting the news from the Beeb, well I have been receiving news from them all of my life and you kind of get to trust them. I like the breakfast show because it’s not all hard news, there’s a bit of sport and culture talk slipped in as well. After breakfast I’ll turn on my computer and the first page to load on the internet is BBC online which is my home page, from there I can get the main news headlines and local news of the day as well as weather, sport, politics and everything else that’s happening in the world.

I don’t buy a newspaper everyday but if I am going into town for shopping or just out and about I will pick up a newspaper to read whilst enjoying a cup of coffee at one of our local cafĂ©’s. I stopped buying newspapers like the mirror and the Sun or star many years ago, I want news about what affects me, what an X factor contestant or a professional footballer may get up to in his spare time doesn’t interest me in the slightest. The latest revelations of how the press has pried into peoples lives has disgusted me, yes we need a free press but that doesn’t give them the right to hack into telephone messages or use private investigators to dig out sensationalism just to sell papers. I have also tired of papers like the Mail and Express that take news and add a political slant to it, I want to make my own opinions instead of opinions of others who obviously want to persuade there readers that what happens is the fault of a certain person or group. I have over the last few months been reading the ‘I’ newspaper which is a part of the Independent group. For me it gives the news without adding opinion, there are editorials if you wish to read them but even these do not seem to be biased to any political party or doctrine, the paper is only 20p and it seems to be growing in popularity.

I also get our local newspaper the Skegness Standard every week which has a good coverage of local news, I only have one issue with it and that is why the front news story has to nearly always be sensationalism like a murder committed or robbery or mugging, which has no relation to the real things that affect every day life in Skegness, of course it is done to sell paper but it gives bad press to our visitors and residents alike, the truth is our town is a happy place to live and work so why not highlight that on the front page

There are journalists that I like to follow. I enjoy the Andrew Marr show every Sunday morning. I also like to watch BBC’s Question Time on a Thursday night because I like to see politicians put on the spot be members of the public and it gives a good indication of how public opinion is going, I’m not one of these people who like to spout on about politics at every opportunity but I do have an opinion should anyone wish to hear it.

By reading or watching what is going on in the world every day puts our own life into perspective and shows how individually insignificant we are, but at the same time it reveals that collectively we can make a difference.

I have little confidence in any group or organisation to be set up to regulate how the media will run. If we want good news like more truth and openness and less bad news full of lies and scandal the only that things are going to change is be people refusing to buy the kind of newspapers that peddle bad news, I guess we get the kind of news we ask for, whilst the public buys these newspapers they will keep printing them. I for one will not buy these papers again.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Precious Memories

In times like we are in at the moment when nothing seems safe, when folks fear of loosing there jobs or even their home, there is one thing they can’t take away from you and that’s your memories.

Isn’t it strange how when we look back on our childhood immediately all the good things seem to pop into your mind? The brain I often think has a wonderful filling system; it seems to bury somewhere very deep all the bad memories but all of the good stuff are near at hand whenever we need them and all those important dates in our lives you can recall them whenever needed. We can all remember where we were when we heard about the death of Kennedy or John Lennon or Elvis or when the plains crashed into the Twin Towers. How does work when you are watching a really old film and you see some actor in it that you haven’t heard of for years and cant recall is name and then ten minutes after the name suddenly pops up into your head, how does that work?

I was looking through a friend Website the other day, he like me loves looking back into history and he has filled his site full of memories http://www.pastreunited.com/ 
And spend many a happy hour looking through it.

I was on the home page and read the bit below and it brought a smile to my face and many wonderful memories as well that I thought I would post it in my blog because I knew that some of you would also remember when

Remember when
Do you remember when all the girls wore ugly gym slips? It took five minutes for the TV to warm up. Nearly everyone's Mum was at home when the kids got home from school, only posh folks owned a thoroughbred dog. You'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny and can you remember how much you could get for a penny Your Mother wore nylons that came in two pieces. You got your windscreen cleaned, oil checked, and petrol served without asking, and it came with a smile and all for free. It was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents. They threatened to keep children back a year if they failed...And they did it!  When a Ford Zephyr was everyone's dream car... And people went steady not dated or went out with each other. No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car and in the ignition, also the house doors were never locked.
Playing cricket with no adults to help the children with the rules of the game. Bottles came from the corner shop without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger. And with all our progress, don't you wish, just once, you could slip back in time and savour the slower pace, and share it with the children of today. When being sent to the head's study was nothing compared to the fate that awaited the student at home. Basically we were in fear for our lives, but it wasn't because of drive-by shootings, drugs gangs, etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! But we survived because their love was greater than the threat. As well as summers filled with bike rides, rounders, Hula Hoops, and visits to the pool, and eating sherbet with liquorice sticks. Didn't that feel good, just to go back and say, 'Yes, I remember that'?
Coca Cola in bottles. Blackjacks and bubblegum. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with tinfoil tops.
Hi-Fi & 45 RPM records. 78 RPM records? Adding Machines?? Scalextric. Do You Remember a Time When... Decisions were made by going 'eeny-meeny-miney-moe'?  Race issue' meant arguing about who ran the fastest? Catching tiddlers could happily occupy an entire day? It wasn't odd to have two or three 'Best Friends'? The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was 'chickenpox'? Having a Weapon in School meant being caught with a catapult? War was a card game? Cigarette cards in the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle? Taking drugs meant orange - flavoured chewable aspirin? Water balloons were the ultimate weapon? If you can remember most or all of these, Then You Have Lived!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Martha Gunn 18th Century Celebrity 'Dipper'.

We seem to be surrounded by celebrities these days; they appear in magazines and on our televisions all the time. Some are celebrities by chance because they are wives or girlfriends of footballers (wags) or have appeared on shows like X factor and have been rocketed heights of pop stars or soap stars. There are also celebrity professionals like hair stylists or TV chefs or fashion designers.

Martha Gunn is a very unusual celebrity, even though very few would be familiar with her name today back in the 18th century she was a true professional celebrity as we shall see later in this account.  Martha Gunn also had a very unusual profession. She was a Dipper.

Martha Gunn, the most famous of Brighton's bathing women (also known as "dippers"), was born in the seaside village of Brighthelmstone (Brighton) in 1726. Martha came from an old fishing family, but when sea-bathing became popular in the 1740s, she found employment as a "dipper" on Brighton's seafront.
Sea-bathing for pleasure did not really become a popular activity until the 1730s. (A letter written from Brighton in 1736 by Reverend William Clarke mentions "bathing in the sea" as one of his regular holiday activities). The idea of bathing in the sea for health reasons was promoted by Dr. Richard Russell (1687-1759), a doctor of medicine who practised as a physician in Lewes. Dr. Russell believed that sea water could cure a number of diseases. In 1750, Dr. Richard Russell published a book, in which he prescribed drinking sea-water and recommended sea-bathing. Dr. Russell encouraged his patients to visit the nearby seaside resort of Brighthelmstone (a place-name later to be shortened to Brighton) where they could drink sea-water and immerse their bodies in the sea.

In 1753, Dr. Richard Russell had a house built on Brighton's seafront (where the Royal Albion Hotel now stands). Russell House situated near the Steine and overlooking the sea, became Dr. Russell's home and medical centre. Now based in Brighton, Dr. Russell could personally supervise the sea-water treatment of his patients. At this time, people were often nervous about entering the sea and so Dr. Russell employed local fishermen and their womenfolk to help immerse the patients in the sea and to make sure they were not swept away by the unpredictable waves.
At the same time that people were visiting  Brighthelmstone (Brighton) to take Dr. Russell's sea-water cure, sea-bathing as a healthy leisure activity was becoming increasingly popular. Wealthy families and even members of the Royal Family chose to visit  Brighthelmstone (Brighton) to breathe in the sea-air and enjoy the entertainments provided by the rapidly developing sea-side resort.
In the 18th century, mixed bathing, where men and women swimming alongside each other, was discouraged. To ensure proper modesty, special "bathing machines" were introduced. The "bathing machine" was a small, wooden hut on wheels. Seaside visitors who intended to bathe in the sea could climb into the hut, remove their clothes and change into their swimming costumes without being spied upon.
After the bathing machines had been hauled into the sea (often by horses) the bathers would be met by mainly woman attendants names Dippers who’s job was to ensure that the bather received the correct amounts of immersions as recommended by the Doctor.

From all accounts this process of dipping was far from a pleasant time, those that could afford it gave a small upfront payment to the dipper to ensure the treatment was as comfortable as possible. After helping the bather down into the sea from the bathing machine the dipper would proceed by gripping the bathers shoulders firmly and as the next wave was about to break, would plunge the patient headfirst into the rushing swell. Eyes nose and ears were assaulted by the ice cold water but still the dipper would hold fast. Struggling for breath the patient’s heart rate soared and the survival instinct escalated to panic. Then suddenly it was over and the victim was hauled to the surface. When the victims coughing and spluttering had ceased and they had sufficiently recovered their wits the next round would begin; a new wave a new struggle. Repeated several times more according to the advice of the Doctor. One person writing a letter to a friend back home said that:

I was terribly frightened, and thought I should never have recovered from the plunge – I had not breath enough to speak for a minute or two, the shock was beyond expression great – but after I got back to the machine, I presently felt myself in a glow that was delightful – it is the finest feeling in the would and I will bathe as often as will be safe.

In his autobiography Ernest H Shepard, famous as the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, recalls is introduction to Sea Bathing as a child at Eastbourne under the one arm of a not so tender Dipper woman, his brother Cyril tucked under the other arm. The brothers fought has they were held above the waves and just before she plunged them both under she would utter the words “Dippy go under dears” with each immersion. Earnest must have squirmed with particular ferocity because handing them back to his parents the dipper exclaimed, “ Well, that’s the last I want to see of ‘him!

This gives a a whole new meaning of the phrase " going down to the sea for a dip".

Martha Gunn, who came from a well-known family of fishermen, probably started work as a ladies' bathing attendant or "dipper" when she was a young woman in her twenties, yet she did not completely retire until 1814, when she was in her late eighties. Her long career as a "dipper" and her special relationship with George Augustus Frederick, the Prince of Wales (1762-1830) ensured that she became a local celebrity and the most famous "dipper" in Great Britain. Martha Gunn was favoured by the Prince and enjoyed special privileges, including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion, the palace that had been built at Brighton for the Prince of Wales between 1787 and 1808.

Martha Gunn was well known in the town and also known across the country. Her image appeared in many popular engravings including one in which she appeared repelling the invading French with a mop. In another she is seen standing behind Mrs Fitzherbert and The Prince of Wales (the future George IV
Her image is on several contemporary engravings and cartoons and even a Toby Jugs in the form of Martha Gunn, the famous bathing woman of Brighton. The Jug was made of her in 1840. Recently one of these jugs was sold at auction for a considerable amount of money
There is a pub in Brighton called the Martha Gunn and she has a bus named after her

On a tombstone in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, the oldest church in Brighton on Dyke Road, you will find an inscription bearing the following; “ Martha, the wife of Stephen Gunn, who was peculiarly distinguished as a bather in this town nearly 70 years, died 2nd May 1815, aged 88 years.”

An original oil painting of Martha Gunn has just been donated to the people of Brighton and Hove by Chris Gunn, a direct descendant. The painting left Brighton in 1949 when Chris’ family moved to Uganda where it hung in a mud house. It then travelled to South Africa, Australia, back to Africa and then, in 1982, to Australia again! A private bequest was made available to cover transport and import costs, and the painting is now back by the sea in Brighton, its natural home.

For those who wish to read more about Martha, Below is a very interesting blog I found.

You can also find a chapter on Martha and Dippers in general in the book ‘Sheds On The Seashore’ by Kathryn Ferry, which I can highly recommend.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A Cracked Pot

I picked up this tale some years ago and filed it on my computer for future reference. I was looking through a few Word files today and found it again and thought I would share it with you all.

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.  At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.

"I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

The old woman smiled...

"Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.   Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house."

And the moral of this story is ....

Each of us has our own unique flaw, but it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.  You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Happy Snapper

There is no excuse for missing that magical moment whilst enjoying our day trip to the coast. Nearly everyone these days has a mobile phone with the capability of taking snaps of the happy occasion, you can even buy cheap throw away camera’s that will do the trick. Many have digital cameras with the ability to see the results of your photos instantly on a small screen.

During the height of the popularity of the British seaside holidays in the 1920s very few would have a camera with them, they were rather large and cumbersome and required the use of a tripod. This period saw the start up of what was later to be referred to as the “while you wait” portrait photographer. Look through any collection of old family snap shops and you will find many examples of this practice, I have a few treasured photographs in my own collection, like the one of my great grandfather and grandmother relaxing on Skegness pier, the number in the top left hand corner ‘5740’ is a clue the pictures origin. One of these early Portrait Photographers went by the name of Wrate  who set up a studio tent on Skegness beach as a base for is business, we shall here more of the Wrate business later in our story.

 Many of these early portrait photographers used props. I have a photograph of a Aunty and Uncle, she sitting on a deckchair and him standing next to her and behind them is a canvass screen showing a sea scene, by there clothes it was obviously taken during the 1920s. Sometimes the photographers use animals like tame monkeys perched on there shoulders to add interest to the shots.

My recollection of the “while you wait” photographers goes back to the 1950s. the photographers would be stationed on the promenade, they often wore brightly coloured striped blazers so they were easily recognizable and has you and your party strolled along the prom they would take you photograph and then hand you a ticket with a number on it and a time sometimes later that day or during the following day when the photo could be viewed. In some cases the photos would be displayed outside of the shop for people to view or you would enter the photographers shop hand in your ticket and the photo would produced for you view. It was then up to you to decide whether or not you wanted to purchase the item. If you decided you wanted it the photo would be put into a neat little Folder with the name of the Photographer printed on the front.

I recall the premises of Wrates Photographers on the end of a row of shops at the entrance to Skegness pier and recall the many times we entered the shop to purchase our yearly memories of that years holidays. Sadly none of these photos have survived to this day which means I have no knowledge of how much we paid for these kind of photograph’s though I suspect it was in the shillings.

With the introduction off affordable cameras these photographers started to disappear from our sea fronts. I believe Wrates still have a business in Skegness that now specializes in School photograph’s but my memory goes back to that shop on the pier and I wonder how many of those now reading this blog have in thier family photo albums photos that were produced by Wrates of Skegness.  

You may wish to view the link below which show fine examples  of these photographs taken during this period


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tic Toc - The Story of three Clocks

In the 1840s a railway standard time for all of England, Scotland, and Wales evolved, replacing several "local time" systems. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich began transmitting time telegraphically in 1852 and by 1855 most of Britain used Greenwich time. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) subsequently evolved as an important and well-recognized time reference for the world.

In 1873, the railway network reached Skegness, and two years later in 1875 Skegness railway station opened. With the opening of the railway Skegness was now easily (and cheaply) accessible to the industrial towns and cities of the Midlands, and it was from this locality that most of the Early visitors to Skegness came.

At the end of Lumley Road is the town's prominent clock tower, its most well-recognised landmark, built in 1898-99 and funded through public subscription. The clock tower was built to commemorates Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 although it was not completed until two years afterwards and was officially opened by The Countess of Scarborough on 11th August 1899. The clock tower is 56ft tall and   was of the Gothic style, it has four square clock faces with round dials 4ft in diameter. The raised island and traffic roundabout were formed in 1960 and the cost of building the tower was £550.    The clock tower became the subject of a hoax in the Skegness Standard on 1 April 2009, when the newspaper claimed that it was about to be dismantled and moved to a museum.  It is also featured as a 3D rendering in Google Earth.

 There is another clock I recall seeing as a youngster in Skegness. This was the famous mechanical Guinness clock. The original Guinness Clock was of course at the Festival of Britain exhibition in Battersea Park 1951. So popular was it that Guinness then made a smaller replica which went on tour. Although as such I have found no record of it visiting Skegness it is documented that it visited many seaside towns like Clacton and Gt Yarmouth. I recall seeing on Tower Esplanade where presently the wishing well stands

 The clock was first seen at Battersea Pleasure Gardens in 1951. It kept crowds spell bound, because every quarter of an hour the rays of the sun began to revolve, and the Zoo Keeper appeared under an umbrella ringing a bell, at the same time the lower double doors opened and showed a tree trunk. Pecking at the tree trunk were two Toucans. They were pecking like woodpeckers to the tune of a music box. The words ‘Guinness Time’ appear in lights on the trunk. Higher up in the clock, (which was 25 foot high) the cone turns into a roundabout on top of the tower and started to spin. Twirling marionettes whirled, an Ostrich put his head out of a chimney and turned his gaze onto the marionettes. The doors in the small tower opened and the Mad Hatter fished in the well below and caught a large fish. The large fish disgorged a smaller fish and yet a smaller fish and then a very small one appeared. But this was just a tiddler, and the fisherman was just about to grasp it when it fell back into the mouth of the fish below then that fish fell onto the one below that, till the three fish ended up in the mouth of the larger fish. The larger fish then disappeared into the well that it came out of. The music now rose to a crescendo, the clock struck, then the Mad Hatter disappeared indoors, the roundabout slowed down, the marionettes folded into the cone. The Zoo Keeper disappeared under his umbrella and the doors closed on the Guinness Toucans. The only movement then was the revolving of the Guinness Zodiac about the dial of the clock with the sound of ticking. All is quiet for another 15 minutes.

I would now like to take you to Nottingham for my 3rd and final clock. In 1973, Rowland Emett created The Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator, more popularly known as the Victoria Centre clock, or the Emmet Clock.
The unique water-powered structure was a popular meeting place for shoppers.The Victoria Centre clock is a popular meeting place for shoppers
Mr Emett also designed the whacky inventions of Dick Van Dyke's character Caractacus Potts, in the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Motor Cycle Racing

Last week in Skegness diggers turned the beach into one big assault course. By Friday hundreds of machines including Quads, Sidecar combinations and an army Motocross bikes and riders from all over the UK started arriving in the resort determined to take on the course. Bringing to Skegness beach the thrills and excitement of a top class sporting attraction.

This all started last December when the Amateur Motor Cycle Association (AMCA) came to Skegness and ran two days of beach racing which proved very popular. AMCA have returned again this year, this time in November hoping for more favourable weather which indeed they got. On Saturday they ran three races for junior riders and a race for Quad Bikes and Sidecar combinations and on the Sunday afternoon they ran the 3 hour endurance race for senior solo riders. Over 150 riders took part in the senior race which was watched by thousands of spectators all along the Pier and Promenade.

I was able this year to get along on both days racing and enjoyed it very much, the course proved very testing and the racing was most exciting, I would however like to see two improvements made next year which I am sure would improve spectator’s enjoyment of the event. I would like to see bigger and better speaker system so more of us can enjoy the great commentary of the race and if possible a large screen  somewhere so that we can follower what position the riders are in. I am sure the event will grow in popularity both from a riders and spectator point of view and this is just the kind of event that Skegness needs in the winter.

I have been a fan of motor cycle racing for many years ever since my early teens when I went along to the Long Eaton track to watch Speedway racing. For those readers who are not familiar with Speedway, it is a form of motor cycle racing that is raced mainly on short oval tracks. Each race lasts usually for 4 laps and there are four riders racing in each race, a meeting can comprise of anything up to 25 races. The bikes have no gears and no brakes and reach very fast speeds on a very short straight.

I soon became a big fan of the sport and in order to be able to get to all home meetings I started work on the track, at first selling programmes and later working on the track itself. Long Eaton had a team of riders calling themselves the Archers (due to close connection to Nottingham and Robin Hood). Whilst working on the track I got to meet many top riders of the time Like 5 times World Champion Ivan Mauger and another World Champion who always had a good word with us Barry Briggs. I also remember the Swedish World Champion Ove Funding riding for the Archers for a short exciting time. Sadly The Long Eaton track closed down many years ago but Speedway is still very popular with tracks at Kings Lynn and Peterborough and I am still able follow the sport on television.

In 1966 I was very fortunate to be on holiday in the Isle of Man during the TT races purely by chance. That year the TT races were postponed because of a Dockers strike and it just happened that the popular racing festival was re arranged whilst I was on holiday on the Island. It was the year that Mike Hailwood moved to Honda, whilst is greatest rival Agostini rode for MV. I recall standing around Braddan Bridge for the Monday race which Agostini won and on the Friday I was out in the country just outside of Douglas and even to this day I can still hear in my mind the sound of that Honda as Hailwood approached to take the win and in doing so create a new course record of 107.07 mph. I will never forget the excitement of that week and each year I still like to follow the reports from what I believe is one of the greatest test of man and machine.  

Friday, 11 November 2011

We Will Remember

They shall grow not old, as we that are left to grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Skegness played a significant part in the defence of our country in the second world way. During the war years Skegness became a major training station for the R.A.F, it opened on 11th February 1941 and by the time it closed in 1944 over 80,000 airmen had been trained there.

Many of our seafront hotels like the Savoy, Grand, Abbey, Dorchester, Grosvenor house and The County were used by the R.A.F and W.A.A.F as billets and the old Seacroft Hotel now the Royal was the Station Headquarters.

During the war Butlins Skegness became a recruitment and training base for the Royal Navy known as HMS Royal Arthur.  Lard Haw-Haw famously broadcast that the Royal Navy had lost the battleship HMS Royal Arthur with all hands.  Everyone knew it was a lie as all the Royal Navy knew that HMS Royal Arthur was Butlins Skegness.  There is an obelisk at the resort which is the focus every 11th November for Remembrance Day.

During the years 1940-42 there were no fewer than 387 alerts with 39 incidents recorded and 144 bombs were dropped in or around the town, 36 people were killed and 181 were injured.

Bombs fell on Castleton Boulevard, Park Ave, Glenworth Crescent, North Parade, Saxby Avenue, Burgh Rd and many other locations, 8 bombs dropped near to the boating lake and one actually dropped and exploded right in the centre of the lake which had to be emptied and repaired.

The Skegness Lifeboat was launched two or three times a week in the early 1940s often to search for survivors of crashed aircraft both German and Allied.

I hope to join present and ex service personnel, school children, residents and visitors alike in front of the War Memorial in front of St Mathews Church on Scarborough Avenue as we remember our fallen servicemen and women of two world wars and various conflicts since then.  I am proud of the part my own family played in service to thier country, my Great Grandfather served in the Boar War, my Grandfather served in the Great War and was badly injured in a gas attack in Ypres and my Farther served in the R.A.F during the Battle of Britain as a member of the ground crew at Biggin Hill and saw service in Europe after D Day, he was later torpedoed on a troop ship on the way to Africa and even though he cant swim spent considerable time in the sea before being rescued. They were all lucky they all returned home safely after the conflict. This is why my thoughts on Sunday will be for other family’s lost ones. To all who gave thier today’s for my tomorrows.

If You would like to read more about Skegness in WWII there is an excellent book available called ‘Skegness At War’ priced only £3.50

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hope & Glory (The Days That Shaped Britain) By Stuart Maconie

Stuart Maconie is known for his broadcasting on Radio 1 and for appearances connected to the Glastonbury Festival and similar events. In this book he has tried to look at some of the events that have shaped Britain over the last 100 years.

The book is a cross between a commentary of our lives and how our recent history has been shaped by them, but it also a similar book to the ones written by Bill Bryson in such titles as ‘Notes from a small island’ and so can be also classed as a travel guide.

What he has actually done is taken a date from history in every decade of the 20th Century, which gives us ten chapters in all. Taking this one date from every ten years he visits the place that is most associated with the events of the day and then expands the story to involve others areas of interest that are connected to the central story even though they might have happened in a separate decade.

To explain what I mean by this lets use for example Chapter 6. June 6th 1953. The chapter starts with Stuart in snug bar of the Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel in Snowdonia looking at a picture hanging behind the bar of Tenzing Norgay and Edmond Hillary, as you may already have guessed the leading story involves the conquest of Everest. Besides recounting the exploits of that first ascent of Everest he links it with other events at the time like the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth on the very morning of the day that the news broke, he also recalls the celebrations that took place in this popular climbers hotel at the foot of Snowdon.

We are then taken on a railway journey to the top of Snowden on the famous Snowden mountain Railway , describing the sights as we go up as well as discussing other great climbers such as Scott and Bonington as well as Stuart’s  own personal experiences following in the footsteps of Wainright in his Lakeland Fell walks.

The chapter concludes with a visit to Hayfield in Derbyshire where he retraces the exploits of a group of Mancunion ramblers who were involved in the mass trespass over the wild moorland of Derbyshire in 1896 that led to the introduction of the ‘Right to Roam Act’.

In the book Stuart visits many diverse places like: The New Wembley Stadium, Wootton Bassett, the Isle of Wight, Holmfirth, Accrington and Orgreave. Describing not only what came to pass in these places but how it changed them and what they are like now. 

I enjoyed reading this book much more than I thought I would, it is witty as well as being informative and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the events that have shaped this land.   

Monday, 7 November 2011

Remember Remember The 5th of November

I must be honest and say that this November I sat indoors with a glass of red wine and watched X factor whilst others enjoyed there fireworks displays.

I do however have fond memories of my childhood day’s and bonfire nights and of many good displays since. We were definitely not a wealthy family growing up in the fifties, we didn’t often splash out through out the year and BBQ’s were still very much a thing of the future. But there was one night in the year we would get very excited about and that was Bonfire night. My brother and I  would spend a couple of days before hand making up the Guy, (cant ever remember taking it out on the street though like some would and go round asking for a penny for the guy). We would find an old pair of trousers and an old shirt and pack them with newspaper then on the day it would be placed on top of the bonfire. Father would buy a box of Standard Fireworks for around 30 shillings and then buy a couple of rockets separately. The fireworks were nothing like the size of the ones you see today, they consisted of a ‘Flowerpot’ (usually just a green flame that lasted a few seconds) a ‘Volcano’ (same as the Flowerpot but the flame was red), a ‘Catherin Wheel’ (which you pinned to a post before lighting, it would often just spin a couple of times before getting stuck) the best of the lot was a Roman Candle which would shoot balls of coloured fire into the air at intervals). Father would insist in lighting all of the fireworks but we each had a couple of sparklers we could hold. After the Fireworks it was time to light the bonfire. We had extensive land at the back of our house which formed a small three house terrace block, so the neighbours often got involved with the celebrations. Before the fire was lit potatoes still in there skin were placed at the foot of the fire and then we waited for them to be cooked, once we could see that the skin was blackened an adult with a stick would move in a raked them out of the fire. The potatoes were red hot and so we would hold them in our handkerchief, open up the skin with a knife and then tuck in, boy did those taters taste good. We often had a bag of black treacle bonfire toffee to enjoy afterwards and would stand and watch the fire until it died down.
I can’t remember any displays going on down our way when we were growing up but bonfire nights were always happy times.
I’ve enjoyed many good displays whilst we had our Caravan in Skegness, I seem to recall going down to the beach where a display was put on with a bonfire on the beach and stalls all around selling hot dogs and such but that seems a long time ago. I wonder if anyone remembers how long ago that was.
Even though I don’t participate in the festivities any longer I’m not one of those who would like to see it banned, I still enjoy a good display and I think we need festivities like bonfire night to help get us through the dark days of winter until the Christmas lights are turned on. The reason why we celebrate bonfire night as long been forgotten but I include this poem to remind us all

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent to blow up King and Parliament.

Three score barrels were laid below to prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d with a dark lantern and lighted match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Lincolnshire's Rich Historical Heritage

Lincolnshire is rich in history and heritage, far more than local people are some times aware of. I myself have been amazed by the amount of the wealth of history we have to display since moving here some years ago. It’s as if it’s a kind of secret that we keep to ourselves and yet to the thousands of visitors from all over the world who come each year to view our towns and City’s it is no secret at all.

It’s hard to believe that England was once a vast forest that covered all of the land and even stretched out across what is now the North Sea and in fact carried on well into Europe. This forest would have contained all kinds of wild beasts and it was probably this that attracted the early hunting parties that would have travelled from Europe to our county to hunt. Even up to the time of the Norman invasion of 1066 vast areas of England were still covered by this forest and it would have been possible to walk for days on end without seeing any settlement or sign of human life. That is why outlaws could have lost themselves for years without the fear of detection. The River Humber and the Wash were the reason why so many invaders would have visited our county. The fact that Lincolnshire has the largest concentration of place names ending in –by show that many Vikings besides raiding our shores and pillaging also came to settle and farm. The design of their ships would have made it possible to navigate our rivers deep into the County. Even before the Vikings there is much evidence of old Roman routes and Anglo Saxon burial mounds that many of these tribes not only passed through but settled and farmed our rich landscape. A fine example of this can be found in the neighbouring town of Burgh Le Marsh. 1n 1933 an earth mound known as Cock Hill was excavated and was found to contain human bones and a 7th century buckle. More recent study has concluded that this was probably an Anglo Saxon burial mound that more recently was used to hold a windmill and the broad hole at the top was said to be an arena for cock-fighting.

There are many fine castles and churches to be found in Lincolnshire, One of these being Tattershall Castle which was built in the 15th Century and extensively restored in 1912-14 and now owned by the National Trust.

Perhaps the Jewel in the crown for Lincolnshire is the City of Lincoln itself with its great Cathedral and Castle standing high on Steep Hill. There are fine Norman houses to be found within its boundary and the wonderful city gateway with its origins going back to roman times and now referred to as Stonebow which makes a great starting point when exploring the ancient city. Climbing up from Stonebow we come to the castle, built on the orders of William the Conqueror after he passed through the city in 1068 the castle as been much extended over the years but is still regarded as one of the finest remaining Norman Castles. In Ken Follett’s epic novel ‘Pillars of the Earth' you will find a great description of the castle under siege during the struggle between Prince Stephen and Empress Maud around 1141. In more recent times the Castle became a prison and Law Courts, inside there's fine example of a prison chapel where prisoners were locked into segregated pews that only allowed them to see the parson in front of them.

Close by is Lincoln Cathedral which towers over the city and can be seen from many miles away. Work on the Cathedral started in 1072 and was not fully completed till way into the 14th century. If you are visiting the Cathedral look out for the stone carving of the Lincoln Imp set high up on top of a column above the Angel Choir. Because of its similarity to Westminster Abbey the interior was used in the filming of 'The Davinci Code’ recently.

Many of Lincolnshire’s Towns and villages are steeped in Heritage. I hadn’t realised until recently reading Conquest by Stewart Binns that Hereward the Wake was born in the Lincolnshire town of Bourne. He is the legendary outlaw that was to lead the resistance against the conquest of Britain by William in 1066.

I myself have yet to visit many of our places of Heritage and hope to remedy this in the near future.

Lincolnshire has a great wealth of modern history also, with fine examples of  the Victorian Seaside and  of the part it played in the defeat of Germany in World War II with its connection to the RAF and specifically Bomber Command (but that will form another page of my blog in the future).

Whether you are a native or future visitor to Lincolnshire I do hope you take time out to discovery some of the county’s rich History

Some of the information included here comes from the book Lincolnshire’s Heritage (ISBN 0-948639-16-4) published by The Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire) which gives an excellent insight into the county and it's heritage.