A Stitch in Time

Amber Butchart presents this programme about recreating garments from the past, and its an interesting half hour a week.  But last week they were making a padded garment to be worn under armour, and as part of the lead-up Amber wore some basic armour and wielded a sword.  When she pulled off the shiny steel helmet she reminded me of something from my younger years – in a Ballantine edition of Mad magazine stories called ‘Mad Strikes Back’

So here are the two images, Amber then Prince Violent from my 1961 edition , but first published 1953.

amber butchart

Prince Violent

See the similarity?

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Slightly bigger full moon than usual

All that fuss about blue moons and super moons.  But it was a clear sky and that made the moon really special.  So bright!  We had just placed a sundial in the back garden, so it was an ideal opportunity to try reading the correct time by moonlight.

This is only possible on the day of the full moon because it is only at full moon that the path of the moon through the sky is the same as the path of the sun just 6 months later.

And here is the result:

moondial 3 (1000 x 1500)

The time on the dial is correct, about 10 minutes to ten, but we live in a virtual world, and have to change true time into an average or mean time which assumes all days are of equal length, and that we all want to know the time at Greenwich rather than where we live.  On the 31st January the alteration necessary is to add 13.5 minutes, making it just after 10pm Greenwich Mean Time, so we had plenty of time to nip into the Martha Gunn for a pint or two of Gun Brewery’s Pale Ale to celebrate success.

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A wild and windy walk

The 17th January was bright but cold and windy, but we three were not to be dissuaded from the challenge – seven and a half miles on the scarp face of the Downs, with a total climb of 600 metres.  It was hard work, but far more interesting than just walking along the South Downs Way.  Much less busy paths, more interesting surroundings, constantly changing outlook.  I say that now, but most of the time I was watching where I placed my feet and panting to get my breath back.

P1110755 (600 x 450)

When we got to the top we were in sunshine, but any warming effect was swept away by the howling SW wind.  Dropping back down the slope we soon lost the wind, but found ourselves in deep shade, giving a totally different kind of cold experience.  But Spring must be on its way for we found some early flowers on the undercliff lane:

P1110757 (600 x 450)

P1110758 (600 x 450)



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Signs of aging: Number 1

I was sitting up in bed on my second cup of tea, and getting slightly bored, so I asked Jackie what she was reading.  She sighed, lowered the magazine, turned to me and said it was an article about computer hacking, online security and Saga Tourism.

I nodded and thought about it.  Perhaps the elderly, as a relatively rich cohort of the population, are a popular target for hackers seeking access to bank details.  Or maybe they are less computer savvy and more susceptible to on-line cons.  I was not convincing myself.  I asked Jackie to tell me again.  ‘Cyber-terrorism’, she said.  Better get my ears checked out.

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Cassowarys on the Upper Lewes Road

OK, they are taller than you might expect and not so colourful.  It was a few days ago, when I was aimlessly staring out of the sitting room window, mind in neutral.  Suddenly the word Cassowary came into my head.  I had to pause and remember what it meant, then I looked out of the window with renewed interest.  What I saw was the light fitting on our new street lights:

cassawary light

In the words of one of the several men of whom we should no longer speak, “can you see what it is yet?”


Just like it, heh?

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Sea trip to Dieppe

On a wet and windy morning in December we drove to Newhaven to catch the ferry to Dieppe for an overnight trip of eating and drinking.  We had ordered a cooked English breakfast before the ship left harbour so our food and drink was safely on a table before the floor began to pitch and roll.  After eating we decided to ignore the tannoyed advice to remain seated during the crossing and rose to zig-zag our way to the comfy seats in the bar at the blunt end.

Soon beer, cider and or wine was taken.  Enormous willpower was needed because it soon became too risky to put a glass back on the table, making too-frequent sipping a risk.  Fortunately the entertainment provided by the weather was distracting. – watching the bucket chairs slide across the room, bouncing off tables like pinballs in a machine.  Then the rack displaying assorted crisps hurled itself from the counter to the floor, quickly followed by unseen but clearly heard crashes of glasses and plates leaving their shelves for the floor.  Most of the crossing there was little to see through the windows – the sky was cloudy down to sealevel – but every now and then we got a glimpse of the distant horizon climbing up and plunging down.  We told ourselves that none of the staff looked worried, and ordered cheese and ham baguettes.

The tannoy announced that we would be slowing down as the weather was too rough to enter Dieppe harbour, so more alcohol was taken by all except Strat, the designated driver.  When we finally tied up and lowered our steel ramp to the concrete quayside it was sliding so vigorously from side to side that we were asked to remain seated and not go to the car decks.  Finally the captain asked us to go to our vehicles and we found ourselves at the very front – first to approach the big hole in the ship and look out at the ramp moving left and right as the ferry rolled.  The many orange clad staff waved us forward, and signalled to stop several times, until we were halfway down the ramp.  Then we stopped again until the balance of staff felt that the slowing of ramp movement was sufficient to wave us ahead – FAST, FAST, FAST!!  All this adrenalin-rush excitement was provided at no extra charge.

Once ashore we quickly found our apartment in the heart of the old town just 10 minutes walk from the marina and cathedral, and as soon as decently possible we set out in search of wine for the later evening, and dinner.  Dinner was more of a challenge because most restaurants remain closed on a Monday night, but we found a cosy place at the end of an arcaded row of shops between the cathedral square and marina.

street entrance (600 x 450)

Above is the doorway into the steep garden where our apartment is hidden.

our home for 1 night (600 x 450)

We had the lower of the 2 apartments in the mansard roof, on the left the saloon, on the right the dining room.

Dieppe apartment Strat

Strat took this clever panorama of the dining room, hall and doorway into saloon.  The place was full of fascinating things including lots of steel wire and bead African animals like these giraffe, below.

giraffes (450 x 600)

In the morning Strat went out to forage for food and returned with croissants, french bread, butter, coffee and milk.  The flat provided jam.  Coffee came in big mugs, complete with hot milk.  The sun was streaming in so we headed into town with the car, finding a place to park near the marina and outside a small eatery where we returned for a long lunch after filling the car boot with food and drink from the nearby Carrefour.

We did find time to explore the streets and cathedral – both delightfully run-down, but apparently making a slow come-back.

St Jacques showing tracery (600 x 450)

Tracery on the front of St Jacques cathedral, which surprised me by being Catholic – I had temporarily forgotten our different histories.

aquabiking (600 x 450)

Curious local activity available in Dieppe.  On the return journey the Tannoy announced that it would be rough, but added that we could go out on deck – so we knew it would be plain sailing, and it was.  Thank you Strat and Tamsin – good food, good company, a very different culture and so much excitement.  A thoroughly immersive experience.


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Romania and Brexit

In early November I attended an exhibition and talk by the photographer Francesca Moore about the impact of entering the EU on subsistence farmers in Romania. She visited an isolated part of rural Romania in 2007 when the country had just joined the EU.  There are about 4 million Romanian farmers, of which 3 million are small scale subsistence farmers producing much of their own food on  less than 1 hectare of land, sometimes with access to communal grazing on adjacent hills.  Many produce cheese on a small scale, selling any excess in local markets.

Francesca Moore photographer

Francesca is on the right in the photo.


This is the fully opened cover of a thin volume about the exhibition.  After 10 years Francesca returned to see the same farmers again and discover how their lives had changed, or not.  For many there had been no change, mainly because of their isolation.  The new rules said you cannot make cheese for sale if you heat the milk over a wood fire, for fear of dirt getting into the product.  So you have to use bottled gas – which is expensive.  Most farmers still use wood, and still sell cheese in unregulated local markets, but are risking prosecution.  Some farmers had banded together to form co-ops.  This allowed them to access EU money for new kit, like gas heaters and pasteurisation equipment to legally operate.  They have to get together to overcome the minimum farm size that can apply for EU funding – the Romanian government has set that at 5 hectares even though the majority of farms are far smaller.  Another group has appeared – people from the towns and cities with education have been buying up farmland to take advantage of EU funding to develop industrial scale, modern farms.  At the same time younger males in particular have been leaving Romania to work in richer EU nations. Francesca has interviewed and photographed one man who works in Sussex – in the winters as a builders labourer, and in the growing season on a sweetcorn farm at Barcombe.

So what has this to do with Brexit?  I have been reading a book called ‘The Road to Somewhere’ by David Goodhart.  He argues that the leave vote came from what he calls the ‘Somewheres’ – those of less education who have strong community links to a place and traditions.  The remainer voters are ‘Anywheres’ – usually better educated, willing to move for work, less tied to place and traditional ways.

This Romanian case-study seems to highlight the two types clearly.  ‘Somewheres’ are struggling under the imposed conditions, and likely to become disillusioned with the EU and their government’s approach to the EU rules.  ‘Anywheres’ grasping new opportunities both at home and abroad to get on, improve their lives and succeed.  Just like here in England. Perhaps.

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