Yesterday it was Autumn.
Today it is bloody cold. Outside.
Inside, thank God, it is warm, very warm.
The diesel central heating is keeping a level of tickover heat throughout the boat but the solid fuel stove is banging out sufficient heat to warm two boats. So I have a door open to stop me falling asleep. Something I seem to manage post-lunch with consummate ease these days.
To add to the ambience as dark closes in about 4 30 I shall light my oil lamps and a couple of candles and probably fall asleep during University Challenge-something I seem to manage with consummate ease these days.
The Autumn was beautiful but I fear the current gustier, wetter weather will finish the trees' display-but it was great whilst it lasted.
We have had a couple of Autumnal walks (along with our regular daily hike) and we were very lucky with the weather; glorious sunlight burnishing the gold. The first was in the part of the Ashridge Estate known as Golden Valley inspired by Capability Brown. We enjoyed it in spite of a lady dog walker (that's a dog walker who was-and presumably still is-a lady as opposed to a dog walker who walks lady dogs) who advised us to stay in the open and not enter the wooded parts because it was the rutting season and the males were full of testosterone and looking for a fight. We assumed she was referring to Stags rather than the two ageing golfers we saw and heeded her advice. She'd given her impression of the noise a stag makes just before it attacks-a sort of phhhltttt! sound- followed by the warning (from her rather than the stag), "you hear of such terrible incidents" from which I guessed that neither she nor her dog or lady dog had actually been the targets of any sort of attack.
Suffice it to say that whilst we were fearless in our adventure every time an Autumnal conker crashed to the ground we speeded our pace in case it was followed by "phhhlttt!".
Silly really. Even in my fittest youthness I doubt I could have outrun a stag whose rutting I had disturbed. My only hope now would be that Pam would be the preferred target probably wrestling the stag to the ground with one of the many street -fighting manoeuvres learnt in downtown Harrogate. And so ends the deer, departed, whilst I lie simpering in a nearby pig trough.
Something I seem to manage with consummate ease these days.
Now there's a thought. "Stuck in a rut"? That would be embarrassing.
Another Autumnal walk through Wendover Woods especially memorable for the carpet of leaves which Pam enjoyed kicking about like a five year old. Not that she's in the habit of kicking five year olds you understand.
Enough of Autumn other than to say we had a lovely Halloween dining with Joseph, Caz and Florence at Carluccios. Joseph is too adult now to dress up but Florence looked scary and we all had fun with the wig.
Back to canals and those that could be arsed will have read of our adventures on the Leeds and Liverpool canal including this picture of the Bingley 5 Rise locks with Peter B in charge. Pam's sister Tricia kindly sent me some newspaper cuttings of the subsequent celebrations to mark that we'd gone home again..........not really; it was to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the canal. The Bingley 5 look a little busier.
To think the above was built 200 years ago without power tools, JCBs, and hard hats.
A little different at Cow Roast this week where repairs are underway and the site has all kinds of machinery and is caged off like Guantanamo Bay
Fortunately the coal boats with Jules and Richard were through before the lock closed
Whilst we are at Cow Roast Lock some may recall that I recently issued a special posting to mark the 100th anniversary of Lance Corporal Albert Ernest PICKTHORN, ‘B’ Company, 28th Battalion, Australian Infantry, who died on 3rd November 1916. He was originally from Cow Roast and was the son of the lock keeper.
I put the notice of his death on the workmens' hut by the lock and will remove it on the 11th.
Last night's result would suggest we haven't learnt much in those hundred years.....
Anyway subsequently friend Peter H, originally from Watford and now serving time in the Antipodes for pimping plumbers round Oxhey kindly sent the following from an Australian publication on the 90th anniversary of hostilities. These young men had no luck in that having survived the carnage at Gallipolli they were then sent to the Western front but the story post war is heart warming.
The French town of Villers-Bretonneux lies just south of the River Somme, set in wide, green fields, its church steeple clearly visible far and wide.
Like many towns and villages on the Somme, it was beautiful, but of little significance to Australia, until the savage events of the Great War. Like many villages in the area, the war reduced Villers-Bretonneux to little more than rubble and marked a moment in history when a special link was forged between that corner of France and the land down under.
Thousands of Australians fought on the Western Front. Villers-Bretonneux is where those diggers had one their greatest World War I victories.
After the disaster of Gallipoli, tens of thousands of soldiers from the Australian Imperial Force were sent to fight the Germans in the muddy and bloody trenches of France and Belgium. It was not in the trenches, though, where they had their greatest glory, but in one small village.
In March 1918, the Germans launched a major offensive to take the strategic town of Amiens. As the Germans moved westwards towards their goal, they captured Villers-Bretonneux on 23 April. The British high command feared that if the Germans moved on to take Amiens, the war would be lost. The job of retaking Villers-Bretonneux was assigned to two Australian brigades.
The plan was to encircle and trap the Germans. There would be no preliminary bombardment. Instead the Australians would launch a surprise attack at night. Two battalions would begin the assault from the south towards the east of Villers-Bretonneux while three battalions would attack from the north at the same time.
The assault began at 10pm on 24 April. It was a do-or-die attack. The diggers took out the German machine guns then fought the enemy in a ferocious house-to-house confrontation. One German officer later wrote that the Australians 'were magnificent, nothing seemed to stop them. When our fire was heaviest, they just disappeared in shell holes and came up as soon as it slackened.'
By dawn on 25 April, exactly three years after the Anzacs stormed ashore at Gallipoli, the Australians had broken through the German positions and the French and Australian flags were raised over Villers-Bretonneux. It took the rest of the day and into the next to secure the town. But secure it they did and the Anzacs established a new front line, marking the end of the German offensive on the Somme. A British General called the Anzac attack 'perhaps the greatest individual feat of the war'.
But it came at a huge cost for Australia. 1200 died saving the village.
The French, though, have never forgotten the sacrifice. The Australian flag still flies over Villers-Bretonneux. A plaque outside the Town Hall tells the story of events in the town in 1918. Kangaroos feature over the entrance to the Town Hall. The main street is named Rue de Melbourne.
The children of Villers-Bretonneux are especially indebted to Australia. After the war, it was money donated from schoolchildren in Victoria that paid for the rebuilding of the village school. It was named Victoria School and a plaque recalls the diggers' sacrifice:
'Twelve hundred Australian soldiers, the fathers and brothers of these children, gave their lives in the heroic recapture of this town from the invader on 24th April 1918 and are buried near this spot. May the memory of great sacrifices in a common cause keep France and Australia together forever in bonds of friendship and mutual esteem.'
Emblazoned across a building in the main playground of Victoria School and above the schools blackboards are the words 'DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA'. Carvings of kangaroos, koalas and platypuses decorate the school hall. Ninety years after the historic battle, the children of Villers-Bretonneux continue to learn about the soldiers from half a world away who liberated their town from the German enemy.
More officially, recognition of the significance of the battle in Villers-Bretonneux is found at the Australian National Memorial, which was built just outside the town. It commemorates all Australians who fought in France and Belgium and includes the names of 10,772 who died in France and have no known grave.
Each year, a small Anzac Day ceremony is held at the memorial to mark the sacrifice made by the diggers. This year though, is special. Those who have campaigned for many years for a dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux will have their dream realised on this 90th anniversary of the battle.
The recent hoo hah about three judges doing their job depressed me greatly. This is a composite photo of a German newspaper in 1933 and a British Newspaper, last week, in 2016.
'Volksverräter' means 'Enemies of the People' and it goes on these men have been 'expelled from the German national community'. Chilling. Be aware and beware.
Moving on; my sense of mortality was given a prod this week when I received a cunningly worded invitation from the DVLA to renew my Driving Licence as I hit 70 in January. Therefore as the clock strikes 12 midnight on the 12/13th my driving skills will cease to exist and henceforth I shall drive about unaware of other drivers, giving no signals and generally being a pain in the arse to everybody else. No, the Government is not giving me a BMW it's just the law.......and me getting older....I'm right about BMW drivers though aren't I.
I had to trawl through a list of ailments and assure the powers that be that, at the time of trawling, I didn't have any of the nasties on the list. Or rather I might have but they haven't been found yet. There seem to be so many things that never existed when I was younger that can afflict a body these days. Best not to ask the quack if you might have any of them...for instance when did gluten intolerance arrive? I don't fancy that at all but I don't really know what's involved.
I did hear of someone who was Gluten intolerant. He moved to GDunstable. Heh heh.
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Anyway I realise today that I'm 6 months younger than Donald Trump which gives me no pleasure at all. I certainly wouldn't trust me with the Red Button waiting to blow the world apart but at least I'm not like some character out of Dr Strangelove. For me the most dispiriting thing about his election is the joy with which it has been greeted by the far right wing parties across Europe plus the Dictator Putin and no doubt his brother, Ras.
My view is that as apparently the results across the pond and on the European Referendum were protest votes emanating from Mr Average being frustrated by the System and its Operators. Perhaps if more of these protesters had got off their arses years ago and voted we might not have the system or politicians they dislike. Rest assured if the Farages, Le Pens,Wilders and Trumps' backers get their way the chance to vote wont be something you have to worry about.
I don't agree with Farage on much-nothing in fact-but he doesn't want the Poles and I don't want the Polls! What a con that lot are-three in a row Last General election, the Brexit vote and now the USA-even the bookies had Hilary at evens and Trump at 3 to 1. They know nothing and should all be sent down the toffee mines.
In the wee small hours of Wednesday morning I tuned in to listen to the first day of the first cricket match between India and England. Of course it coincided with the less important USA elections and as I was tuning the radio into the more important matter I heard the R4 announcer intone that Ohio had gone for Trump. (No shame in that- I often go for one myself) . What I already knew was that the pundits had frequently said over the previous few days was that since the Kennedy Election in the 60s whoever Ohio voted for got the job. I had a Black Box moment (whilst coming to terms with the fact that the England Captain was already back in the pavilion).
What is a Black Box moment? Well it's an old joke but as the black box is always found intact after a plane crash why dont they build the whole plane out of the same material as the box. My point is -and I've already emailed President Trump (email@example.com) with this tax saving idea-why not just have an election in Ohio and get the winning man or bimbo that way and save the cost of an election in all the other states. Genius.
Sister, Moira and Brother in law, Tom, had some bad luck this Autumn in that whilst on a trip down south to visit various relations, (some living some not) their car threw a wobbly in the water pump dept and they were stranded in an hotel in Edgware as the repair was to be a long and expensive job. I decided on a flying visit to Lancashire and drove them home on a Wednesday and returned on the Thursday. I mention this only as background to this picture which I took in a lovely pub near the end of our journey back to Oldham. As is so often the case when you have the wheels outside you discover a pub with no music, good beer and food and welcoming to the point where you never want to leave.
As my sister loves ducks-who doesn't?- here's a picture of Donald the Banana. Obviously named after Donald Duck rather than any other Donald.
|Donald the Banana|
Apropos of nothing I was doing some research on the history of Cow Roast and I came across a term that made sense of something I'd heard about for over 50 years. My friend , Adrian, (seen here running a half Marathon back in his prime) originated from Devon and in his youth had helped on a local farm. He has a unique way with words at the best of times and over the years has referred to children as "ankle-biters"; a term I assumed indicating their short stature and nothing else.
However whilst reading about the Cow Roast role as Cow Roost or Rest for cattle on their way from Aylesbury to London mention is made of drovers and "ankle beaters", youngsters who would tap the legs of the cows with sticks to keep them moving. ( I don't know about the cows who didn't have sticks hee hee)
I could be wrong but that sort of thing pleases my puerile mind.
As do FIREWORKS!!!
To Wigginton on Guy Fawkes night for a free and wonderful display.There was a retiring collection towards the cost to which I enthusiastically donated. Great effort
Afterwards a pint in the excellent Greyhound and home with fish and chips out of the paper. Wonderful. -----------------------------------------------------------------------
And finally a few pictures of the view from the front of my boat at Cow Roast. I love Cow Roast
Off now to cook mushroom soup. I'm such a fun guy!