Month: June 2014

Rest in Peace Dokes.

This morning I got the news that one of the pets at my other home had left us. It was an inevitable passing though, he was 20 years old, and when I saw him in May he was obviously on his last days. 

Like most pets he was part of a family, he was always there, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t. He decided to adopt the family many years ago, moved in, took over and soon became a cherished family member. 

And like all family members he had his foibles and his routines.
 
We used to joke about the discoloured wall roughly 30cm’s high where he used to rub himself as he walked. In fact he was famous for not being able to walk past anything without first rubbing himself against it. Then there was the morning water drinking session out of the handbasin. The water had to be the right height, and fresh and he would delicately lap at it. Nobody was allowed to use the bathroom while this happened, and he could drink for hours. At one point he was notoriously obsessed with his food, he would only eat “pilletjies”, and would look disdainfully at anything else. He was also responsible for the demise of numerous catnip plants, as well as numerous birds, lizards, mice and anything that caught his eye. He once considered taking on a Hadedah, but decided it was just too much of a mouthful
 
In his younger days he was a bit of a street fighter, coming home after an evening brawl with a sullen look and sometimes bleeding and battered. However, in his later years he really preferred regular hours, and would snooze the night through tucked into his owners shoulder or hip or wherever his new favourite spot was. He used to enjoy joining everybody outside when the sun was hot and there was a handy blanket for him to stretch out on. Although the blanket usually came out especially for him. 
Like many cats he had an innate ability to decide to sleep wherever he could create the biggest obstacle or inconvenience, and often would turn up at the right moment to catch a nap on your chest or keyboard or foot. And once ensconced would rarely be disturbed. It was just how things were. 
When I left South Africa in 2013, he was already thin and sleeping much more than before, and when I arrived in May 2014 for a visit I was shocked at how thin he was, and it was obvious that he did have very little time left.  He passed on 20 days after I returned to the UK. I am glad I got to say my goodbyes to him. 
 
The problem with a pet is that they are more than just pets. They are the part that gives unconditional love, and who listens patiently when you tell them all your troubles, although they often drift off for a snack in the middle of your woes. But they are always there when you need them. And when they leave us they leave a void in our lives. We expect to see them, to feel them, and to hear them. But they are no longer there. Your life is been enriched by them, and now it is saddened by their going. 
I come from the school of thought that says somewhere out there your pets are waiting for you to come home to them, I do not subscribe to the notion that pets have no souls, they certainly have feelings and a personality, and often have a sense of fun. I like to think that if there is a place where they go to, I would like to go there too. 
 
It’s difficult to write something like this, a kind of eulogy to a cat that belongs to a friend, even though  I expected the news I was heartbroken when I heard it. I knew Dokes too, he sat on my lap many times, and rubbed himself on my legs, and ducked and dived when I wanted to take pics of him. I laughed at his antics on many occasions, and was amazed at how he could balance a straw on his head. He was the alpha male cat in the household, and whichever cat becomes dominant now will have a hard act to follow. I believe the other cats are lost without him, just as his human family is. 
 
He is buried in the garden that he enjoyed. He may no longer be with us in body, but will always live on in our memories. Rest in peace you old street fighter, may all your days be full of sunshine and comfortable laps. Thank you for being with us for so long, we will miss you. 
 
DRW © 2014-2020. Created 26/06/2014, images recreated 17/04/2016

Visiting Brookwood

When I was in London I discovered Brookwood, or should I say, I read about it in my trusty London cemetery guide. For some odd reason I was under the impression that it was East of London, so never really made any concerted attempt to find the place. Technically though, this could be where my maternal great grandparents are buried and as a result I am not quite done with the place yet. 
 
However, on my return from South Africa, the train from Woking went past Brookwood Station! and suddenly I had a reason to go there. The easiest way is to catch the train to Basingstoke and from there a local to Brookwood. Or do it all from Woking. The weather has been reasonably good so I decided that this was my next destination for the 14th of June.
 
I hit the trains early and the first snag was the flooded subway at Brookwood Station. The water was over the knees and frankly for a country that prides itself on being ‘ealf ‘n safety” crazy this situation was a joke. Not only were there no warning signs, but the water just kept on coming. Ugh. My destination was through that water, so I had to “roll up me troosers and head across t’ bay”.
 
  
The station opens up right into the Cemetery. There is no real transition between station and cem. You end up slap bang in the middle of it.  Actually you come out very close to the extensive military cemetery, and that was where my exploration started.
 
Brookwood Military Cemetery
 
This extensive cemetery has 5072 identified casualties buried in it. It is a vast space, with rows of regular white headstones. It is the biggest Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery I have ever seen . 
 
I will be honest, I did not really know where to start. I had no real specific graves to photograph, so was really free to do my own thing. I was drawn to a number of separate plots, all dedicated to various nationalities servicemen/women. It was quite a sobering experience to see this mix of nations that all came together with common purpose. I believe that photography in the cemetery is not allowed without a permit, but hopefully this is not true in military cemetery.
 
The map of Brookwood Military Cem I got from a booklet that I found at the one office. As you can see there are many aspects to this cemetery, and I know I never got to see them all.
  
The Monument to the Missing is particularly poignant, commemorating 3438 men and women of the Commonwealth land forces. who died during the Second World War. 
 
I am sorry I never spent more time here, but the weather was varying between grim and gray and I did not know how much time I really had. Of special interest are members of the Special Operations Executive who are mentioned on this memorial, as well as men who perished in the ill fated Dieppe and Norwegian campaigns.
 
The cemetery is also home to the Brookwood American Cemetery, with its beautiful chapel and well manicured lawns. It too is an awe inspiring place, with 468 Military Burials, and an additional 563 missing listed in the chapel walls. Sadly the chapel was closed so I was not able to get any pics of the interior.
  
This is the first American Military Cemetery that I have seen, and it is a beautiful Place of Remembrance.
 
Returning to the CWGC plot I finally found my countrymen who lost their lives in the Great War. They have a small corner of their own, and I photographed the whole plot. There are 148 South Africans from WW1 buried in this small corner of foreign fields.
  
This is just one of those headstones, and I felt a certain pride in them, Springboks from far away who now rest in this small part of England. 
  
Time was catching me, and my extended visit to the Military Cemetery was eating into it. Believe it or not, I actually had some sort of time table based on available trains to and from Brookwood. It was time to find the rest of the cem, but that meant I had to go through yet another vast military burial area. Brookwood has two Crosses of Sacrifice and two Stones of Remembrance, and the former is not the smaller version that I see in some of the cems.
 
The big problem facing me now was, How do I get out of here and into the cemetery?
 
I wasted quite a bit of time trying to work out when the cemetery was. Unfortunately the lack of a decent map really was a problem (note to self: get map!!) and eventually, I was considering that just maybe I was not getting to where I should be, fortunately I bumped into a fellow explorer who set me on the right path and shortly afterwards I hit Brookwood Cemetery proper. 
 
The Cemetery was opened in 1854 by a private company as a place to bury the ever increasing population of London who were in need of a burial place. It is the largest cemetery in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe. Although I suspect the military cemetery would cut into its total acreage of 500 acres. It is now in private hands, having suffered the same fate as the Victorian Garden Cemeteries that are so much a part of the London Cemetery “scene”. 
 
At one point is had two dedicated railway stations that were linked into Waterloo Station (now that would have been very useful). although only one station survives. 
 
If anything it looks a lot like the smaller borough cems I saw in Camberwell or Lewisham, there are a number of mausoleums, and the ever present angels, but the cem isn’t that strange conglomeration of graves like I saw in Highgate East or Kensall Green. There is almost an uncompleted look about it. I took a random direction and walked as close to the edge of the cem as I could get. There was no real way to know where I was, the lack of a suitable map was a problem, and I know that next time I am going to be better prepared. 
 
I do know one thing though, even if I knew my Morris relatives were buried here, there is almost no chance of actually finding them without a guide or exact co-ordinates.
 
I really just headed off randomly, because there was no real specific purpose in my being here. Ideally I wanted to head down to where the office was, or even the chapels, but I was no longer in the mood and decided to start heading in the direction of the station. All around me were these huge trees and ironically some had huge signs “no dogs allowed in the cemetery”. I could just picture a dog looking wistfully at some of those trees and thinking “I would love to use that tree as a toilet!”
 
The one thing I did get from the cemetery was a sense of space, although given the size of it, I wonder how full it was. I have read that there are in excess of 250 000 buried here, which may be less than we have at Avalon Cemetery in Johannesburg. (Avalon is 430 Acres and has over 300 000 people buried in it). As usual you never really consider that where there is no headstone there may be a grave, its a common misconception, and one which sometimes needs a bit of thinking about to gain the correct perspective.
 
And then I was off to the station. I must return here another day, there is much to find, but I want to put in an enquiry to see whether I have family in the cemetery. It will be very interesting if I do. 
 

But that’s another trip for another day. Brookwood was in the bag.

I returned to Brookwood in December 2014 and it was an interesting visit that gave me somewhat of a better picture of the cemetery. I also got to investigate the railway a bit better, and seem to have it more settled in my mind now.

 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 14 June 2014. Images recreated 17/04/2016
 

They have gone and destroyed it

Regulars to my webpage and blog may remember the SANRASM debacle, and how a collection of valuable railwayana was reduced to so much scrap metal. It was a messy escapade, and the final outcome saw a new team placed in charge and some sort of rationality happening that seemed to signify that parts of the collection would survive. 
 
The last time I visited there was in June 2012, although I really posted that information backdated to the blog in December 2011. Like so many others I hoped that things would now progress from wreckage to preservation and finally to a fully fledged museum. 
 
That never happened.
 
The reality is that somewhere along the line (April 2014?), the scrap vultures entered the premises and cut the frames of some of the locos to get at the bearings, rendering the locos irreparable, and only fit for the scrap. Once that damage has been done the loco will never move again. I saw it happen at Chamdor, and it happened at Sanrasm, and has now finally killed Class 19D-2644, aka “Whardale”. This historically valuable loco was the only one of its kind, and was historically a very significant machine. 

I hope that one day these vultures will become victims of their own greed. When there is nothing left to steal then what will they do? Our steam locomotives, like our Rhino, will be extinct very soon.

What was saved? It is hard to know because I do not have all the information. But I know that both Class 6 loco’s were saved, although Class 6A No.454 has had her frames cut to steal the bearings off it. Fortunately the decision was made to rescue the loco and she is now privately owned and may end up on the rails again one day

6A-454

6A-473

The tender from Wardale was also saved and  I do know that one diesel was also saved. but do not know what happened to the other two.

Various parts from other loco’s were saved to keep the pool of steamers running. I do not know which coaches were saved.  

The former 4-10-2T North British Loco No.23722 was saved and is now plinthed at the Rand Society of Model Engineers site in Len Rutter Park, Florida. (2014)

More images from the disaster that was Sanrasm may be found at my allatsea blog

© DRW 2014-2018. Image recreated 17/04/2016. Updated 12/03/2017, added 10 wheeler 26/03/2017