musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Heritage

Victoria Gardens and the flood aftermath

This morning there were balloons in the air and I missed it!  The best I could do was this solitary balloon about to be attacked by a large bird. 

Later I went for a walk, hoping to find a suitable spot to launch my Pretoria Castle from, and did some looking to see whether the flood waters had subsided. This is the view from King John Bridge towards the Avon Locks and the Healings Mill in the background on the right.

and downstream on Shakespear’s Avon Way

Last weekend while photographing the flood it struck me that I had never done a photo essay about the Victoria Gardens. I was unable to do so at the time because of the flood waters, but this morning went walkies in that area to see whether the water had resided and how things looked in the area.

By today the water level had dropped dramatically and the gardens and mill were once more accessible. It was also possible to cross the river at the bridge by the mill. This is what it looks like from the bridge looking across to the mill.

and upstream towards town.

and downstream from the bridge. This high pond is really a sluice gate and somewhere I have an information sheet about it and seem to recall it is called a “Fish Belly Sluice”. Naturally I cannot find it at this moment to confirm what I remember. The garden is the tree-ed area on the left.

There are three entrances to the gardens, the one being from the area at the mill as in the first image, and the other two are in Gloucester Road. 

The Victoria Pleasure Gardens were created by public subscription to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. They were popular with the Edwardians and in 1910 a bandstand was installed which was in regular use till the 1950’s. The gardens were badly affected by the 2007 floods in the town and as can be seen winter flooding can inundate it. The garden is now taken care of as a result of collaboration between local councils and a volunteer group, “Friends of the Victoria Pleasure Gardens”.  The arches in Gloucester Road are signposted as having been erected to celebrate the diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2012 as well as Queen Victoria in 1897.

And to think that a week ago all of this was under water. 

On my way home I popped into the very famous Abbey Tea Rooms in Church Street. I have been wanting to go in there in ages but have never done so. It is a riot of nostalgia and all things eclectic and to be honest I think you would spend hours just looking around and still never seeing everything. .

My mother would have blown a blood vessel had she seen all of that, and then would have thrown it all away in a frenzy of cleaning. Fortunately the people there are much more far sighted than she is.

I can also recommend the food, and I may have to return because I have so much more to look at, but there is so little time and space.

And that was my day. Tewkesbury is busy hanging out the banners for the upcoming Medieval Festival in July, so soon I shall be posting some of those. But till then this sneak peak will have to suffice.

DRW © 2019. Created 22/06/2019

Updated: 24/06/2019 — 19:08

Not the Steam Festival we were looking for

Today (22 June) was supposed to be the Model Steam Rally held by the  – Model Steam Road Vehicle Society (MSRVS). Unfortunately a group of “travellers” descended on the town and were flooded out of their camp site. They then moved to higher ground and the area where the rally was to take place was vandalised, forcing the cancellation of the rally. I missed the rally last year as I was elsewhere, and was really looking forward to it this year. 

However, I decided to hold my own photo essay based on images that I took in 2016 and 2017, after all I do not get too many opportunities to see live steam in action.  The steamer are not full size replicas, but half, quarter and smaller replicas and have all the charm of the real thing but without the need for heavy workshop and a crane. 

There are not too many cars on display at the event, but they are fun to see, and I have to admit I have my favourites.​

That blue Zephyr is really a blast from my past.

There is also a nice variety of bric-a-brac for sale at the sale tables, and of course a chance to acquire a handy new hammer (or two). I always used to argue with one of my work colleagues about how hammers are so important that there are at least 2 songs about them!

I am not sure whether there is a song about scales though.

One of the exhibitors had a really complicated small town on display along with the associated vehicles and people. It was really fascinating because there was so much small detail.  

This is only a small part of the exhibit though. It was very difficult to photograph because of the angles and compactness of the display.  Small replica steam engines and trains are really amazing pieces of engineering in their own right, and a number of them were on display.​

However, we were probably all here to see the steam engines, and this is a collection of images from the three events that I attended. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed seeing them. Maybe next year we will be luckier.

Special thanks to all those who put in so much effort into keeping this hobby alive.

 

DRW © 2019. Images are from 2015.2016 and 2017. Created 22/06/2019

Updated: 22/06/2019 — 07:17

Scalex Pretoria Castle

It is about time I posted about my newest toy boat. I mentioned her briefly on my other toy boat post some months ago,  and in between then and now I have acquired another one, albeit in a poor condition too.  The images below are of my first boat.

The new boat is missing a funnel, masts and some of the lifeboats. The forward bulwark is also broken and that has damaged the foredeck. However, I suspect this ship may be a newer iteration because it does not suffer as much from the warping of the superstructure like the first one does. The funnel and deck in the foreground come from the 2nd boat and it is badly warped so I will remove the deck area and replace it.  The new funnel has been glued but needs more coats of paint.  

So, I have 2 ships that are in need of work, and sailing, although at the moment our weather is as such that there is a lot of water but no way to access it (that may change as flood warnings are in force for Tewkesbury as of today).

This is the clockwork motor (prop shaft leads off to the right), and is wound though the shaft in the centre of the image which comes up into the funnel. 

You can see a slight colour difference in the 2 ships below, which really supports my theory that the one may be much older. 

I may just repaint one of them in UC colours and leave the other in an assembled stated but unpainted. It’s a lot of hull to paint and I do not feel up to doing it. So, at this moment this is where I am at. Once I get some sun I will take more pics. but till then I will continue to work on them both. I will be honest, I really like this pair, they may be somewhat out of scale and warped and generally quite tatty, but they are wonderfully quirky models and I would have loved to have had one as a child. I believe that they were available in SA, but apart from that information know nothing further. 

Alongside a 1/1250 Albatros model of the Pretoria Castle

The real ship looked like this:

The big flood never happened thankfully, although I did get to try out my new ship in the flooded field where I live. Unfortunately the water was full of grass clippings and they kept jamming the prop. It was also very difficult trying to juggle the ship, camera, string and myself so I gave up quite quickly.

And there you have it, a pair of interesting models from a different era. The real Pretoria Castle was acquired by Safmarine and entered service as SA Oranje in 1966 and she went to the breakers in 1975. The models date from either the 1950’s or mid 1960’s. They are almost as old as I am. 

Pretoria Castle box art

DRW © 2019. Created 13/06/2019

Updated: 22/06/2019 — 05:59

Remembering D-Day, 75 years ago

Today, 75 years ago the Allied Forces landed on the coast of Normandy, the first step in the removal of the Axis powers from continental Europe. I was sitting thinking this morning about the courage of those who stepped into the unknown when the ramps of the landing craft dropped, leaving the path open onto the beach. That scale of  invasion had never been attempted before, and the book had to be written on how to do it long before the actual event.

The same level of courage was shown by the 23400 airborne troops who boarded the gliders and their tugs to cross the channel and get in harms way. In fact everybody had a role to play and it was through all their efforts that so many saw the 7th of June. There were 760 gliders and 1370 transport aircraft in use, protected by 3950 fighters. In total  129710 men were involved, supported by 1550 tanks and 12500 other vehicles.  It is not my place to describe the events on the beaches on that day, in fact the only people who could really describe it are the ever dwindling band of men who were there 75 years ago.

D-Day is commemorated in many places in the UK, and this week has seen a number of services and gatherings, and a new memorial was unveiled in France although why it has taken 75 years to happen is beyond me. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach at Ver-sur-Mer. The memorial  honours the more than 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who died fighting under British command during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

The National Memorial Arboretum  commemorates the invasion at the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301) where there are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha). 

UTAH Beach

JUNO Beach

GOLD Beach

SWORD Beach

OMAHA Beach

Footnote: it is possible that there are other memorials at the NMA pertaining to the invasion since my visit 2015.

The problem that we face today is that history is being watered down so as to not offend some person who seemingly is offended at anything that is not politically correct. In 25 years time will we still commemorate this event? or will we be commemorating something that is unrecognisable as being related to D–Day? The veterans of the event grow fewer each year. All are over 75 years old, and many were in action before they were 20.  

Over the years D-Day has tended to be seen as an all American event, whereas there were men and women from 12 nations participating. We really have Hollywood to blame for a lot of that misunderstanding, sadly it is unlikely that the definitive Normandy Invasion movie will ever be made. 

The one tangible link with the invasion is HMS Belfast that is berthed in London on the Thames. History was made on that ship, and her guns were part of the naval bombardment on the beaches. I have never really found out how much damage was done by the naval bombardment, but I do not think I would have liked to have been a German Gefreiter on the receiving end of a 16″ shell. 

The forward guns of HMS Belfast

The naval contingent was huge and 120 warships, 1260 merchant vessels,  250 minesweepers, 3500 troop carriers, 100 smaller warships and 600 specialist craft took part.

Finally I wanted to make mention of the Port of Southampton.

The acres of harbour and its facilities were vital in the logistical operation of the invasion, and while much is written about the invasion very little is written about the harbour from where so many ships set out from. 

 

The fact remains that so much had to happen to get the men onto the beaches, the fact that they did is testament to the many who contributed to the success of the invasion. The vast cemeteries in France each has a story to tell, and the graves in it are those of real men. Some would loose their lives almost immediately the ramps dropped, others would die later in the drive from the beaches. But once that foothold was made there was no turning around.

On this day we commemorate the success of the Normandy Invasion and the Allied Forces who made it happen. 

 DRW © 2019. Created 06/06/2019. Statistics are sourced from the BBC. 

Updated: 07/06/2019 — 05:30

Onwards to Oxford (2)

Continuing where we left off….

In the previous post I had just arrived in the area of what I hoped was the Radcliffe Camera. That structure is “sited to the south of the Old Bodleian, north of the Church of St Mary the Virgin, and between Brasenose College to the west and All Souls College to the east”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe_Camera).

Oxford Martin School

Clarendon Building

The Sheldonian Theatre

However, when I looked on Google Earth I discovered that this was not the Radcliffe Camera but the Sheldonian Theatre! So I have yet another reason for a return trip to Oxford (add the Bridge of Sighs to the list too). The building behind the theatre is the Bodleian Library, and had I investigated that area further would have found what I was looking for! 

I was now in Broad Street and this was where it was possible to find a tour guide assuming you wanted a guided tour. I had forgotten all about it, but at least now I know where it was. The building on the right is Balliol College (I think)

I continued walking down the street because I really needed to confirm where I was in relation to where the station was. I was hoping to find one of those handy street maps but so far hadn’t seen one for awhile.  I really needed a cross street to orientate myself. 

And this one would do nicely.

This is the corner of Cornmarket/Magadalen streets running left to right with George Street between the 2 buildings. On the right hand corner (Magdalen Street) was a small surprise for me. 

This is the churchyard of St Mary Magdalen Church, and I would have liked to do a quick walk around in it but could not find a gate. Besides, the overgrown churchyard did look very peaceful amidst the hustle and bustle around me. 

By my reckoning, following George Street would take me to the station.

George’s Street

There was not a lot to see down here, so I turned left into Cornmarket, hoping to find somewhere that sold batteries. The tower belongs to St Michael’s at the North Gate. 

Ship Street, what an excellent name for a street. The time had now come to head back to George Street and the station so I turned my bows around and off I went. Not too much to see down the street though, apart from one of those handy maps which told me what I already knew. 

The building below is the University of Oxford History Facility,

and this is a portion of the Oxford Canal. I have not worked out how the canal connects to the city, although a lock should be around here somewhere.

And this was where I came in, albeit on the other side of the square and going in the opposite direction. The station was up ahead.

I had 25 minutes to wait for my train though so I decided to stop at the tourist office at the station and buy a map and guide book, but alas the service was appallingly slow, with 2 assistants seemingly never finishing up with the same 2 customers. I left after waiting over 5 minutes because I would have missed my train had I stayed any longer.  

Remember I said there were thousands of cyclists? this is where the bicycles have their nest.

The station is a modern one with 4 platforms and a section where there were was Chiltern Railways stock. 

I had not seen any Chiltern Railways equipment since Birmingham in 2015, so this made a nice change. GWR and Cross Country are all I seem to see nowadays.

And not too long afterwards my own train arrived and I was soon on my way back to Evesham and finally back home by bus. It had been a long day, but quite a fruitful one. Oxford had been fascinating, and I will do a return visit one day.

Oxford is mentioned 13 times in the Domesday Book, and I am only including one entry for it.  

  • HundredHeadington
  • CountyBerkshire / Buckinghamshire / Oxfordshire
  • Total population: 18 households (medium).
  • Total tax assessed: 4 exemption units (medium).
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 4 exemption units.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £2. Value to lord in 1086 £2.
  • Households: 18 villagers.
  • Ploughland: 5 ploughlands (land for). 5 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 105 acres. Woodland 8 acres.
  • Lord in 1066: Oxford (St Frideswide), canons of.
  • Lord in 1086: Oxford (St Frideswide), canons of.
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Oxford (St Frideswide), canons of.

(Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater )

There is too much that I have not seen and I have subsequently discovered a cemetery and a memorial that I missed on top of the other odds and ends I have listed. It is probable I will find even more to see now that I know a bit about the place. Parts of the city are very beautiful, but I am not sure I would be able to afford to live there however  I too can boast that I have been to Oxford, but I won’t mention what it was for.

More Random Images. 

DRW  © 2019. Created 25/05/2019. (Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater )

Updated: 27/05/2019 — 09:11

Onwards to Oxford (1)

In years to come I will be able to boast that I went to Oxford, although not to be educated, but more to have a look around, I had the idea awhile ago, but the logistics were somewhat beyond me, however, once I started to explore Evesham it became obvious that there were other places within reach from the station there. It is an alternative way to get to London too, although the biggest downfall is that you can only travel by train after 9.00 am because the earliest bus only gets there at 8.35. You also have to make sure that you are on that last bus at 17.55 or you will end up spending the night! Like Tewkesbury the transport options are limiting factors for any day trip. The train originates in Hereford, passing through Worcester then onto Evesham so theoretically it is possible to get to Oxford from Worcester, but again getting to and from Worcester can be problematic. 

Anyway, I thought long and hard about this and with a long weekend in the offing and some semi decent weather I decided to do a day trip. I had 3 options: The tall ships at Gloucester, Evesham Vale Light Railway, or Oxford. I decided on Thursday evening to head to the last of the three and bought a ticket online and almost immediately started to chicken out! In order to get a bus back I really could expend roughly 3 hours in the city, which may not be enough considering how much there is to see there! Come Saturday morning and I was still not in the mood, but I had the tickets, the weather was reasonable, and it was now or never! Onwards to Oxford!

The limitations: 

Time was the most crucial, the weather ranged from overcast to semi cloudy to sunny. It changed all the time so image quality has suffered. Large buildings and no way to get far away enough from them. Vehicular and people traffic.

Evesham Station is 5 minutes walk from the bus stop, and is really quite an unimpressive station and I believe the passengers loads from here are falling. 

The line to London heads off to the left hand side and the train leaves from Platform 2. Talk of the devil and there it is now! The familiar HST’s  have been withdrawn from GWR service now and all we get are these smarmy class 800’s now. They are comfortable though, but they lack that “Made in England” originality  of the HST’s.

The route runs from Evesham, Honeybourne, Moreton-in-Marsh, Kingham, Shipton, Ascott-under-Wychwod, Charlbury, Finstock, Combe, Hanborough and finally Oxford and It takes just under an hour to get there.

Entrance to station

City Map of Oxford (1009×599)

I had a rough idea of where I wanted to go, although plans were liable to change at any point. I wanted to do a rough lozenge shaped walk starting at Park End Rd into New Rd, High Street and turning into Queen Street and taking in the Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs and anything inbetween, then continuing down Broad Street into Hythe Bridge Street and back to the station. I had marked off where the war memorial was as well as Christ Church Cathedral as possible detours. 

At this time of the morning (roughly 10H40) the area I was in was reasonably quiet, but do not be fooled because chaos was coming.

My plans were to really follow this road to the spire in the distance and I think this is Frideswide Square (38 on the map). My next point of reference was Castlemill Stream that crosses under the road that changes its name to New Road. This stream is a branch of the Thames.

My next landmark was what is known as “Oxford Castle Mound” and it is part of the remains of the former Oxford Castle.  This would have been where the keep and motte were. Behind this was St George’s Tower and chapel as well as the Oxford Prison. This area is in my list for a return visit.

Next to the mound was another building which I assumed was part of the castle, but it is actually the former County Hall dating from 1841. 

Turning around the view behind me was as follows:

From what I can see that tower is part of Nuffield College

Continuing my walk I came to the war memorial, and it was disappointing. However this is not the main war memorial in the town as this commemorates men of the 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry who lost their lives between 15/08/1897 and 04/11/1898. It is known as the Tirah Memorial and is the first war memorial ever erected in Oxford. 

Continuing onwards into the High Street area it was becoming increasingly more crowded and difficult to navigate through the growing throng.

The structure below on the left is known as the Carfax Tower, It is all that remains of the 12th-century St Martin’s Church. Carfax is at the junction of St Aldate’s (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east) and it is considered to be the centre of the city.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carfax,_Oxford) . 

At this point I made a detour as I was in the vicinity of Christ Church Cathedral and headed into that direction. Unfortunately photography was incredibly difficult as the street was a bus thoroughfare and the pavements were packed.  

Central Oxford (Carfax area with Cathedral in lower left corner) 1024×977

I will be honest though, I did not see the cathedral, this large building is not it, although is part of it and I could not see much beyond the gate (which was not open to the public) due to the selfie squad. 

All I was able to see was this small glimpse across the centre of the space and I believe it belongs to the cathedral. I will have to investigate this area in the future though, but not on this day. 

In the image below I was standing at the Tom Tower looking across the Tom Quad. 

I turned around and headed back towards Carfax and High Street. 

Turning into High Street I continued walking and the view became increasing more elaborate and old, and I will be honest I probably cannot identify most of what I was seeing; neither could I fit most of it into my camera lens. The never ending stream of buses complicated matters considerably as they would stop and hordes of people would suddenly erupt out of them almost engulfing you. It was a major problem and I almost collided with a number of cellphone absorbed pedestrians on top of it. 

I believe the building above is Brasenose College. and in my original navigation I had intended turning left into Catte Street and onwards to the Radcliffe Camera, but ended up continuing past it. towards The Queens College. The spire below belongs to “The University Church of St Mary the Virgin University College” with All Soul’s College further along.

 

All Soul’s College

Magdalen College

I eventually made my left turn in Longwall Street, and it was literally a long wall on the right hand side of the street. There appears to be a deer park on the other side of the wall, but I could not see over it to check.  

This was quite a winding road too and I hoped there was a handy exit somewhere which would get me back on track. Time was marching and soon I would need to make a decision about my plans in the next 45 minutes.

This is Holywell Street and I headed down it. Fortunately no buses seemed to be allowed here so it was technically safe to walk in as long as you didn’t get run over by a cyclist (there are thousands of them in Oxford too).

For some reason or other I think this is part of “New College” but cannot confirm it as I did not photograph the sign. However, a helpful porter pointed me in the direction I needed to go in to get to the Radcliffe Camera and it was close by too.

At this point I am going to pause and start a new page as there is still quite a lot to see onwards and I need to add in some random images to this page. You can turn the page here.

forwardbut

Random Images.

DRW © 2019. Created 25/05/2019

Updated: 26/05/2019 — 07:00

Cool sighting of the day

Occasionally we vintage cars passing through town and sometimes they stop so I can get a pic (or 3). Today I spotted what turned out to be a Stoneleigh Chummy 4 Season from 1924.

It is not the first time I have seen this particular vehicle, but the first time I have managed to get pics of it.

There is not a lot about these vehicles out there, and at the moment all I can really say is that Stoneleigh was made by Armstrong Siddeley. Hopefully at some point I will find more info. They certainly do not make them like that anymore. 

And while rooting through my pics for another post I found the following information sheet:

Special thanks to the owner of this rare beauty, thanks for preserving her for us to enjoy so many years after she was built. 

DRW © 2019. Created 19/05/2019

Updated: 22/05/2019 — 05:55

Retrospective: Newtown Municipal Compound

In 2011 I  did a number of photowalks in and around Newtown in Johannesburg and blogged about them, and as a result I started using the blog more and more as I found even more uses for it. The end result in 2019 is quite large but I never really utilised it as much back then, and during one of my periodic searches for images I rediscovered the images from the Newtown Municipal Compound and decided to do a retrospective of them. Once again I am not an expert in this field, and I really want to show what I saw back then because it is quite important to acknowledge our heritage (as horrible as it may be) if we want to understand more about the present and why we are where we are. I am afraid that things were very different back then and our sense of right and wrong really changed over the years as people began to recognise that even the lowliest needed consideration.

I recall walking though this complex and was horrified, however, had I been walking through here in 1950 what would my attitude have been? Sadly the African labourer employed in the mines and in industry where labouring was done on a large scale probably faced these sort of conditions as a matter of course, it was the norm rather than the exception.  Remember that back then pass laws were enforced too. No pass could result in arrest and a stay in Number 4 Jail.

The complex forms part of the area around Newtown that encompasses Sci-Bono, Museum Africa, the Market theatre and the former old market in Johannesburg. This area has been extensively redeveloped since 2011 and I did not recognise it when I passed through in 2016. 

Stitched image of rear of compound (1500x 393)

The image below was stitched from 2 separate images and shows the layout of the compound.  This image and subsequent key were on an information board at the compound. 

Compound layout (1500×527)

Key:

1. Domestic quarters

2. Compound manager’s house: the manager had to be available at all hours and was housed directly behind the compound. 

3. Sleeping quarters: the compound was designed to accommodate 330 workers. No mattresses or lockers were provided. Rooms would be strung from side to side by clothing, washing, and other possessions. Each room had a small coal stove for heating

4. White staff houses

5. Lock-up room: Used to lock up workers who broke the rules, they were often chained to the wall and the only toilet was a bucket.

6. Ablutions: the toilet room had 16 squat holes. No partitions or doors separated the toilets

7. Induna’s room: the Induna was the compound manager’s right hand man.

8. Showers: there was 1 cold shower for every 165 workers, and one latrine for every 55. Hot water was only available in buckets.

9. The courtyard: space provided where social interaction could happen

10. Gantry

11. The Tree: if the lock-up room was unavailable unruly workers could be chained to the tree.

12. Compound manager’s office: the compound manager kept control administration and law enforcement from this small office. He was assisted by the Induna, an admin clerk, and the municipal police.  

13, Veranda: There were no cooking or eating facilities in the compound. Workers could go eat at eateries catering for black workers or use the counters for food preparation. Sinks were provided for washing clothes and dishes. 

14. Stables and Kennels: over 750 draught horses were stabled here. The horses pulled the wagons used for refuse and sanitary waste removal. Cart drivers and animal keepers were also housed at the compound. The stables were demolished in the 1930’s. 

The interior is grim, and was probably much worse when it was occupied by men who came from all around the country, sleeping in dormitories, sharing communal ablution facilities and exposed to diseases such as TB. The record states that at one point there was 1 shower for every 165 workers and 1 latrine for 55. 

Communal showers (8 on layout image)

Urinal (6 on layout image)

I do not know what era the building represents, but it is probably quite close to what it may have looked like to those luckless migrant workers who ended up here.

A reproduction of a pamphlet issued in 1946 paints the following picture:

Extract from a pamphlet published by the Communist Party in 1946

The paragraph above is an extract of a speech presented by Hilda Watts at a meeting of the Johannesburg City Council in November 1946, reproduced in a  pamphlet published by the Communist Party.

Sleeping area

One of the sleeping area upper levels has a display of “luggage and possessions” which I thought spoke volumes about the men who lived here.

Naturally fights would break out and there was even a handy “lock up room” (marked 5 on the layout image above). How much abuse of power happened in that small room is unknown.

Just image a place like this after a long days work with primitive facilities and a lack of privacy. From what I read this particular compound was much better than some that were in use by the council.

We are fortunate that places like this still exist so as to give us a glimpse into a different era and an almost invisible group of workers who swept streets, emptied dustbins, collected night-soil and performed other menial but important work for a pittance, often supporting wives and children far away. They were the faceless and nameless that helped make Johannesburg what it is today. Inside the compound is a statue of an orange clad worker launching his spade up high with arms outstretched, almost reaching for the sky. It is quite a fitting tribute to those workers who eked out a  living in such a deplorable place.  I am glad I saw it, but am ashamed at what I saw.

DRW © 2011 – 2019. Created retrospectively 13/05/2019. Some information from the information board and displays at the compound. 

Updated: 15/05/2019 — 17:25

Armour in the Abbey

The “Armour” referred to in this post is not of the tracked vehicle type, but rather it is about men with swords, helmets and armour, (not too be confused with the Knights who say Ni!). This is the first time I have heard of the event but it is possible that it was held on previous years but I never went to it. At any rate, more information may be had at http://www.tewkesburymedievaltown.uk/tewkesbury-armour-in-the-abbey/index.htm.

I went on the first day of the event (Sunday) but it is also open tomorrow on the bank holiday and I expect it will be much busier then. Every year Tewkesbury holds a Medieval Festival so I have seen some of this stuff before, but it is always nice to go out and see the people who really put so much into events like this. Unfortunately there was not much to see, but it was interesting nevertheless.  The event was held in the Abbey Garden, and entrance was through the original Medieval Gate.  

The image above dates from 2015 and it was one of the rare instances of being able to photograph the gate without stacks of cars parked in front of it. I did visit the interior of the building some time in 2018 but did not post the images of it. The weather was not as sunny on this day, it was overcast and not too warm either. 

Inside the area were a few tents set up and a small roped off arena and lots of people in shining armour. There was also a canon….  I had seen this beauty at the festival in 2017, and the gun is called “Belle” and was being operated by “the Kynges Ordynaunce”.

Apparently the wheels of the carriage are the really the hardest to manufacture and not the gun (which was made in Holland). 

I looked around a bit more, hoping for some definitive shots that could convey what some of the items looked like. It is however quite strange to see the mingling of re-enactors in costume talking to people in 2019 civvies, or to spot a knight making a call on his cellphone.  There were period tents set up around a roped off space and this was where some of the action was going to happen.

(1500 x 573)

I believe this was the King’s tent, but I didn’t ask just in case he roped me in on his side. I am strictly neutral in these matters and don’t take sides. This year will see the 548th Anniversary of the Battle of Tewkesbury which will be celebrated on Monday (while we are all at work!)

There was also a very impressive horse having a snack to one side. He was also here to be made used to the loud bangs that the canon would make; very important if he is to be used in a makeshift battle.

Off to one side was another roped off arena where they were having a demonstration on the famous Longbow that the English archers were so effective with.

I believe a well trained archer could fire off 7 arrows a minute, whereas a combatant armed with a primitive firearm could take as long as a minute to reload his muzzle loading weapon. 

I am sure the combatants that had to wear the armour were glad that it was not a terribly hot day, or that the sun was warming the metal hot enough to fry eggs off.

The canon was trundled across to where the archers were and set up. One of the red coated gun crew then explained a bit about the weapon and the advantages and disadvantages of the early canon. This particular weapon is a muzzle loader, and the well drilled team soon had it ready to fire. I do have video of the gun firing and will upload it to my Youtube channel at some point. 

It is quite loud though and there were a few spooked children walking around with their hands over their ears.  

Then it was back to the other roped off area where there was a melee between two armoured men. 

The dude in blue won that one.

And then there was a four way melee, one of the occupants being “The King” (accompanied by shouts of “The YORK”). This one was quite quite hectic and the King bore the brunt of the attacks. 

It was all in good fun though, but was evidently hard work as the combatants were drenched by the time all was done and dusted. 

It was time for me to make tracks as I didn’t have much more to see. The more interesting events would be happening tomorrow much to my dismay. The Medieval Festival for 2019 happens on the 13th and 14 of July, and that could be worth attending. Until then here are some random images. Special thanks must go to those who took the time and effort to put on this small glimpse into the past.

DRW © 2019. Created 05/05/2019

Updated: 06/05/2019 — 16:25

A brief burst of pink

Last week I posted about Spring and one of the images was of an ornamental cherry tree (aka “Sakura“) that was flowering. I had never seen any of these until I came to the UK, and this seemingly normal tree shows its true colours when Spring finally comes around. 

The clusters of pink blossoms are very beautiful, and I really look forward to seeing them probably because the sakura is a very common theme in anime. It pops up in many of the series I watch and I am currently reading a fanfiction about Clannad, where one of the characters is intent on becoming the student council president so that she can save the sakura that are due to be cut down. It does sound corny but the Japanese do hold the sakura in esteem. 

Today when I came home the tree was loosing its blossoms and the area underneath it was becoming a pink carpet as the blossoms fell.

The wind was clustering the many petals into hollows in the road and the drizzle ensured that they stayed there, it was really something to see. By next week the sakura will be back to its normal summer foliage and the cycle of rebirth will start again. Such are the ways of nature.

Of course it is not only the Sakura blossoming, but every other tree that is capable of producing blossoms has done so. This beauty was close to where I work.

In South Africa we have a similar situation with Jacaranda trees. These were planted in the pavements of Johannesburg and Pretoria probably during the 40’s or 50’s and every year they undergo a similar burst of colour as they bloom and then loose their blossoms, coating the area underneath them in a carpet of purple. 

You can really see the effect in the image I took on Northcliffe Ridge a few years back.

Jacarandas in the Northcliffe/Fairlands area (1500 x 811)

Trees really can surprise one, we live with them all around us, and generally do not pay too much notice of them except when they undergo change; loosing leaves, blossoming or falling down are all part of the life cycle of a tree. Their advanced age is interesting because many of them outlive us, and some survive for centuries. The world would be a boring place without them, so hug a tree today. 

DRW © 2019. Created 25/04/2019

Updated: 27/04/2019 — 07:09
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