musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Personal

Connections: it’s all in the name

I found a great set of connections this past week and while I have it more or less down pat there are still a few things that I need to do. The story goes like this:

Very close to where I live is the parish church of St Nicolas in Aschurch. It is a pretty church with a long history and I visited there in November 2016.

What I did not know at the time was that there was a war memorial associated with Ashchurch, in fact it is right across the road from the church. I photographed that one on Boxing Day last year

When I had completed my blogpost I decided to create a community at “Lives of the First World War” for the 24 names from the First World War commemorated on the memorial. Three of the men commemorated on the memorial were Majors in the British Army, namely:

Major The Hon. Alfred Henry Maitland

Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall

Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland

Fortunately for me, a lot of the research had already been done on these officers and I really just had to tie them into the parish of Ashchurch. 

I knew that Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland (CWGC LINK)  had a Memorial in the grounds of Tewkesbury Abbey which could be a connection. 

Actually there are also two Cartland brothers commemorated on that memorial, both being killed a day apart during WW2. ( Major John Ronald Hamilton Cartland (Worcester Yeomanry, KIA 30/05/1940) and  Captain James Anthony Hamilton Cartland (Lincolnshire Regiment KIA 29/05/1940))  Remember this surname as it is important. Both of those two men were from Poolbrook in Worcestershire, while Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland was from Pershore in Worcestershire. The border between Tewkesbury and Worcestershire is not too far away, probably about a kilometre but so far I did not have a tangible link to Ashchurch

Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall was my next puzzle. According to his CWGC Casualty Record he was born in Ireland, however the record listed his wife as being from “Gainsborough”,  College Rd., Cheltenham. But, no real link to Tewkesbury. 

Major The Hon. Alfred Henry Maitland: According to his CWGC Casualty Record he was killed very early in the war (September 1914). And, his wife was listed as being “Edith, daughter of Sanford G. T. Scobell”. As yet I do not know where he was born, but I will find it given enough time. He served in the Boer War too, so he connects to South Africa. The Scobell link looked interesting and I accessed the 1881 Census record and discovered the following.

The Scobell family in the 1881 census comprised of:
Father: Sanford George Treweeke Scobell   Born 1893
Mother: Edith Scobell (Born Palairet 1850)
Edith M Scobell  daughter, born 1872 (Brighton)
Florence Eleanor Scobell daughter, born 1875 (Brighton)
Emily K Scobell, daughter, born 1876 (Worcestershire)
Mary Hamilton Scobell, daughter, born 1878 (Worcestershire)
Sandford TG Scobell, son born 1880 (Brighton)

I checked the names against my three majors and discovered:

Major James Bertram Faulkner Cartland,  married Mary Hamilton Scobell.
Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall,  married Florence Eleanor Scobell.
and The Honourable, Major Alfred Henry Maitland married Edith M Scobell.

That connected all three men to the same family. The Scobell family are listed in the census as living at “The Down House”, Redmarley-D’abitot Worcester. Google maps puts Redmarley in Gloucestershire, although it was part of Worcestershire up till 1931.

The Down House was recently on the market ( £3,250,000) and is described as having 7 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, 4 bathrooms, morning room, formal drawing room, impressive library and dining room as well as separate three bedroom staff flat in the grounds, coach house and yard, stables, garaging, in all about 130 acres. It is a Grade II Listed Regency house and was originally designed and built by the well-known architect Thomas Rickman between 1820 and 1823.  Tewkesbury is 7 miles away, Gloucester is 10 miles, Cheltenham 15 miles, and Worcester 25 miles. (

The connection to the Scobell family was complete, but what connected these men and the Scobell family to Ashchurch? To find that out I shuffled through my photographs of St Nicholas in Ashchurch to see whether there were any wall memorials in the church that could tie into the Scobell family. 

The answer to that was not inside the church, but outside the church in a family plot.

There are a number of individuals named on these graves, including Maj Gen. Sandford John Palairet Scobell (1879-1955) and his wife Cecily Maude (1885-1955), as well as Sandford George Treweeke Scobell (1839-1912) and his wife Edith (+1929), Charles John Spencer Scobell (illegible – 1918) and a number of others. Unfortunately I did not photograph individual graves at the time but rectified that in January 2017. 

The 1911 Census has the following information:

Sandford G T Scobell Head, Private Means, 72, 1839, Southover Lewes Sussex
Edith Scobell Wife Married Female, 61, 1850, Bradford Avon Wiltshire
Meloney E, Scobell, Daughter, Single Female, Private Means, 39, 1872, Brighton Sussex

Address: Walton House Tewkesbury, Parish: Ashchurch, County: Gloucestershire. 

As you can see from the inscription above, Walton House is mentioned on the grave of Sandford Scobell and that definitely connects to St Nicholas parish church in Ashchurch. Three of their daughters connect three Majors from three different families into Ashchurch and in turn they connect to the Ashchurch War Memorial as they lost their lives in World War 1.

But what about Walton House? 

Google is my friend and I hit paydirt when I picked up a link to the Smithsend Family. Amongst the information I found the following: “In 1911 the house was bought by a Colonel Scobell (the maternal grandfather of the Novelist Barbara Cartland) and the house passed to his wife Edith and then his son John Stanford Scobell in 1929 (including the Lodge and 1 and 2 the Poplars on the main road). From 1937 to about 1945 the house was owned by a Vet – Mr Maguire.(  

The house they were referring to is called Walton House in Tewkesbury, The paragraph puts the house firmly in the Scobell family from 1911 at least till 1937 and it is 1,9 kilometres from the parish church of St Nicholas. The house was granted to Gloucestershire County Council in 1946 from a John Carradine Allen and used as a children’s home. In 1994 it was sold and converted into flats. Incidentally the area where the house is is now called “Newtown” and it is roughly midway between Tewkesbury town and Ashchurch. 

After visiting St Nicholas I went looking for Walton House and found it. Unfortunately it is not an easy place to photograph as it faces an area that is not accessible. This is probably the back of the house

while the image below is the one side.

Remember I said that we need to remember Major Cartland? The very popular romance novelist  Barbara Cartland‘s mother was Mary Hamilton ‘Polly’ Scobell, and she grew up at the Down House and as a small girl Barbara was a regular visitor from Pershore.  Her father was Major James Bertram Faulkner Cartland,  She was born in Edgbaston, West Midlands, July 9, 1901 and Christened Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland and she attended Malvern Girls’ College and Abbey House, Netley Abbey, Hampshire. Her paternal grandfather allegedly committed suicide when he went bankrupt and her  father was killed in Flanders in 1918. and her two brothers were killed 1 day apart in World War 2.  Cartland was reared by her strong mother, who moved the family to London and opened her own business, a dress shop in Kensington

There is enough evidence to connect Ashchurch with Walton House, the Scobell family and the three majors who lost their lives in the First World War. Like so many families in the United Kingdom they lost their sons and fathers in the Great War. That war really decimated the professional class of officer from the army, and it was really the beginning of the end of the “gentry.” 

The Scobell family connections may be found at The Peerage, A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.

I am more or less happy with this series of connections, the only additional find that I did make was the grave of Col. Henry Gillum Webb (1842-1904) who was one of the previous owners of Walton House. He bought the house in 1879 and it was probably Webb who made many of the later modifications to the house..

And inside the church is a wall memorial to members of the Ruddle family of Walton House.

There is an interesting observation in (  website that may be found on a PDF at   (page 61 onwards) it mentions Walton Spa, a potential rival to Cheltenham Spa, and it was centred around Walton House…. 

I won’t delve too deeply into that, suffice to say I am confident of the connections I have found. And can really publish this blog post.

Connections are everywhere though, you really just need to find that start and endpoint.

DRW © 2017-2018 Completed 07/01/2018.  

Updated: 24/03/2018 — 14:35

Looking back on 2017

Like 2016, 2017 was not a good year, the world has become an even more dangerous place than last year, and the political rumblings in many countries became roarings!  In South Africa the corruption and incompetence continues and Cape Town is running out of water (bottled and tap). We also saw the death of a number of old school entertainers and celebrities,  and fake news still proliferates through social media, and racism is still alive and well. And now for the weather…

Amongst those who passed on in 2017: Willie Toweel, Sir John Hurt, Peter Skelleren, Simon Hobday, Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Chuck Berry, Colin Dexter, Joe Mafela, Ahmed Kathrada,  Sue Grafton, Mary Tyler Moore, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sarstead, Glen Campbell, John Hillerman, Adam West, Helmut Kohl, Fats Domino, Don Williams, Charles Manson, Ian Brady, Harry Dean Stanton, Della Reese, Roger Moore, David Cassidy, Sam Shepard, Martin Landau, Gordon Kaye Richard Hatch, Tom Petty, Michael Bond, Al Jarreau and Bill Paxton. Unfortunately though some dictators will outlive us all.  

I did not have a busy year, although there was a major spurt of activity in March when I had to go back to South Africa at short notice.  This new year is crunch year for me,  and I am sitting on a fence with lots of spikey bits. These are some of the highlights (and low lights) of my year.  


Was a quiet month, and I really relooked some of the places I had seen as well as some of the interesting objects that you normally do not notice. Clocks were subject of choice for January


In February I finally hit Worcester and specifically Worcester Cathedral.

Worcester Cathedral

I ended up making a second trip to the city, and it was quite a nice place to visit. 


In March I had to return to South Africa as my mother was doing poorly. 

I was able to revisit a number of places and a decision was made regarding her future care. She was not amused, but our options were extremely limited.


Amongst the places I revisited was the James Hall Transport Museum

I arrived back in April, and just in time for the GWSR World War Weekend. 


I looked back on the three cemeteries in Portsmouth (Milton, Highland Rd and Kingston)

I seemed to have stayed indoors a lot in May because the only noteworthy thing I seemed to do was attempt to scratchbuild a model of the RMS St Helena. I now have a new one I am busy with so all in not lost. However I am kind of baffled at how long this exercise has taken. 


June was a busy month and I seemed to do quite a lot in Gloucester. One of the many things I saw was HM Prison Gloucester and it was fascinating. 

I also popped into the “harbour” in Gloucester, and it was quite an interesting place to see, although it is no longer the bustling harbour it used to be


The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival was held once again, but unfortunately I missed out on the Wellland Steam Fair this year. 


The Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival was held in August and it was bigger than last year too. Some real blasts from the past were on show too. 

1904 Mors 24/32 HP


September I ventured forth into Stroud and inadvertently ended up in Painswick too which was quite fun but very tiring.


The weather was rapidly turning as we October, but then the whole year had seen lousy conditions most of the time. It really dampened my excursions too so I had to do some thinking about what to post. Sadly I heard of two pets that crossed the rainbow bridge in this month and their loss is always a sad one.


November is the month when military veterans take out their berets and caps and don their medals and poppies to Remember The Fallen. I also managed to photograph the War Memorial in Prestbury


And suddenly it was December, and the biggest story in December was…

And that was my year. May the new year be full of love, light and laughter, and may the sun shine brightly and may peace and prosperity be with you and yours. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 31/12/2017

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:29

Snow? Again?

To think we almost had a white Christmas this year, and it was fun to experience it at the time even though it was not Christmas. Theoretically we were all done and dusted with snow for 2017, however, the weather had more in store for us. Yesterday (Boxing day) started out as a moderately pleasant day, with the sun making a token appearance and rain shoving it out of the way towards the afternoon. At this point the Carrant Brook has been flowing quite strongly but not enough to flood the surrounding fields.

This fine morning when I opened the curtains I was in for a rude surprise (although I really had to wait for it to get lighter), outside the field was white and wet,

the Brook was much higher and there was snow on the cars and frozen patches all over the place.

This should have happened on Monday! not today when I am at work!  I did not feel too confident with heading out there on my bike, although there were tire marks in the snow (albeit wobbly ones) so I decided to hoof it instead, and seeing as I was on the hoof I would take some pics (I can’t help it, it is just something I do!). 

So, these images are what is left after last nights surprise snow. Hopefully it won’t freeze and create an ice rink across my route to work, and hopefully the Carrant Brook will also drop its level, although its level is partly determined by what comes from upstream and the height of the Avon where it joins it. I hold thumbs. 


This will be my last set of images for 2017, and this weekend I will do my infamous “retrospective” for the year gone by. I will also create the new 2018 index page and hopefully all will be well in the land of Gloucestershire. 

© DRW 2017-2018, created 27/12/2017

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:29

Christmas Greetings 2017

And once again Christmas has snuck up, wacked us on the head, emptied our wallet and left us all asking “where did the year go to?” Personally I have no idea, I suspect the year it was faulty and should have been returned for a refund as an out of box failure! 

But, all I can really do at this point and time is wish everybody a Happy Christmas and to make the most of this special day. May love light and laughter be with you as you celebrate over this period. Do not drink and drive, and do not become a statistic. 

And, special thanks to those who man the fire stations, emergency services, lifeboats, police stations, hospitals, and who may find themselves in the military. Thank you for giving up yours for us.  

As Muffin would say “Is it over with? I am so tired I only slept 27 hours last night”

© DRW 2017-2018. 

Updated: 24/12/2017 — 18:25

The Musings Advent Calender 2017

I started this in 2015, so this is really the 3rd year in a row I have done it. Hopefully some of the pics will not have been seen before. The snow that we had on the 10th really left me many opportunities to get stunning images, and these will probably dominate the calender for a few days.

24 December

23 December

22 December

Fighter from Battlestar Galactia

21 December

A “hooty bird”

20 December

A £ for a lb

19 December

18 December


17 December

Cast iron water tower in Yeoville, Johannesburg. One of all time favourite structures

16 December

Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria

15 December

Part of a model train layout

14 December 

Seen locally, a Shetland Pony

13 December

12 December

11 December

10 December 

Yep, we had snow. Image opens in the snowy blogpost

09 December

I headed to our local cemetery to see whether it was affected by the frost, and it was only really affected where there were no overhanging trees.

Tewkesbury Abbey

Cemetery Chapel


On 8 December we had snow in Tewkesbury although I missed seeing most of it as I was at work, and the pics from my camera do not show very much. However the temperatures are low and it is predicted that we will have snow/sleet on the 10th. The pics I took for 8 and 9 December will be weather related as a result.

Sunrise, the field is really covered in frost.


07 December

Fountain in Cheltenham

6 December

Roof in Birminham

5 December

Spotted in a church in Weymouth.

4 December

Shop window in Poole

3 December

Seen in Hythe near the Hovercraft Monument

2 December

Spotted in East Cowes, Isle of Wight in 2013. Explanation on the right

1 December

Donkeys at the seaside in Weymouth


© DRW 2017-2018. Created between 01 and 24 December 2017. 

Updated: 24/12/2017 — 18:25

Let there be snow!

Yes it is true, it is snowing outside. We had our first flakes on Friday but it was not a significant amount. But the weather forecast for the UK predicted snow wherever you go for today!

I woke at 7.30 but it was too dark to see much and I managed to bounce my flash off the flakes outside. It looked very promising and when I made my usual call home it was belting down outside. Here are some of my first pics. 

And yes, it is cold, and no I do not have snow boots and yes my hands are frozen. But… I am chuffed. I will periodically post new pics as I venture out. I am not likely to take a long trip because I do not want to get caught in it and it does appear that snow will be with us for most of the day.


I went down to the Abbey to see what it was looking like, I was too wary to use the bike, and considering the slush on the roads I am glad I did not. Ugh, what a mess!​


The Abbey always presents interesting photographic opportunities, and just think how many snow storms it has seen during its long existence.​


My real aim was to do another “Cemetery in the snow” post, similar to the one I did in Basingstoke in 2015, but the cemetery is quite a long walk away and I was not going to tackle that! Instead I headed across to the old Baptist Chapel and its associated graveyard. I have not done a separate post on the chapel so will do that after I am finished playing in the snow.



And then it was time to wend my way home along the cycle path. It is hard to believe that this was once a railway line 

And that was the day, or should I say morning. It is still snowing outside although the weather forecast is for sun tomorrow. We will see when we get there. Will I use the bike tomorrow? probably not. I am not that confident with the inevitable slippery roads, and because of the low temperatures there is no way of knowing what conditions will be like out there in the morning, or in the evening. We will just have to wait and see.

Tuesday 12 December.

The leftover snow is still on the ground, the pavements are ice rinks, the temperatures are low but the light is fantastic. I took these on my way to work this morning.

And that concludes the weather. We now return to our regular programming. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 10/12/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:01

Armistice Day 11/11/2017

Somebody in the crowd remarked that it would have been considered a nice day in the trenches with its fine drizzle, grey sky and low temperature. But, it was not 1917, it was 2017 and we were all gathered at “The Cross” in Tewkesbury to commemorate the end of the First World War and the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele. Today is Armistice Day while tomorrow is Remembrance Day.

The build up to the Remembrance Day commemoration has been very evident in Tewkesbury, and every other town and city in the UK. It is taken seriously in the United Kingdom because of the strong connection with this island and the many who are buried in foreign fields. The red, green and black of the Remembrance Poppy is to be seen everywhere, and the people wear theirs with pride. Unfortunately the PC mob is hell bent on destroying this tradition because somebody may be offended, but they can really take a running leap off a short cliff.

I was determined to be at the cross when the short service would be held, and I was not the only one.  

If you open the image above you can see the War Memorial that is the centre of the cross marked in red. If you close the streets leading to the memorial you effectively bring the town to a halt.  Unfortunately, as you can see the weather on this day was not as good as that in the image above. 

But, roughly 5 minutes from 11 am. The police blocked the roads and for these brief few minutes the town ground to a halt. Banners were raised and the ceremony commenced. 

There is a sequence of events for these commemorations:

  1. At 11am, the Last Post is played
  2. The exhortation is then read 
  3. The Two Minute Silence then begins
  4. The end of the silence is signalled by playing the Reveille

The Exhortation:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left 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.”

Response: “We will remember them.”

Great Britain still believes strongly in remembering not only those who fought in the two World Wars, but also the more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women killed or injured since 1945, and I see that each year as I participate in the commemorations. Tomorrow the town will stop once again and many more people will gather to pay their respects, and I am proud to be a part of it. 

This year I was finally able to plant a poppy cross that I had been carrying since I arrived in the UK. The Field of Remembrance was not a large one, but that doesn’t really matter because the intention is what counts. 

South Africa is slowly reawakening to the importance of this Act of Remembrance, long after it was downplayed by the previous government.  It is up to the young to carry these acts of remembrance forward, and many are out there are the time of writing this, collecting for charity and wearing their poppy with pride 

Sunday 12/11/2017.

This morning when I got up it was seemingly clearing but not for long, and by the time I left home at 9.50 it was drizzling very softly.  Town was deserted but that could be because High Street was barricaded closed.

I headed down to the Abbey to waste some time and take a few pics and by the time the service was finishing the sun had arrived too and was shining brightly. It was however cold and I regretted not wearing my parka.  

The nice thing about the deserted streets was that you could get some pics of some of the buildings that were usually blocked out by cars.

I think we need to close off the roads more often so that we can just admire these old timber framed beauties from close up.

I started to head towards the War Memorial but ended up trying to help somebody that was hopelessly lost and trying to find their way to Swindon. Unfortunately that is almost impossible from Tewkesbury, unless you go via Cheltenham.  

By the time I was able to find a spot the crowd had swelled considerably, it was decidedly full! 

Last year I had sited myself on the left of this picture, but this year I had not been able to get there in time so took what I could get. The parade would enter from the left, encircle the memorial and then would start once the long crocodile had all arrived. There are a lot of people in that parade, ranging from old to very young. 

And then we were all there and the Service of Remembrance could start shortly before 11 am. I do not know how many people there had a connection to the military, but it did not really matter, the fact that there were so many is encouraging. The chilly weather did not help much and I know I was cold and some of those kids in the parade were probably even colder in their inadequate uniforms. The sun was behind me which does explain the heavy shadows. 

And then there was two minutes of silence and reflection, followed by the wreath laying.

Unfortunately a PA system was not in place so all we heard was a murmur in the distance and we sort of followed the proceedings as best we could. After the wreaths had been laid the parade marched back the way it had come, turned around and then headed back towards the memorial, passing it on the left and up towards the Town Hall where the Mayor would take the salute. 

We all stood on the sidelines watching the parade pass, doing an “eyes right” as they approached the memorial. Leading the parade was the Tewkesbury Town Band. Not only do we have a town band, we also have a Town Crier!

The column became more ragged as it neared the end as many service, civic and school groups were marching too, doing their level best to keep in some sort of step. And then the future of Remembrance made their approach. Many probably wished they were at home in bed, or elsewhere, and I am sure many did not realise the significance of what they were doing. But, the fact that they were here today was because of those who took up arms over 100 years ago. 


And then it was over and Tewkesbury returned to some sort of Sunday normality. I am always left looking at my photographs and trying to find ones that can really explain the importance of holding a Remembrance Day service, and it always comes down to 2 groups of people: the veterans and the young. When I grew up we were literally surrounded by men (and occasionally women) that had served in one of the World Wars and in my case it was my father and my grandfather. And we thought we knew the whole history and reasons behind the two wars. But looking back now we did not know them, or understand why our family members went to war. Eventually my brother and I would both do our national service and would join the brotherhood of those who took up arms. But, our service was regional, whereas the two world wars had a global reach, affecting the whole world and causing reverberations that we still feel today. But over the past 4 years in the United Kingdom I have come to realise that the war effected the United Kingdom much more deeply. In fact I doubt whether this island ever got over the slaughter of the trenches, and each time I see my images I can see that the wound will never heal, and every year they will continue to march and sell and wear a poppy in commemoration of those who were a part of the institutionalised slaughter of warfare. And if we could ask those gone before what lessons were there to be learnt? they would all reply: Never let it happen again. It is a pity our world leaders never seem to understand that, if they did we would not need to have a Remembrance Day in the first place.


‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.’

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 11/11/2017 and 12/11/2017.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:04

Connections: It’s a record!

As I said in a post awhile ago, “connections” is all about how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It can be fascinating to work your way through a series and to tie it all together. I have been looking for a nice set of connections and today I found one. I call it “It’s a Record” and it is about gramophones, records and popular music.

This morning I was discussing something with the one manager and somehow we ended up talking about gramophones,  and he mentioned that he had a record from 1908 that he can play on his vintage gramophone but was not too sure about what it was about,  but he could make out something about “bells bells bells”. When I returned to my desk my brain would not let this go because in my music collection there is also a song about bells. Could it be a newer iteration of an old theme? Unfortunately the track I was after is not on my MP3 player but I know enough to be able to tie this into that most famous of poets Edgar Allan Poe.

I have read some Poe, and always found it somewhat dark and dreary to ponder this long forgotten pile of ancient lore, but I also have on my MP3 player an LP by one of my favourite groups: The Alan Parsons Project. The Project released a studio album in 1976 entitled “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”. To quoth the blurb at Wikipedia “The lyrical and musical themes of the album, are retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe.  The title of the album is taken from the title of a collection of Poe’s macabre stories of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908″.  This date is important, keep it in mind.

Now I have been listening to Parsons since 1981 after I was introduced to the music by some of the guys in our infantry company and I was hooked, and over the years bought the LP’s as they came out. But then the CD came into being and the record stopped being the dominant way to own music, and the CD took centre stage. I never liked how they foisted the CD onto us so I stopped buying music, instead I would listen to my old LP’s on my hifi until that was stolen in a series of burglaries in 1999.

I rediscovered The Alan Parsons Project in 2004 and found out that they had a whole wodge of stuff I had never heard before and I gradually acquired it all on MP3 and occasionally CD. Something however was missing from the official releases that I knew about and here my information is a bit uncertain. One of the original members of APP was Eric Woolfson,  who was executive producer, pianist, and co-creator of the Project. He was an accomplished musician in his own right, and somewhere along the line I heard about a project that he was involved in called “Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination“. I heard snippets of it and started to hunt down a copy, but alas trying to find something as obscure in South Africa was incredibly difficult due to monopolies in the retail music trade, the exchange rate and the lack of suppliers. I eventually managed to pick up one track at a time from various sources, and some were totally amazing (“Tiny Star”, “Immortal” and “Wings of Eagles” comes to mind almost immediately), others were strictly of the “listen to once, never again” class of music. One of the tracks on this LP that did not exist was called “The Bells” (see where we are going yet?).

When I heard those words this morning I thought of this piece of music, it is not one of my favourites because it is so strange, however, the LP is about the works of Edgar Allan Poe, could this be the same one? A quick Google and voila! The mystery is solved. 

It turns out that our 1908 recording of “The Bells” is a reading of the poem by Canon Fleming of London, who seems to have been quite a regular performer of poetry readings that ended up on those new fangled gramophone records like the original 1908 record in the image below.  It is very possible that this was released to tie in with the first publication of Tales of Mystery & Imagination in 1908!  

Unfortunately we do not have a handy gramophone at work, but a quick look found renditions of it available on Youtube. And, I rate it on the same scale of strangeness as hearing “Be British” sung by by Stanley Kirkby in 1912 following the sinking of the Titanic. These are really voices from the past of people long gone and an era that is very different from the one that we live in now.

Canon Fleming died in 1908, but his voice still exists on that round disk with a hole in the centre, and while his rendition of “The Bells” is somewhat melodramatic it really has to be taken in the context of the media that it was on. Families owned gramophones and would spend an evening listening to music or poetry readings on the gramophones (while their Fox Terriers listened at the bell end). I am currently reading Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, penned by the war poet Siegfried Sassoon and in it he describes how they used to listen to the gramophone in their dugout, and how they had a stash of records that were played over and over. We did a similar thing when I was doing my national service, only our gramophone was now a tape recorder or a portable radio. We certainly did have much more variety than those who rode out their time underground in the bunkers of WW1, and of course modern soldiers probably carry MP3 players or their music on their cellphones. The enjoyment of recorded media is common to us all. 

So, where did this all tie in together? It was really the remembering of that obscure piece on “More Takes of Mystery and Imagination” that rang the bells in my head, and of course had I not read Poe I would not have made the connection to the Alan Parsons Project, which I started to explore while in the army, listening to music to break the monotony, much like soldiers did in the trenches of battle. There you have it, another nice set of connections. 

As an aside  I really want to explore the portable music theme by finally posting images of two of the record players I have spotted locally in the one charity shop where I live. 

These are standalone record players that were used without a hifi or an amplifier. They usually had their own speaker attached, and most of the time that was in the detachable lid. 

The humble gramophone is a very nice collectable, and having a selection of records to go with it, whether they are tinplate, shellac or vinyl makes it a wonderful conversation piece, because most of us can relate to it from our past. Those odd crackly clicks and hisses from the speaker or horn gave those records an additional richness that is lacking in the digital reproductions of today. I know amongst my MP3 collection I had an MP3 that had been created from an audio recording of a vinyl record, complete with the attendant snaps and crackles from the original. There is something about that first touch of a stylus on a record that is missing from the MP3’s of today, not to mention that short burst of static that was a precursor to the actual music.  

Canon Fleming is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London which ties into my own visits to the cemetery in 2013 and 2016, although I was unaware of him at the time (writes note to self to find grave next time). As for “Be British”; many years back when I was still interested in the Titanic I bought a set of items from the UK (and it was one heck of a rigmarole to do), and part of it was an audio tape that had some of the period tie ins to the disaster. “Be British” really stood out because it personified the arrogance of those who decided that a ship was unsinkable, and would only carry enough boats for its size and not for the amount of people it carried. 

And that more or less concludes this post about connections. I hope to find more in the future because they are always around us if we only just stop and join the dots. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 30/10/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02

Real writing

Yesterday I was working on allatsea and in particular I was adding to a page about my childhood in SA, and it was all about writing. By writing I mean the physical act of forming words using a pen or pencil (or a quill or even a hammer and chisel). I learnt how to “write” in my third year of primary school (Std 1 for those who come from my generation), at least I learnt how to do what they called “real writing”, or, as it is better known “cursive script“.

I knew more or less how to write (print) by the time I hit school anyway, but this new fangled skill was one that was taught way back then to almost every child in the country, doing real writing set you apart from your fellows in the junior classes and meant that there was one more thing for teachers to nit pick and to warm the rear end/knuckles/legs or wherever they preferred to use the wooden spoon or ruler. We had specially ruled exercise books with the normal lines and an extra line above and below it. It looked similar to the pic below; the green lines being the extra lines.  

Technically these spaces were where the ascenders and descenders would go so that they were all the same size. Heaven help you if those ascenders and descenders were not of the same height or depth, you would have to do it again until you caught the hint. Of course all slopes had to be at the same angle too, and I think we would have initially practised individual letters until we had more or less got the hang of our P’s and Q’s. Remember that there are upper and lower case versions of each letter of the alphabet and they all had to join up somehow.

All of this new fangled stuff was crammed into our heads and we had to stop using printing and start using cursive or else! (slitting of throat motion with finger).

I was one of those thousands of school children all over the world that had an awful handwriting, even I admit that I cannot read it, although the scrawl I use today bears little resemblance to the scrawl I had way back in the late 1960’s.  I am not quite sure who decided to make school children miserable by imposing the restrictions of cursive script in our lives, it was not as if we had a gazillion other things to worry about. Cursive is supposed to speed up your handwriting by eliminating the constant pen raising that printing imposes, although I was always much quicker printing than writing cursive. In fact today I use a mix of both, joining 2 or 3 letters into one and printing others, although my handwriting has really developed and changed as I became more or a keyboard user. Everybody does agree that only pharmacists can read what I write and it usually will result in a box of green pills, a cough mixture and a very large spiked suppository.

Lucida Handwriting font

Back in school we would labour over our exercises all under the watchful gaze of Mrs Shirmer who seemingly created perfect letters on the board which looked nothing like the labourious creations that we struggled with. As far as we were concerned she was never satisfied, and a glare from Miss Shirmer could  chase a lion away. 

As the years passed so we got better at it, considering how much practise we had, although every one of us had a different style of writing, some were neater than others (girls mostly) and some looked like drunken spiders had done a waltz down the page. 

When we hit high school we were introduced to a new subject called “Technical Drawing” and our first week or so was spent relearning how to print! Mr Van Der Merwe would tell us to fill a page with A’s or B’s or C’s depending on his mood and how bad we were unlearning cursive. In technical drawing everything is printed, cursive is not used! neatness was imperative and stencils were not allowed. I think tech drawing was one subject I really found interesting because it gave me a whole new world to explore, and while I was not brilliant at it I was that interested in it that after I had left school I bought a drawing board, and used to draw isometric and perspective drawings of ships and aircraft.   I probably still use the skills I learnt in that class today, and while I can’t remember how to draw an ellipse I at least know what an ellipse is. 

Back at the normal school desk we were now much faster at taking notes, and often had to translate from Afrikaans to English on the fly while scribbling at a rate of knots and naturally I drew comments about my scrawl.  

Not much has changed except that nowadays I do not need to use cursive anymore, In fact while thinking about this blogpost I tried my hand at writing the alphabet in cursive, and it was not good! However, there is no teacher leaning over me and making suggestive motions with the cane or wooden spoon. I can write as untidy as I want to and nobody can tell me otherwise. There appears to be a movement afoot to stop the teaching of cursive script in schools and I am ambivalent about that, I do think that it is a skill to acquire although not much use in a modern world where keyboards dominate and most teens can do things with their thumbs and cellphones that I won’t even attempt. It would really be a shame to scrap the skill because it is considered archaic and of no real use, if anything it should be taught because sometimes you just need to sit down and write a decent letter to the bank manager or your sweetheart. Alas  nobody writes letters anymore and that personal touch is gone.  

As somebody that dabbles in history it is inevitable that I will encounter documents from an era when cursive was extensively used, and trying to decipher that writing can be really difficult, so maybe being able to write cursive does make sense.

The example above I found in an archive and it was a petition to Paul Kruger for a pardon, although it was very legible in spite of it being over 100 years old. 

I used to have a number of penfriends over the years, and we used to scrawl our way back and forth on a regular basis, and of course when we were in the army letter writing was a regular occupation. Somehow sending an email home just lacks that touch that a much thumbed letter holds. Letters were things to keep and reread when it got quiet and you longed for home, and of course many soldiers would lovingly sniff the pink pages that their girlfriends would send them, and that would cause them to perform many pushups. A printed love letter just does not cut it!  

So pick up your pen and relearn cursive, it may come in handy one day!

Yours sincerely,

© DRW 2017-2018.  

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02

Losing a pet

Yesterday when I got home I had a message from my brother telling me that one of his dogs had passed away. This dog that went by the moniker “Ladybird”, was one of two that he got from the local SPCA many years ago and they were both probably about 4-5 years old at the time, although I always suspected that she was a bit older. She certainly had that grey look that an old dog has, and suffered from fits and was partly deaf, but that did not prevent her from squirming her way into his affections, just like the dog he had before, and the one before. And, when each one passed away he was left devastated. Such is the love that an owner has for their pets.

I never really bonded with her, although when I was looking after the house when he was in hospital I was her best friend because I wielded the tin opener, and I ended up having to deal with her fits. There isn’t much that you can do except make sure she doesn’t fall off the couch or injure herself as the fit happens. It was not a pleasant thing to experience, and I am sure that it was even worse for her. My brother did not use that as an excuse to have her put down, instead he kept her safe as she would have her fits and then made sure she had come out it properly. They were very attached and he will miss her terribly. Like so many dogs she would follow him around, and in spite of her deafness could sense the opening of a tin or the slight rustle of a packet from a mile away. She was not a picky eater and would gobble her food as well as the other dogs food and then still wander around looking hungry. I remember when he got her how thin she was, and after a few months she had definitely become more rotund around the midriff. When I saw her earlier this year she had taken to wandering around the kitchen in circles, in one door, out the other. She was however looking her age, which was over 10 years, possibly closer to 15.

Ladybird (L) and Teddy Bear (R)

They say that your pets wait for you at the place where you go when you die, in fact most people bank on that and I know it will be disappointing if it does not happen, because whether we like it or not pets give us a glimpse of unconditional love unlike many human relationships.

The other dog remaining is somewhat of a loner, he preferred corners or being underneath items of furniture, and it often made us speculate on his former owners treatment of him. But, he loved a good scratch, sleep and fart and was not that obsessed with food, instead he tended to nibble, but his partner would gulp it all down while he chewed thoughtfully. Unfortunately he is partly blind now, and I expect he will miss his companion, even though they were never really close. I hate to say this but think his time is not that far away either.

I have never had a dog of my own, although I was very attached to our first dog from when I was very young. That dog was the one that cured my phobia for dogs, and when he was killed I was devastated. I have however enjoyed the company of other people’s dogs and cats and most have left my life just that little bit richer, and sadder when they left after a long and fruitful life.

Ladybird may not have been a beacon of light in the world, but she was my brothers beacon of light and he will miss her terribly, This is the third dog that he has seen leave him, and each parting has been difficult. But, she will live on in his memories and in mine, just like Nelson and Skipper do, and she will not be forgotten.

Update. 25/11/2017

This morning I saw one of the locals that lived in my area walking up the road, usually she doesn’t go anywhere without her little King Charles spaniel and will walk it many times during the day. I asked her about her little dog and she tearfully told me that she had to have him put down as he was suffering from what sounded like dementia and was unable to function. She was devastated, and I could see that she did not want to talk because of the anguish she was going through. I asked her whether she would get another dog and she replied, “I am old, there was only the two of us”. Her life has literally been turned upside down, and I felt very sad to see this woman in this state. The loss of that dog was traumatic for her, it gave her a reason to get out of the house in all weather and multiple times of the day. That reason no longer exists for her. Her life has become empty without her pet and I sincerely hope that one day I will bump into her walking another dog,

I enjoy seeing all the dogs in my area, and watching them chase balls in the field, they enrich our lives, and when they pass on they leave a large hole in our hearts; ask anybody that lost their pet, and they will agree completely. Dogs may be animals, but I would rather know some dogs than some people.  

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 18/10/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:02
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