Tuesday, 9 May 2017

9th May 1917 - The End Of The First Battle of Doiran

Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914 and three days later Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, the newly appointed Secretary of State for War, made his first appeal for volunteers to join the British Army.  By 12th September 478,893 men had joined up including John "Jack" Spiers, a French polisher who lived in Shoreditch in London.
Jack enlisted on his thirty-first birthday, 2nd September, although he lied about his age and claimed to be only thirty.  Leaving behind his wife, Carrie, and two year-old daughter, Julie, he marched off into the Royal Field Artillery, transferring into the Royal Berkshire Regiment, 7th (Service) Battalion after six months.  The battalion set sail for France on 19th September 1915 and from there moved to Salonika, now called Thessaloniki, where the borders of Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria meet, two months later.  There, the British Salonika Force (BSF) joined an international Allied army which had been asked to protect Serbia from the Bulgarian Army. 
The Salonika Front stretched from Albania to the mouth of the River Struma in Greece and by March 1917 the BSF was holding 90 miles of that front. In April, the Allied forces launched an offensive and on the night of 24-25 April the BSF tried to overpower the Bulgarian armed positions near Lake Doiran.  The British retreated with heavy casualties and tried again on the night of 8-9 May, sending in the first of five waves of troops at 9pm.  The fighting continued all night and into the next day until the British retreated again, ending the First Battle of Doiran.  They had lost 12,000 men (killed, wounded or captured); the Bulgarians had lost 2,000.
One of those wounded men was Jack, shot in the head, chest and right arm.  The army sent a standard letter to Carrie which has a date stamp on it of 23 May 1917 from the Infantry Record Office in Warwick.
I regret to have to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office to the effect that (No.) 16995 (Rank) A/Cpl. (Name) J. Spiers (Regiment) ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGT. was wounded on the 9th day of May 1917.
It has not yet been reported into what hospital he has been admitted, nor are other particulars yet known, but directly any further information is received it will be at once communicated to you.
I am to express to you the sympathy and regret of the Army
Yours faithfully
W. Payton
The words and numbers I have shown in italics were handwritten on the lines printed on the form, the name of the regiment was stamped and the rest of the letter was typed.  Poor Carrie.  Two days later, another standard letter was sent:
I regret to have to inform you that a report has on this day been received from the War Office to the effect that (No.) 16995 (Rank) A/Cpl (Name) Spiers. J. (Regiment) ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGT. is dangerously ill at 28 Gen. Hospital Salonica suffering from wounds.  12.5.17
I am at the same time to express the sympathy and regret of the Army Council.
Any further information received in this office as to his condition or progress will be at once notified to you.
I am, Madam,
Your obedient Servant,
W Payton
On 26 May, another standard letter was sent:
With reference to previous notification I have to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office to the effect that
(No.) 16995 (Rank) Pte
(Name) Spiers J.
(Regiment) ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGT.     is
Still dangerously ill.  19.5.17
Any further information received in this office as to his condition or progress will be at once notified to you.
I am, Madam,
Your obedient Servant,
W Payton 
Over the ensuing weeks, a further seven of these forms were sent to Carrie.  On 2 June, Jack's condition was "slightly improved" (and his rank was restored to Acting Corporal), on 9 June he was again "slightly improved" but on 16 June, more than seven weeks after he was wounded, he was "still dangerously ill".  On 23 and 30 June he was "slightly improved" and at last, on 7 July, he was "out of danger".  How Carrie's heart must have lifted when she read that.  The last of these forms, dated 24 August but not dated in Warwick until 18 September, reported that Jack "is now at Military Hos. Tigne Malta".  He was well enough to be moved. 
Jack was in hospital in Malta for more than five months before he came home to England, arriving at the beginning of February 1918.  He had been away for more than three years but I don't think he was home yet because this photograph shows him wearing the blue invalid uniform, "Hospital Blues", which was issued in British hospitals to those patients who could get out of bed.  Jack is the first chap on the left of the back row (as usual, click on the photo to see it enlarged and it's probably worth it with this one). - 

Jack was discharged from the army in August 1918, "no longer fit for war service" and in March 1923 the Ministry of Pensions assessed his disablement at 30% due to the wounds in his head and his right arm and so awarded him a life pension: 13 shillings with 5 shillings 3d for his wife and child every week, to be readjusted in 1926.   I am glad that he was awarded that pension for the rest of his life because he received it for more than thirty years: a boy born in this country in 1883 had a life expectancy of 42 years but Jack was 70 years old when he died in 1954, not killed by a Bulgarian bullet but by lung cancer.
Carrie kept those ten letters sent to her by the army and then her daughter, Julie, kept them until she died in 2005.  Julie's son, my father, has them now, along with the medals Jack was awarded for his service. 
Jack was my great-grandfather. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Five April Things

Hello, thank you for your patience and your kind comments.  You lot are bloomin' lovely.  It's all still rumbling on and I am putting one foot in front of the other every day.  Last weekend we went to North Yorkshire, a hospice visit to one of my two remaining aunts.  The week has flown by since then but I was keen to join Five on Friday this week as I haven't been able to join in since Tricky Wolf began hosting.  Easter might seem a long way back now but it's really only a fortnight since the new school term began.  We had a good break, a mixture of chores, relaxation and outings, including our trip to London, so here are five things we did during the holidays.
1.  Llangollen
On the spur of the moment the Best Beloved and I drove to Llangollen one sunny afternoon and took a trip on the canal in a horse-drawn boat.  It took about twenty-five minutes for Harley to pull us a mile down the towpath, a lovely, gentle journey past leafy trees and flower-filled gardens accompanied by a family of ducklings and the steady clip-clop of Harley's hooves.  It was impossible not to slow down mentally and relax.  Then we glided back to the wharf and ate ice creams in the sunshine.  I still feel a bit strange doing this kind of thing without our girls, and a teeny bit guilty, but I am learning how to have fun without them.  (Oh, and in case you were wondering, it's pronounced Clan-goth-len.)

2.  The Long Mynd
The Mathematician flew home for a few days and we took her over to the Long Mynd to remind her that while Guernsey may have beautiful beaches, Shropshire has stunning scenery too.  A blue sky with cotton-wool clouds perfectly set off the greens and golds but my goodness, it was windy up there.

 3.  Jesus Christ Superstar
It has become our family tradition to watch this film, the 2000 version, on Good Friday, preferably whilst eating a gazillion hot cross buns.  I have a video copy, yes, old-fashioned VHS, and I am probably the only person I know who still has a video recorder on which to play it.  Well, if I didn't have the machine, I wouldn't be able to watch the film, would I?  Last year we were a little worried that the video might be wearing out as it was a bit shaky in places so this year, I bit the bullet and bought a DVD copy; it was like watching a different film!  The quality of the images was amazing.  I wept buckets.  (There were not enough hot cross buns, an epic failure on the part of the Best Beloved, who will now have to wait a whole year to redeem himself.)

 4.  Pistyll Rhaeadr
(Try this: Pistith Rye-adder).  Pistyll Rhaeadr is the tallest waterfall in Wales and taller than any waterfall in England.  We have been going there for more than twenty years and this was the first time we have been without any children.  Many memories surfaced of happy, sunny picnics and splashing in the water.  This visit was different but it's a special place which, as usual, worked its magic upon me and it probably deserves a blogpost of its own but in the meantime, here it is.
5.  Crochet
I have been spending a lot of time in the passenger seat of a car recently so I have been using that time to learn to crochet.  I know that some of you are very skilled in this art but I only started learning last year so I am delighted with this, the beginnings of a rainbow blanket for a baby due next month. 

So that, with a trip to London and a fair bit of gardening, was our Easter holiday.  Thank you to Tricky and Carly at F.A.S.T. for hosting Five on Friday - if you have time, gentle reader, please hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing this week.
I shall be back here on Tuesday with another post.  I know that's terribly definite, but 9th May is a very definite date. 
See you then.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle  x


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

London Memories, Old and New

Hello my Lovelies, I am sorry I have been away for so long.  When you are in your fifties, the generation before you are in their seventies, eighties and nineties and so the last month or so has been beset with health problems and funerals - long lives well lived, but even so... you know.  I also have the ongoing effects of a nasty bullying situation rumbling away in the background which seems to be affecting me more than I thought it was.  I should probably have looked to Blogland for solace because I do find it to be a comforting place but instead, I retreated from it.
However, over the Easter weekend the Best Beloved and I went on a little jaunt which has given me such a fillip that I am bursting to share it with you: we have been to London to see my favourite band play at the Royal Albert Hall!  Show of Hands play there once every five years and in 2012 we took The Mathematician with us to see them.  It was a great evening, made even greater because during the interval we were offered the opportunity to move from our seats in the Circle into a box in the Grand Tier, right next to the stage.  That sort of thing doesn't usually happen to us and I have been dining out on the story ever since, and it's one of the reasons why I decided not to go this time, because I couldn't see how the experience could be repeated and I didn't want to be disappointed, especially with the cheapest tickets, in the Circle, costing £35.
However, The Mathematician surprised us with tickets on Christmas Day, just two this time, a generous gift from one so young, and the Best Beloved decided that as there would be just two of us, we could push the boat out and stay in a hotel overnight.  This would automatically make the evening better than 2012 when we had to leave the show before the encore in order to catch the last train home.  Can I just emphasise the details of this trip? - The Best Beloved and I were going to London by ourselves for the first time in almost thirty years to see my favourite band and stay in a hotel!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
So we set off on Sunday morning to drive to my sister's house in Buckinghamshire.  Not only does she have a lovely bundle of sons, but she also has a lovely bundle of three-week-old kittens at the moment and there was much oooohing and aaaahing from me (over both boys and kittens).  I am sorry this photo isn't very clear but even though I asked the kittens to sit still and pose, they ignored me so this was the best I could do.
So after tea and cuddles we left our car at my sister's house and she drove us to the station to catch the train to Paddington.  Once there, we made our way to the Underground to wait for a District Line train and while we were on the platform I was unexpectedly bowled over by a wave of something.  Nostalgia?  Possibly, it was hard to put my finger on it but it was a warm, happy wave and I suddenly realised that I had stood on this platform many times in my teens-and-a-little-bit-later waiting for trains and that usually, I was going somewhere exciting.  Memories began to resurface, trips to the Horse Show at Olympia, to see Bruce Springsteen at Wembley, to see exhibitions and shows and to meet up with friends, all began right here on this platform after a train ride in to Paddington, as well as journeys back to university at the ends of the holidays.  Don't get me wrong, there were many long, tiresome, frustrating waits for trains so the platform experiences themselves were not entirely rosy, but I wouldn't have made the happy memories if I hadn't waited on that platform.
It felt like a really good welcome to London.  We didn't have a long, tiresome wait for a train and eventually, after a blip during which the Best Beloved made me walk a mile in the wrong direction, we reached our hotel.  (He said that we will laugh about it in the future and I told him to be quiet, rather sharply.)  At 5pm we set out again to find something cheap to eat before taking the tube to South Kensington, where somebody has made a pretty garden on the platform.
We ambled all the way up Exhibition Road, enjoying the evening sunshine.  The Victoria and Albert Museum positively glowed.
We carried on past the Science Museum and Imperial College, our heads up all the time as we marvelled again at the architecture, and turned into Prince Consort Road before at last turning into Albert Court. 
We had arrived in plenty of time and climbed up three flights of stairs to the Circle.  Frankly, my legs were killing me by this time and I was gasping and although the bars were open, there were no seats so people were sitting on the floor in the corridor enjoying their pre-show drinks, so the Best Beloved suggested that we take our seats in the auditorium and then he would go back to the bar and buy our drinks.  I thought this was an excellent idea!  We went to the door and showed our tickets to the usher who said, "That's fine.  Would you like to sit in the Grand Tier instead?"  A big smile spread across my face and I replied, "Yes we would, thank you very much," possibly a little too quickly, and he exchanged our tickets.  And that's how we ended up sitting in armchairs at the back of Box 23 in the Grand Tier at the Royal Albert Hall.  The view was wonderful, almost central to the stage, there was lots of leg room and the atmosphere in our box was very jolly as at least eight out of twelve of us had been "upgraded". (Please don't worry that we were at the back of the box because there are only three rows and each is a step higher than the one in front, so the view is great.)  We really couldn't believe it and nor could The Mathematician when we told her - as she said, "We are not lucky people.". 

The show was FAB-U-LOUS.  Show of Hands were marvellous and so were their guests.  We had eaten a cheap dinner so we could afford to spend more than £11 on a pint of beer and a gin and tonic before the show and then do it again during the interval.  We sipped them IN OUR BOX.  Afterwards, we took a taxi back to the hotel where we drank some more gin and tonic in our room, using mugs because the glasses were the size of thimbles.  We were in London without our (lovely) children, staying in a hotel, drinking gin after seeing my favourite band.  Life felt very good indeed.
On Monday morning we ate a leisurely breakfast in the hotel before setting off back to Paddington for the train back to Buckinghamshire and as we boarded our train on Platform 8 we were able to pay our respects to the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel, designer of the station and Chief Engineer of the Great Western Railway.  (There is another statue on Platform 1, a small bear wearing a duffel coat and hat, but I didn't photograph him as he was besieged by children.)  We spent the journey smiling and going over the events of the previous evening (and avoiding talking about how the Best Beloved had led me the wrong way down the road for a mile).  As I looked out of the window I noticed how much further along the trees are in London than they are in Shropshire - hawthorn blossom is out already, wisteria too.
Some of you who know my love of the seaside and the countryside may be surprised by my love of London, so can I just say that tucked away in my coat pocket, ready for me to slip my hand in and touch them whenever I needed a bit of reassurance, were two shells and a small pebble, gathered from the beach at Dinas Dinlle in February?  You see, you do know me after all.
See you soon (at least, that's the plan!).
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Saturday, 18 March 2017

In My Garden

Hello, thank you for calling in, it's lovely to see you here.  Today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home as she hosts Five On Friday for the last time, so you are especially welcome here if you have come via Amy's blog. 
My life hasn't been very exciting recently - it has been quite full, but full of small, ordinary things, not interesting things to share with you.  There has been a lot of knitting, but also a lot of frogging so it's not ready for a Ta-dah! yet.  There has, as always, been a lot of cooking, but everyday meals, not wow-look-at-this creations.  There has been time spent with friends, but I couldn't POSSIBLY tell you what we've talked about!!  There have been some visits to old churches, but I am not ready to share yet, and I don't want to be the woman whose blog posts are all about old churches.  However, I was very keen to take part in Five On Friday this week because it's Amy's last week as host and I wanted to acknowledge her sterling work which has introduced me to so many of your blogs and brought me many more readers than I would otherwise have.  My only difficulty was finding five sufficiently interesting things to share with you.
Mother Nature brought them to me on Wednesday when I ventured out into the garden.  My back garden always looks very scruffy through the winter as we don't tidy it up in the autumn, a deliberate ploy to provide food and shelter for the little creatures which visit here.  It doesn't bother us because we can't see the back garden from the house and rarely have cause to go out there during the winter months, so it is deliberately planted to look its best during the summer.  The tidy-up usually happens in April during the Easter holidays but on Wednesday the sun was shining and the temperature a balmy 16 degrees Celsius  so I decided to make an early start on the pruning and weeding (these are my jobs as the Best Beloved only likes the kind of gardening which involves A Machine). 
I was stopped in my tracks by this sight in my neighbour's garden and hurried back indoors to get my camera -
The dying camellia flowers have dropped and landed in a bed of crocus.  I found the image arrestingly beautiful and I am aware that I haven't caught that on camera, but to me, it also symbolised the turn of the seasons, the fading of winter and the vibrant life of spring.  Looking up, there were plenty of glorious flowers still holding onto the shrub -
I sat beneath a buddleia and looked up through the new, lush, green growth at the blue sky above -
Further down the garden, the forsythia was absolutely glowing in the sunshine -
I spent a couple of hours out there and it felt soooooooo good; not only the warmth of the sun on my body but the satisfaction of a tired body after physical exertion and a tidier patch of garden.  If you have been reading here for a while, you may know that I am an astronomical kind of gal and I define the seasons by the movement of the Earth around the Sun, so Spring can't begin until the equinox on 20th March, but as I sat in the sunshine looking at the new growth and listening to the courting birds I had to acknowledge that Spring is already springing - but of course, I couldn't possibly admit that in public!
So there you are, five photographs taken in my almost-Spring garden on a beautiful March day.  Huge thanks to Amy for building the lovely, warm community that is Five On Friday and good wishes to her for her future.  I hope to be here next Friday for the first Five On Friday to be hosted by Tricky and Carly at F.A.S.T.  In the meantime, I really ought to sort out that flamin' knitting.
See you soon,
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Tiniest Church in Wales

Hello, thank you for dropping in, it's always lovely to see you.  The sun is shining as I write this, actually shining, and for the third consecutive day!  Oh yes, I feel that spring is definitely around the corner. 
When the Best Beloved and I went to Anglesey during half term we planned to stop on the way and visit the tiniest church in Wales, Capel St Trillo at Rhos-on-Sea.  "It's on the promenade, just west of Rhos Point," I said to the Best Beloved.  So we drove all the way along beside the promenade until we had left Rhos-on-Sea behind and reached Penrhyn Bay, but we didn't find the tiny church.  We turned the car around and drove all the way back along beside the promenade, but still we couldn't see the church, so we stopped the car, dug out the satnav, programmed in the church and set off along Marine Drive for the third time.  "It's here!"  I said when we reached our destination.  "Where?" said the Best Beloved.  "It must be here," I replied, "Satnav says so."  We parked the car and then I saw this sign -
and when we got out of the car and peeped over the wall, we saw the little chapel, hunkered down against the stonework -
It's no wonder we almost missed it.  We walked down the path to the prom and found that the chapel sits in a tiny churchyard, too small for a burial ground but big enough to declare its presence -
Very little is known about St Trillo (pronounced Trith-lo).  Born in the sixth century, his father was a Breton prince and Trillo and his siblings came to Wales with St Cadfan as his students.  Trillo found a well here in about 570 AD and built an enclosure around it, covering the well itself with a tiny cell, probably made of wattle and daub.  It is likely that the well was the only one in the area, which kept it in use after Trillo left in 590 AD, and certainly pilgrims came here for the water's "miraculous" healing properties.  Eventually, a stone structure was built, although nobody seems quite sure when, and in 1756 Thomas Pennant, the Welsh naturalist, traveller and writer wrote this:

"Saw, close to the shore, the singular little building called St Trillo's Chapel.  It is oblong; has a window at each side, and at the end; a small door and a vaulted roof paved with round stones instead of being slated.  Within is a well.  The whole building is surrounded with a stone wall."

Any visitor today would recognise the chapel from that description, although the building was comprehensively restored in the 1890s, having become quite dilapidated.  It was reconsecrated by the Bishop of St Asaph on 16th June 1935.

So there is my potted history of Capel St Trillo.  I stood in the doorway and looked in and this is what I saw -

"Tiny" is definitely the right word":  the chamber measures 11' x 8', that's smaller than my bedroom, and seats six people, although I believe they can squeeze more in if the chairs are removed!  There were flowers on the windowsills and on the altar, some with cards explaining that they had been given in memory of a loved one, or to celebrate a family occasion; also on the altar were a cross, a lighted candle, prayer cards with pens and a noticeboard inviting you to pin your prayer requests there, where they would be used in the communion service every Friday before being passed to the Mothers' Union Prayer Group, which meets weekly.  Beneath the altar is the holy well.
That's what struck me most about this chapel: not its past but its present, the fact that it is a vital, living, caring church.  Capel St Trillo may not be the smallest church in Britain but it is the smallest active church in Britain as at least one service is held here every week.  Somebody cares enough to keep it swept and clean, to remove the dead flowers and refresh the vases, to offer prayers for those who visit, to hold that weekly service.  Water is drawn from the well for baptisms in the parish.  As I entered, I was overcome with a wave of emotion and found myself fighting back the tears which filled my eyes and I couldn't understand why, but when I talked it over with the Best Beloved that evening, he said that it was because of the love and care which I felt there.  Perhaps St Trillo hasn't left, after all?
After I left the chapel we sat on the prom for a while, watching the cormorants which come to feed on the extensive mussel beds between the shore and the sea.  The Best Beloved went to investigate some ancient wooden stakes among the stones on the beach - we think they may be remnants of the fishing weir which was here for more than seven hundred years before it fell into disuse during the First World War. 
All this time there was a steady stream of visitors going in and out of the chapel, solitary walkers, families, grandparents with young children, young couples.  I realised that I was fortunate to have been able to spend some minutes in there by myself, and I felt pleased that this special place continues to attract pilgrims more than 1,400 years after St Trillo left to carry on his mission elsewhere
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday, 3 March 2017

A Week of Days

Hello, thank you for calling in, and thank you if you left a comment on my last post.  I was surprised to see how many of you had never heard of a mermaid's purse, but then again, there are lots of things I have never heard of until I read about them in Blogland, it's one of the reasons I like it so much.
So, today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five On Friday so if you have time, please hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing this week.  Here are five days of this week:
1.  Shrove Tuesday

On Tuesday evening, the Best Beloved called in at the supermarket on his way home from work and arrived home bearing...a packet of pancakes.  Never before has a ready-made pancake crossed my threshold and I was, shall we say, extremely surprised.  He said that he had bought them because he wasn't sure what my plans were!!!!  So, we heated them up in the microwave oven, on the plates off which we then ate them.  It was quicker, easier and much less messy than making them, for all of which I am grateful, and they tasted perfectly acceptable...and at the same time, felt all wrong.  After all, the whole point is to use up the luxurious butter and sugar which are in the house before the onset of Lent, and buying a ready-made pancake doesn't really fulfil the brief, does it?  Still, the Best Beloved's pancake need was met and he was happy.  But honestly, I can't show you a photo of a shop-bought pancake, can I?
2.  Ash Wednesday
Do you give up something for Lent?  Like many people, I used to give up something indulgent like chocolates or biscuits, but a few years ago I decided that I wanted to do something which demanded more discipline and give up something which I have every day so I gave up bread.  I found it very difficult and took some satisfaction in that.  The period of Lent lasts for forty-six days of which forty are fasting days: the Sundays of Lent don't count because in the Christian tradition, the Lord's Day is always a day of celebration.  Honestly, it's true, not just a cop-out!  This made my "deprivation" bearable: no bread from Monday to Saturday but on Sunday, scrambled egg on toast for breakfast and sandwiches for tea, for six weeks.  The Best Beloved ensured that the bread was homemade so it really was a treat.  In a perverse sort of way, I enjoyed the rhythm of it so I did the same the following year.  Last year, I decided it was time for a change so I gave up...tea.  This was very challenging for a person whose name, it is joked in our house, means "Grumpy 'Til I've Had A Cup Of Tea".  Fortunately, I was surrounded by sympathetic people who understood how difficult it was, but I was surprised by the number of people who suggested alternative comforting, delicious drinks and while thanking them, I reminded them that my denial was supposed to be a bit difficult. 
On Tuesday evening I said to the Best Beloved, "I'm thinking of giving up tea again for Lent this year.  Was I a nightmare last year?"  "Yes," he replied, a little too quickly, "I think you should give up smoking."  I was nonplussed.  "But I don't smoke,"  I said.  "Exactly!"  he replied.  Hmmm.  So, after a lot of thought and discussion, I decided that as I already have quite a lot on my plate at the moment, and adding in a physical challenge might just tip me over the edge, I will instead participate in one of the online Lent photo challenges.  This will give me a daily discipline and rhythm and perhaps help with the reflective process, too. 
3.  St David's Day
Of course, Wednesday 1st March was also St David's Day.  I think I like St David; I certainly like the fact that, unlike the patron saints of England, Scotland and Ireland, he was a native of the country which adopted him as its patron saint.  He lived a simple, frugal life in the sixth century and his last words to his followers were,  "Lords, brothers and sisters, Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed, and do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. And as for me, I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us."   Do the little thingsI like that. I don't think I can do big things but I can do little things and make a difference that way.
By the twelfth century, St David was considered to be so important that the Pope declared that two pilgrimages to St David's  Cathedral in Pembrokeshire were equal to one pilgrimage to Rome and on a gloriously sunny day in 1990, I made half a pilgrimage to Rome.
4.  St Chad's Day
St Chad died on 2nd March 672 AD.  A humble, devout man who is said to have always travelled on foot, he became the first Bishop of Mercia and was given land in Lichfield on which to found a monastery.  Now, there is a cathedral there and it and many churches in the Anglican Diocese of Lichfield are dedicated to him, as well as the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham, while he is represented in stained glass and in statuary in many others - including my own parish church, as much of Shropshire lies in the Diocese of Lichfield.  In England, St Chad's Day is said to be the best day of the year on which to sow your broad beans!
5.  FriDay
I LOVE Friday evenings, at least, I have done for the last nine years or so, now that neither the Best Beloved nor I work at weekends.  Friday evening is a time to light the fire and the candles, open a bottle of wine and get excited about the weekend ahead, two whole days of being on our own time rather than somebody else's.  I love it.

So now it's almost 9pm on Friday, the fire is lit and it's time to light the candles and open the wine.  Cheers! 
See you soon,
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Welsh Treasures

Hello, thanks for popping in, it's so lovely to see you here.  Today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday, even though it's Saturday and I am chasing my tail again. 
So, this week was our half term holiday and like most teacher households, we have spent it catching up with the things we don't have time to do during term time.  We have helped our daughter and her husband with a bit of garden building, spent some time with my parents,    caught up with a good friend and done some admin and chores at home.  I have been with my lovely Holiday Husband and it's been relaxed, sociable and very satisfying.  However, in an unabashed bout of selfishness, we snuck away to the seaside in North Wales for a couple of days at the beginning of the week.  The cloud was so low that we didn't see the tops of the mountains - in fact, sometimes it was so low that we couldn't see the mountains at all - and the sun didn't shine once, but we didn't really care. 

We spent hours on the beach, walking, sitting, looking down on the sand and the stone and looking out at the waves and the birds.  We came home with earache,  aching legs, faces encrusted with salt and grinning from ear to ear.  Here are five things we saw while we were there.
1.  Welsh National Dress
St David's Day is fast approaching and it is customary for young children to wear traditional Welsh costumes to school on their national day.  We saw these hanging up at the front of a large supermarket - entire costumes, complete with hat and fabric daffodil.  For little boys, there were white shirts with red and black checked trousers, waistcoats and bow ties, the waistcoats adorned with a printed leek.  I have it on good authority that older children simply wear their national rugby shirts!
2.  A Mermaid's Purse
We have a saying in our house that whenever we go to Anglesey, I find a mermaid's purse, the eggcase of a shark or ray.  In fact, I found this one at Dinas Dinlle on the mainland, west of Caernarfon, a beautiful specimen.  It's curly tendrils, which attach the case firmly to bunches of seaweed, told me that it came from a shark rather than a ray and its large size and thick edges identify it as a nursehound case.  However, I think I prefer to believe that it belongs to a mermaid, who might keep her shiny little shells in it.
3.  A Spider Crab
I found this dead juvenile spider crab on Llanddwyn Beach on Anglesey.  It was very small and looked absolutely perfect.  Some people apparently think it's odd to take photographs of a dead crab but it seems quite reasonable to me!  Twenty-first century beachcombing.
4.  Brent Geese
As we arrived at LLanddwyn Beach, a small flock of Brent Geese flew in and landed in the shallows.  I spent quite a long time watching their comical behaviour - and Barbara, I thought of you! 
5.  St Trillo's Chapel
Tucked away on the promenade at Rhos-on-Sea is St Trillo's Chapel, one of the smallest churches in the country.  It's so small that we drove past it twice before we found it, despite the fact that we knew almost exactly where it was!  It is a little gem and deserves a whole blogpost of its own, but our visit was as much a part of this trip as the beachcombing and birdwatching so I wanted to share it with you here.
Happy weekend, everyone.  It's grey and gloomy here again.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

World Thinking Day

Hello, thank you for dropping in, as always, it's lovely to see you here.  Today is World Thinking Day, the day when Girl Guides and Girl Scouts all over the world celebrate their membership of this international organisation.  When I was a Brownie Guide, we were allowed to wear our Brownie uniforms to school on Thinking Day, as it was called then, because it was the most important date in our Brownie calendar, and our pack meeting that week would focus on thinking about Brownies in other countries and lighting candles (guiding lights?) for them. 
Thinking Day dates from 1926 and 22nd February was chosen because it was the birthday of both Lord Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the Movement in 1910, and his wife, Lady Olave, who was still World Chief Guide when I was a child. 
The Girl Guide Movement was a huge part of my life when I was growing up: I joined the Brownie Guides when I was seven years old, became a Girl Guide when I was eleven, became a Ranger Guide when I was fourteen and left the Movement when I went to university at the age of eighteen.  Along the way, I spent time helping to lead a Cub Scout pack (as a Girl Guide) and a Brownie pack (as a Ranger) in order to earn my service badges, so it would be strange if "Thinking Day" didn't flash up in my mind on 22nd February every year, wouldn't it?  And it would be strange if I hadn't kept a memento or two from those years, wouldn't it?

I still have my Brownie Handbook. It's quite fragile now as it was very well-used, so the cover has become detached, but here it is.  This is the book which taught me how to wash up: glassware first, then cutlery, crockery and pots and pans, in that order.  As I opened its pages yesterday for the first time in many years, so many of them were familiar.  I also have a few of the badges which were sewn onto my uniform - I suppose they were taken off when the dress was passed down to a younger sister.  You can see that I was a Seconder in the Kelpies - actually, you can probably only work that out if you were a member of a Scottish Brownie pack as they didn't have Kelpies in England.  I started off as an English Pixie but after we moved to Scotland, I became a Kelpie.  And as a sideline, can I just say that Kelpies are not very nice and would be a very bad influence on impressionable young Brownies?  It's probably the worst possible name for a Brownie Six.   I should also like to add that I am not of the beret-wearing Brownie generation shown on the cover but very firmly a brown-woolly-bobble-hat Brownie.  I am disappointed that I only have two of my interest badges: Hostess and Musician.  I was definitely more interesting than that, although I didn't achieve my Knitter's Badge, I am quite sure of that because according to the Handbook, you had to knit a pair of socks or a pair of gloves or mittens, using two or four needles!  Before the age of twelve?????  I couldn't knit a pair of socks until I was forty-eight and I have never knitted a pair of mittens.  Brownies were obviously cut from a different cloth in the olden days.  So, shall we move on to my Girl Guiding years? -

I don't have my Handbook but I do have a small number of Guide Annuals, one of my era and the rest dating from before I was born.  I acquired the older ones at jumble sales and fetes because I found them fascinating. 

 Yes, I still have my tunic - although sadly, not my hat, which was navy blue and, in my mind, made me look like an air hostess, in the days when we had air hostesses and they were glamorous and appeared to live exciting, romantic lives.  In those pockets I always carried the six essential items which every keen Guide carried if she obeyed the exhortation to Be Prepared for emergencies: a safety pin, a piece of string, a pencil, a notebook, a clean handkerchief (inside an envelope, to keep it clean) and a 2p piece.  The 2p piece was to use to make a telephone call from a public call box.  You would have to do this to call for help if your friend was injured, after you had bandaged her up with the clean handkerchief and the safety pin and left your other friend looking after her, because you only went out in threes.  It's no wonder I'm so risk averse, and that I need such a large handbag.  I enjoyed being a Guide and I learnt a great deal: first aid, camping (if you need to make a stand for your washing-up bowl out of sticks, I'm your woman), building fires, caring about other people, commitment, service, working as a team, leadership - you may have noticed my Nightingale Patrol Leader's stripes.  Would you like to take a closer look at my interest badges? 

Ah yes, the Little House Emblem which shows that I achieved all the badges in that group: Cook, Child Nurse, Knitter, Laundress, Homemaker and Hostess.  I am wincing as I type this because it doesn't seem very, you know, empowering for girls, does it?  I would like to think that the presence of Backwoodsman and Camper may go some way towards balance, and there are also writer, cyclist and local history badges there; perhaps it was not just when I was growing up that Guiding was a huge part of my life?  So, shall we move on to the 1980s and my Ranger Guide years? -

This is all I seem to have kept, my Handbook and an old novel I picked up in a second hand bookshop.  No uniform (navy blue skirt, aqua shirt and navy forage cap), no badges.  I do remember a grand day out at the Palace of Westminster where we met our local MP and were taken up Big Ben.  I was always one of three in the colour party at events but I never actually carried the colours because Louise was 6' tall and we would have looked ridiculous if she hadn't been in the middle.  We did quite a lot of activities with the local Venture Scout group (moving swiftly on) and quite a lot without our leader, who didn't like camping.  A Ranger Guide Unit was a safe place for a teenage girl to be in a scary world. 

So I may light a candle this evening, and I wish all former and current Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers around the world Happy World Thinking Day.

See you soon,
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Stiperstones

Hello, thank you for popping in, it's always lovely to see you here.  The weather here is still overwhelmingly grey but the sun has tried to peep out a few times and on one of those days, the first Sunday of this month, the Best Beloved and I headed out on a little jaunt to stretch our legs and breathe in deep lungsfulsof cold, crisp air.  I have five photographs to show you, so I am linking with Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday - even though it's now Saturday.  I know.  The time just got away from me yesterday. 
We went to The Stiperstones, the second highest place in Shropshire, a ridge crowned with rocky outcrops which are some of the oldest visible stones in the world, formed about 480 million years ago.  As with all ancient places, there are myths and legends which tell of their creation and you can read some of them here.  It is a lovely place to visit on a sunny day at any time of the year.
We parked the car, went through the gate and set off up the path towards Cranberry Rock. 

In a dream, Merlin, the great enchanter, saw two dragons fighting in the air.  They were evenly matched, neither one could overcome the other and eventually, worn out, they fell to their deaths, locked in an embrace, neither willing to cede to the other even as the life drained out of them.  Where they fell, one became the Long Mynd and the other The Stiperstones, the valley between them being Hell's Gutter. 
From The Stiperstones, we looked across to the other dragon, the Long Mynd.

We were surprised to see snow on the ground in the shaded places as we hadn't had any snow at home.

In the summer, the heather flowers and the bilberries are abundant. 

The temperature at the top is noticeably lower than it is at the bottom but the views are spectacular.


The sun is shining again today and as it's half term week here, I am hoping that augurs well.  We are off on another jaunt tomorrow, a few days by the sea.  If you have time, please pop over to Love Made My Home and see what everyone else is sharing this week. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x