Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Fire in a Tower Block

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's lovely to see that you are here, really lovely.  Thank you
 
A couple of weeks ago, Rosie wrote that she is "keeping on keeping on" and that struck a chord with me.  I wake up in the morning and quickly turn on the news, wondering what may have happened overnight in this country which we have considered to be a peaceful, safe, democratic place in which to live.  The political situation is uncertain and the recent terror attacks on people of this country are frightening, but the event which has upset me most of all is the fire at Grenfell Tower and I should like to share with you the reason why.
 
When my girls were young, I worked in an eleven-storey block of flats which belonged to the local social housing provider, a housing association which had asked the local ecumenical council of churches to run a community project there.  The tenancies were offered to people between the ages of 17 and 29 but they were secure tenancies and many people had lived there for years because they liked it, so their ages ranged from seventeen to sixtysomething.  Some of them had babies (although not the sixtysomethings!).  Some were working, some were unemployed and some were retired, making it a mixed community of ages, genders and cultures.  There were fifty-seven flats, each housing one, two or three people, and I knew all of them.
 
The community project was open during limited daytime hours from Monday to Friday and from 6pm to 3am every night of the year because people tend to have their emotional crises
during the night, when limited support is available elsewhere.  I was regularly that support.  The importance of fire safety was impressed upon all staff members and we attempted to impress that importance upon all the tenants, but working at night, it was up to staff to enforce it.  So, during my nine hour shift I would check all twelve landings three times, once between 6pm and 7pm, once between 9pm and midnight and once between midnight and 3am.  I would close any doors which had been left open, remove any bags of rubbish which had been left and check that the dry risers had not been tampered with.  If the rubbish chute was blocked and I couldn't unblock it, I would ring the emergency maintenance team and they would come out before my shift was over and unblock it because rubbish is a fire hazard.  Similarly, I would check outside the building and if anything had been dumped there, I would ring the emergency maintenance team and they would come out and remove it before the end of my shift, because it was a fire hazard.  Three times every night of the year these checks were performed and written down to leave a paper trail. 
 
We were told that if there were a fire, the floor on which the fire started and one floor above and below would be affected but that the construction of the building was such that the fire service would put out the fire before it could spread further.  We were told that the fireproof doors, including the front doors of every flat, would give an hour's protection, by which time the fire would be out.  We tested the fire alarms weekly.  We were told that if there were a fire, we shouldn't touch the fire alarm system control panel in the staff office,  but we should wait in the office until the arrival of the fire brigade (we still called it that then) and that the Incident Commander would then deal with the panel.  Nobody else would touch it.  At that point, staff should take instruction from the Incident Commander about what to do next.  Nobody could remember there ever having been a fire in the thirty-odd years of the building's existence, but we took the risk very seriously, so perhaps that's why there hadn't been a fire.
 
Late one night there was a fire, a malicious act of arson on the fourth floor.  The fire alarms went off and the panel in my office went doolally.  The lifts stopped working and some people evacuated the building, using the only stairwell.  I was the only member of staff on duty but I felt quite calm because I knew exactly what to do: I waited for the fire brigade who arrived within minutes, shortly after the police.  The Incident Commander came into my office and started dealing with the fire panel.  By this time, the alarm had been going for a while, longer than usual, and tenants were anxiously ringing down from their flats to ask if it were a real fire or a drill and should they evacuate, so I asked the Incident Commander what I should tell them.  "Yes, get them out," he replied, so that's what I did.  As I knew all the tenants, I knew who was still inside the building so I rang round every flat until I had spoken to all the tenants.  Although I could feel adrenaline start to take hold, I was calm because I thought our procedures were sound.
 
The problem was this: there was one stairwell and so many people were rushing down the stairs that the fire officers could not get up them to the fourth floor, so the fire was spreading.  Once all the tenants were outside, I left the building, leaving it to the firefighters who soon put out the fire.  I was calm.  Nobody was hurt, I reassured myself, those stuck inside the burning flat having been rescued by the firefighters and their long ladder.  The fourth floor was badly damaged but the fire hadn't spread any further and quite soon, everyone else was able to re-enter the building and return to their homes and their belongings.  I finished my shift and calmly wrote my incident report for the manager to read in the morning.  When I got home at about 3.20am, I took off my professional head and discovered that I was too agitated to go to bed for hours, thinking about what might have been.
 
A couple of weeks later I was asked to attend a multi-agency meeting with my manager to discuss the night's events.  Representatives were also there from the housing association, the local authority and the fire service.  At the meeting, I was asked why I had evacuated the building because that action had seriously impeded the firefighters and prolonged the life of the fire.  I explained that the Incident Commander had told me to and the fire officer at the meeting said, "I was the Incident Commander that night and I didn't give that instruction."  I felt stunned.  I explained that I had been told that only the Incident Commander would use the fire panel and that as the officer in question had been doing just that, I had assumed him to the be Incident Commander.  He then told me that I should have known who was who by the number of stripes on their helmets(!!) but somebody else spoke up for me and said that that was unreasonable and that if a person wearing any firefighter's uniform tells you what to do, you do it.  I left the meeting exonerated.
 
When I woke up last Wednesday morning and saw the news unfolding of the fire at Grenfell Tower, all of this came back to me in vivid detail.  I told a friend who I saw that morning that I felt "a bit traumatised" and although I meant it honestly, I feel embarrassed about that word now: the people who have lost their homes, their possessions and those who they know and love are traumatised, my feelings pale in comparison.  I have no right.  Every day since, I have replayed that night in my mind, and I count my blessings as I hungrily search for updates on the former residents of Grenfell Tower.

So far, there are seventy-nine people confirmed dead or missing, presumed dead.  The first funeral was today.  Those people who survived have lost everything except their lives. 

See you soon.
 
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x



 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

I Crocheted A Rainbow


When The Teacher told me that her friend was pregnant I decided that I wanted to crochet a blanket for the baby, something soft and snuggly to play on, sleep beneath and wrap up in.  I have been learning to crochet for a year or so, dipping in and out of a project, but deciding to actually finish something, before a deadline, spurred me on to develop a level of skill that would produce something good enough to give to somebody else.  So, I looked around the internet for inspiration and found these gorgeus rainbow blankets made by Heather at Little Tin Bird.  As soon as I saw them, I knew that I wanted to crochet a rainbow: The Mathematician says that rainbows make people happy and what better wish is there for a new little person than happiness?

I followed Heather's colour scheme to the letter: Stylecraft Special DK in lipstick, spice, saffron, lime, turquoise, violet and magenta, ten rows of trebles in each colour.  I began at home, sitting in front of the computer and trying to master a chainless foundation row, frogging it, trying again, frogging again, beginning again... six or seven times before I had a smooth, straight(ish) row of 104 stitches.  Your comments after I showed you my first stripe of magenta in April encouraged me to keep at it.  I was glad when I reached the yellow because until then, it looked like a peacock and whilst I love peacock colours, I wanted to give the baby a happy rainbow. 


All the hours I spent in the passenger seat of the car during April were spent mastering the hook and Knit and Knatter on Thursday afternoons became Crochet and Cnatter.  I crocheted in the summerhouse, on the sofa and in bed. 

In a fortnight, the blanket was done.  I sewed in the ends and thought about a border.  I am not very good at choosing colours and with so many colours in the blanket itself, I didn't know what to do, although I was repeatedly drawn back to a ball of copper-coloured yarn.  Neither did I know how to make a border.  So, back to the internet I went and when I saw Lucy's spot on edging over at Attic 24 I had a flash of inspiration: the small tortoiseshell butterfly has a row of turquoise spots around its wings.  I wanted to crochet a border of turquoise spots within a copper band, butterfly wings to enclose the rainbow. 
So without further ado, here is the finished blanket, a rainbow held in a butterfly's wings. 
 
TA-DAAAAH!

 
I know that it's not perfect, it's only three simple stitches and many of you make far more complex and delicate things with your hooks and yarn, but I am SOOOOOOOOO ridiculously proud of myself.  This blanket makes me happy every time I look at it.  I hope that it makes Baby Nate happy too.

 
The blanket certainly made someone happy - I have been asked to make another!  Get me!!
 
See you soon.
 
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
  
 
 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Levellers

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Is all well?  Thank you for your comments on  my last post, especially for your condolences.  My bookish aunt's funeral went well: my cousin played some Ravel on her flute, I gave my well-rehearsed eulogy without embarrassing myself (crying / falling over / leaving my skirt tucked into my knickers) and as at all the best funerals, there was some applause and some laughter as well as some tears.  I think we're going to be all right.
 
During the half term holiday the Best Beloved and I went camping in Somerset.  We went there for the first time last year and enjoyed it so much that we decided to return to the same campsite in a rural spot on the Levels.  As we turned down the lane, bounded by green hedges and frothy cow parsley, a small rabbit hopped ahead to show us the way  to the empty camping paddock and I instantly relaxed into happy holiday mode.  There were the ponies, the alpacas and the swallows, just as last year, and there was the view across the Levels to Glastonbury Tor, just as last year.
 
 
Ah, that view.  We had intended to eat out a couple of times but in the end we didn't bother because, as I said to the Best Beloved,  we wouldn't find anywhere with a better view than the one from our tent, so eating dinner whilst watching dusk settle over the Levels was our nightly pleasure. 
 
The view was a morning pleasure as well, particularly at 5am on our final morning, when it looked like this -
 
 
Behind our tent was a field which two friendly horses shared with quite a lot of hoppity bunnies and...a harrier jump jet.  I kid you not.  The campsite owner bought it on ebay a few years ago and is restoring it.  The aeroplane lives in a hangar but two fuel tanks lie casually by the gate. 
 

 
We drove out to the coast one day and visited Watchet, a pretty little town whose harbour inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  We sat by that harbour and watched the comings and goings while we ate our sandwiches, we visited the little museum, one of those which is firmly rooted in the history of its place, and later, we sat in a pub courtyard and drank chilled cider.  'Twas a very good day.
 

  
On a gloriously sunny day we visited Wells Cathedral and marvelled at its twelfth century architecture.  In a rather tense situation involving satnav, wifenav, an unfamiliar town and a very busy carpark "we" (by which I mean "he", obviously) managed to leave the camera in the car so the Best Beloved had only his 'phone for photographic duties.
 
 
The scissor arches in the nave were "a medieval solution to sinking tower foundations", according to the guide. 
 
 

We arrived in time for an organ recital and were invited to sit in the quire to listen.  The quire is the oldest part of the cathedral and the seating is usually roped off, so this was a very special treat. 
 
 
I am not a great fan of organ music but to hear a skilful, professional organist (Robert Gower) play the right music for the right instrument in the right place and to hear the sound fill the space was another treat.
 
The cathedral has "one of the most substantial collections of medieval stained glass in England".
 
 
Wells was lovely and I think we shall have to return, with the camera so that we can take some proper photographs, preferably when there is an organ recital. 
 
See you soon.
 
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
 

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Five May Things

Hello, thank you for dropping in here.  Thank you to all who left comments on my last post; it seems that most people are unaware of the British Army's involvement in Salonika during the Great War which is one reason why I wanted to share my great-grandfather's story here and I am pleased that so many more people now know about it; I think my father is, too.
 
The sun has been shining and May is working her magic on the landscape as new, lush green growth grows apace and flowers bloom.  Yellow oilseed rape shouted in the fields, bluebells rose dreamily in the woods and frothy clouds of Queen Anne's lace appeared to border the lanes.  The holly bush outside my front window has been covered in tiny white blossoms which bees visited greedily - I've never noticed before.   
  
Here are five things I have been doing since I was last here:
 
1.  A death in the family
 
My bookish aunt died on 7th May and I was asked to give the eulogy at her funeral.  I felt honoured to have been asked but it's not something I had ever done before so inevitably, I was nervous.  I wandered through the house for a week pulling off the shelves some of the books she gave me, holding them in my hand, trying to feel the essence of her as I prepared the words I would read. 

 
2.  Making stock
 
Almost every weekend we cook a chicken and because we buy free range and it's not cheap, I insist that we have to get three dinners out of it.  The third is always soup: I put the carcass into the large pot which my mother used to use, together with an onion, a carrot, some peppercorns and dried herbs, bring it to the boil and then let it gently simmer away for a couple of hours.  I find this all immensely soothing in its old-fashioned simplicity and at a time when my mind was almost completely preoccupied, it was good to be able to cook something without really thinking about it.

 
3.  Crochet
 
I finished the baby blanket.  I am SOOOO ridiculously proud of myself!  I shall write a post about it soon but in the meantime, here's the edging, inspired by the small tortoiseshell butterfly.

 
4.  Photographs
 
I have numerous packets and envelopes of family photographs dating from the 1890s to the present day and I really need to pull them all together and decide how to organise them.  I know that we are in a digital age but I am old-fashioned and I like to hold an album and turn the pages, and I like there to be some text to explain who the subjects are so that the album is meaningful to others as well as to me.  It's an exciting idea, one which I shall enjoy, but I just can't decide on the details yet.  I have started to plan.


 
5.  My hawthorn tree
 
The tree outside my bedroom window donned her best dress on 1st May and wore it for three weeks, during which time I opened my bedroom curtains as soon as I woke up, hopping straight back into bed afterwards so that I could enjoy her knock-out beauty while I drank my Earl Grey.  She was absolutely glorious.
 
 
 
I am linking with Tricky Wolf at  F.A.S.T.  for Five on Friday so if you have time, please click on the link to hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing this weekend.  Thanks, Tricky, for hosting this party every week and linking us all up together.

One more thing, for C, who has emailed me about St Bartholomew's Church at Moreton Corbet: I have found something which might be useful to you but I can't email you because your settings are "no reply".  Could you alter the settings and contact me again, or use a different email address? 

See  you soon.
 
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x
 
 
 
 
 

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.
 
MADAM,
 
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:
 
MADAM,
 
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:
 
MADAM,
 
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