Monthly Archives: May 2017

Wingfield Manor

Although Oakerthorpe sounds like something out of Tolkien, I am not continuing yesterday’s theme. It is merely an interestingly-named (with a secret passage) village on the way to South Wingfield, the site of Wingfield Manor. Mary Queen of Scots stayed there during her imprisonment.

Although the manor is only open one Saturday a month it is possible to get a photograph from the road, which I did. I never feel like going round by appointment as I’m never sure I can show the correct degree of enthusiasm. I’m interested in it because of its link to Mary Queen of Scots, not because I’m fascinated by mediaeval masonry.


Wandering, not lost

Not all those who wander are lost

J R R Tolkien

I dropped Julia off at work this morning. The gates into the school car park were open today, as it’s school holidays, so we were able to drive right up to the garden gates and unload plants. Yes, unload plants. We’re at it again, making up gardens from scrounged plants.

After that I took a turn through the countryside between Nottingham and Loughborough. It’s scenic, though unexciting countryside, with some pleasant villages. The weather was a bit dull for photography and I wasn’t on top of my game so there are no photographs today. If there were, they would be pictures of gently rolling countryside with lots of greenery.

The trouble was that I started off mentally listing the things I need to do to set my life right, I’ve been letting things drift over the last few years and need to get organised.

Unfortunately this line of thought has a habit of sliding into thoughts of things that went wrong, things I should have done better and bad decisions I have made. It’s often sparked off by looking at a biggish house and thinking “I could have had one like that if I’d worked harder and planned better.”

However, I enjoyed my life as an unprofitable antique dealer and gardener. I also enjoyed the unprofitable time I spent with the kids. And I have two neighbours who ply me with cake.

All in all, it could be worse.

Eventually, I decided I was lost. Strictly speaking I couldn’t have been lost because I wasn’t going anywhere. That’s often been the subject of some discussion between me and Julia when I’ve been happily exploring country lanes over the years. Just because I don’t know where I am doesn’t mean I’m lost. And if I’ve got nowhere particular to go I can’t be going the wrong way.

After that I succumbed to the lure of the Oxfam bookshop in West Bridgford. It’s been refitted since last time I was here and is much better lit and laid out. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I liked the poky old shop. In fact part of the experience of buying second-hand books ought to be in the dim, cramped, slightly musty conditions.

I resisted the temptation to buy books on Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III, but did buy books on Percy Toplis, Moorcroft Pottery and historical trivia.

The Moorcroft book cost me £3.49. It was originally £35. Unfortunately, just as I was feeling  economically prudent I took a look at the prices on the Moorcroft site.

I’m going for a nice lie down in a darkened room now.


Graves and Worms and Epitaphs

Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs

Richard II   William Shakespeare

The lump of stone in the featured image is all that remains of the masonry of Fotheringhay Castle. The hill behind it is the motte, the earthwork mound found in a motte and bailey castle.

The future Richard III was born here in 1452. A lot has been written about Richard III, so I won’t say much more. My sister has been to see his new grave, but I haven’t been yet. I have, however, visited the place where he was killed.

I always used to laugh at my fellow members of the Sealed Knot when they visited battlefields after the beer tent and came back with tales of ghostly ambiences. The clue is in the “after the beer tent”. However, when I visited Bosworth Field I experienced a feeling of loss and desolation and I began to reconsider my position on this.

New research puts the actual site of the battle a mile away, so I was clearly right: people who visit battlefields and have supernatural experiences need to get a grip.

Anyway, enough of Richard III.

The next royal visitor to Fotheringhay didn’t have much luck either. She was Mary Queen of Scots. As with Richard III, much has been written about her so I won’t say much more. She was executed in 1587. One story is that the destruction of the castle was done on the orders of her son James, when he became king of England. However, it seems more likely it was just neglected and used as a source of building materials.

Mary was buried in Peterborough Cathedral, and later reburied at Westminster Abbey in 1612. Her entrails, removed as part of the embalming process, were buried in the grounds of Fotheringhay Castle.

Mary wasn’t the only queen to be buried at Peterborough.  Katherine of Aragon  died of cancer at Kimbolton in 1536 and was buried at Peterborough, the nearest suitable place for an ex-queen. They were both buried by Old Scarlett, the famous Peterborough gravedigger.

That, as they say, is another story.


Cotswolds or Notswolds?

You can’t take it away from the Cotswolds – the villages are beautiful and the village names are just what you’d expect from Olde England – Chipping Norton, Upper Slaughter and Stow-on-the-Wold.

Unfortunately, because they are so popular, you are rarely more than twenty minutes away from a twee delicatessen or Jeremy Clarkson.

However, how about an alternative – the villages of Northamptonshire. I took an hour on my way back from visiting my Dad yesterday and popped by Fotheringhay and Apethorpe because I wanted some pictures. I don’t want to decry the Cotswolds, or to encourage a deluge of delicatessens and celebrities, but if you’re passing they are worth a look.

There is a vast choice of stone in the county and colours change as you travel through the county – from grey to gold to brown. I just looked up a reference to the stone types of the county, hoping to sound intelligent. Currently I feel like I’ve been beaten round the head with information so ” grey to gold to brown” is as good as it gets. Try here if you are prepared to risk a similar fate.

Much of the roofing is Collyweston tiling, which has been used since Roman times.

The Featured Image and second trio of photographs are Apethorpe, and the top trio are Fotheringhay, both in Northamptonshire.

The third selection of photos is also from Apethorpe – the church, the date stone from the church tower, the old village water tower and the stocks and whipping post.

There’s a Palace in Apethorpe. I know this because they recently put a brown sign up, so I thought I’d have a look.

There’s nothing to see, as the grounds were locked and have high walls. It seems it was a favourite hunting lodge of the Tudors and Stuarts (well, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I all visited – 13 times in the 70 years between 1566 and 1636). Once every five years doesn’t seem a lot, but this was, they say, more than any other house they owned.

A few years ago it was at risk of serious damage from the elements so English Heritage persuaded the government to buy it by compulsory purchase for  £3.5 million. They then spent £8 million on urgent repairs. I’m pretty sure they could have built a new one for that.

Then they sold it for £2.5 million to a French aristocrat who is going to finish the repairs and live there. Meanwhile it will be open to the public for the next 80 years. Well, fifty days a year. Between 9.30 and 1.00 in most of July and August.

That’s a loss of £9 million.

Members of our forces have been killed and injured due to a lack of flak jackets and armoured vehicles. We  have a social care crisis. Even the Labour Party wants more police. Much as I love history and I detest politics, we need to look at our priorities.

I could have taken some better photos of the cottages, but parking is tight and it was the end of the day so time was limited and my feet were sore. In other words I was too lazy to walk for the shots. Believe me, these villages are lovely.


Welcome to Fotheringhay!

Here’s a notice from the window of one of the cottages in Fotheringhay. I didn’t actually see it until I’d parked and got out of the car, and as I only wanted to park for two or three minutes I ignored it. By the time I walked ten yards along the road and taken three shots somebody was already bobbing about at one of the windows.

Now, I don’t want to upset anyone, and usually don’t park where I see signs like that. However, I do think that if you want guaranteed parking outside your house you really should buy one with a drive.


More from Bempton Cliffs

Sorry about the short post yesterday, but I was a bit tired by the time we got home. At just over two hours each way it was a longish trip, but worth it because of the quality of the paths and views of the birds.

Even as we travelled up the A1, under almost cloudless blue skies, I could feel the curse of daytime TV lifting from my soul.

The sun was in the wrong position for photography, with much of the cliff being in shadow so I didn’t get many shots. Fortunately the young Gannets were relaxing in the sun and gave me plenty of chances for photography. I’d have preferred a few Puffin shots but you can only take what’s in front of you.

Gannets don’t breed until they are about five years old. The ones in the picture are around that age, as they have just about lost all their adolescent black feathers. Next year they will breed, but this year they are practising their bill fencing and preening. It’s not a bad life.

At the end of the summer they will fly as far south as West Africa.

There were other birds too, but they weren’t as interesting.

That’s a bit unfair really, but I was tired and limping and I can get quite unfair. I can also be quite short with people, as one idiot found when he wandered in front of the car in Bridlington.

We went for fish and chips in Filey and ate them on the seafront. It’s an interesting place, but I didn’t have the energy to take photos. It was a big piece of superbly cooked haddock and took a bit of eating.

There were House Martins nesting under the eaves of the chip shop.


Another trip to Bempton Cliffs

We went to Bempton Cliffs today. It was a testing drive after months of being virtually housebound but it has, we thought, the best paths and least walking of all the places we visit.

We only saw a couple of Puffins which flew directly into burrows, so they were probably males on the way back with food.

I cheated on the Featured Image, as the second picture shows.


Puffin Poster – Bempton Cliffs

More to follow tomorrow but here’s a video of Gannets…

Only When I Laugh

I have now lunched. We had the £6.95 lunch at Frankie and Benny’s (we elected for cheeseburgers, chips and a spoonful of coleslaw). I added strawberry ice cream for £2.50. Julia ate the wafer off my ice cream.  She does that every time.

Total bill was the same as the Harvester but you get a lot of salad at Harvester and not much at F&B (though the music is better at F&B and the toilets are easier to reach).

Now, my morning in hospital…

Rising at 6am I bathed, dressed, packed and gathered my paperwork together. I didn’t have breakfast (because I had to stop eating at midnight) but did have a mug of water and my pills at 6.30, the latest I was allowed to drink.

All went well to start. I spoke with the surgeon, two anaesthetists and some nurses. I was prodded, bled, monitored and documented. Everyone was very pleasant and it was very relaxing.

Then I dressed in a hospital gown, put on my new grip socks and started to watch TV. And more TV. And yet more TV. At that point I was getting a bit concerned about the wait. For one thing, it was a bit long, and for another, I was starting to worry there might be a problem. But there wouldn’t be a problem, would there?

A little later – it was about 10.00 a nurse approached and gave me a cup of water, telling me I could have it as long as I drank it in the next ten minutes as I wouldn’t go through to theatre until at least 12.00.

“Yes,” I said, “I thought the water was bad news.”

From there it was all downhill…

This is how the farcical charade developed.

In December when I was admitted with “the swelling” I was allowed to lie on a normal bed in the first floor male urology ward (known as Harvey 2).

In April – the first part of the surgery – I was allowed to use a normal bed in Harvey 2.

In May, when I was admitted with the abscess I had to have the bariatric bed, in Harvey 2.

Now, I have to have the bariatric bed but am now officially too fat to be allowed upstairs, according to the evacuation protocol. There was no bed on a ground floor ward so after the 12.30 bed conference they cancelled the operation.

I just don’t understand why they keep moving the goalposts.

Now, I’ve never denied being fat, but within a pound or two I’ve been the same weight for years. I haven’t suddenly become too fat for the upper stories.

I’m also happy for them to have protocols. They are a big organisation and they need such things to function. And so their many jobsworths have something to do.

They were surprised when I laughed, but what else can you do? Getting angry won’t help. And being rude to the staff won’t help because it isn’t their fault – they just get left to apologise for the acts of others.

Before I left, they fixed me up with another date.

It’s two weeks away.

But there’s no guarantee of a bed.

Tomorrow I will be more cheerful.





Management books and Winston Churchill

After much thought, and sitting up until after midnight, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t concentrate on writing an interesting post. I have therefore settled on throwing a few things together and trusting that it will be OK.

Come to think of it, I may write a business management book based on that premise. Somewhere in the house I have management books based on  Henry V, Attila the Hun and Jean-Luc Picard, so why shouldn’t Just Chuck it Together, It’ll be OK be a success?

I may market it as a breath of fresh air in a world that seems to increasingly demand perfection, effort and planning.

How about Leadership Secrets of Winston Churchill – a quick study of how the man voted the Greatest Briton of all time actually ran things. It strikes me that when he wasn’t being random he was often drunk, but he still managed to win a couple of World Wars and a Nobel Prize. Makes you think, doesn’t it.

In a modern context, by the time we’d planned, done the Prince 2 stuff and explored the Health And Safety implications we’d have had jackboots marching up the Mall and King Edward VIII re-installed in Buckingham Palace. Or, I think, Edward III for those of you in Scotland.

Anyway, I’d better get to bed as I don’t want to be late for hospital.

In the meantime I will try to think of something entertaining to write for Friday.




A Quiet Lunch


I aimed for a relaxing day today as part of my long term strategy of being nice and relaxed when I pass through the doors of the Urology Centre tomorrow morning.

With this in mind I first went to pick up my prescription from the surgery, then went to the pharmacy (popped into the jeweller whilst waiting), got a phone call to collect Julia and then went to lunch.

It should have been easy, but as usual the day was full of irritation. First, I had a note from the doctor telling me I couldn’t have two sets of pills as records showed I had plenty of them. That was irritating because I had not ordered those pills. You really have to ask about their computerised system…

If I die unexpectedly check my prescriptions!

Parking the car, I found that to get my two hours of free parking I had to walk the length of the car park to get collect the ticket and then walk the length of the car park to put the ticket in the car. Then… well you get the picture. It was a lot of walking with a sore ankle.

Would it be difficult to put the machine in the middle of the car park?

There were several irritating customers in the pharmacy, including one who took advantage of my slow progress to overtake me and then launch into a complicated question. I’m actually immune to this sort of thing now, having experienced it so often, so no problem there.

Lunch was Harvester again, because it was the weather for salad and if I’m to eat salad  it might as well be free of charge. Salad is going to be in short supply over the next two days.

If it seems like we’re spending recklessly on meals out, we probably are, but fun is going to be in short supply over the next few days, so why not?

The only problem was one of the other diners. As he walked past with his family (we were overtaken again!) he plunged his hand down the front of his tracksuit trousers and had a good scratch. I’m not a great one for etiquette but working on the basis of a time and a place for everything, that was neither the time nor the place.

As I said to Julia: “Let’s make sure we get to the salad bar before that bloke.”

Well, you wouldn’t want to handle the serving spoons after he’d been touching them would you?